Webster Avenue SBS Will Not Have Center-Running Bus Lanes

Left: The concept for center-running bus lanes on Webster Avenue in the Bronx. Right: Offset bus lanes, the option that was selected for the Select Bus Service project. Image: NYC DOT/MTA

This spring, there was a glimmer of hope that Webster Avenue in the Bronx would get the first center-running bus-only lanes in New York. With NYC DOT and the MTA bringing Select Bus Service to Webster Avenue, the center-running option would have been the city’s boldest effort yet to implement high-quality bus rapid transit. While Select Bus Service is still in the works for Webster Avenue and bus trips are on track to improve, the project won’t include center-running lanes, which do more to keep buses moving smoothly through traffic than bus lanes next to the curb or the parking lane.

The decision was announced at the most recent Community Advisory Committee meeting about the project. Webster Avenue will instead get offset bus lanes, which should be familiar to anyone who uses SBS on First and Second Avenues in Manhattan. These bus lanes run next to the parking lane, with passengers boarding from sidewalk extensions that let the bus avoid merging over to the curb and back. (A third option, which was rejected, would have put the bus lanes curbside and eliminated on-street parking.)

Webster Avenue will also be getting Transit Signal Priority to hold green lights for approaching buses.

Center-running bus lanes would almost certainly have required dedicated signals for drivers making left turns. This change could have negatively affected the “Level of Service” projections for how many vehicles could move through a given intersection.

A DOT spokesperson said that Level of Service projections were not a factor in rejecting the center-running bus lanes, citing other reasons for the decision. Because local bus stops would remain curbside, DOT said, those buses would have had to constantly enter and exit the center-running lanes in order to benefit from them. In addition, dedicated left-turn signals would have reduced the amount of green light time for the bus lanes, and private vehicles would be have been prevented from making left turns at a number of intersections.

In its presentation to the Community Advisory Committee, MTA and DOT staff said that the chosen alternative “maintains appropriate traffic flows and circulation.”

Webster Avenue SBS was recently included in plans to upgrade bus service to LaGuardia Airport, which would extend the service south from East 149th Street, over the Triboro/RFK Bridge, and to the airport via Astoria Boulevard. The extension is not the same project as Webster Avenue and relies on separate funding for implementation, according to DOT.

The next step for Webster Avenue SBS is for DOT and MTA to refine the plan and host a public open house this winter, before creating a final design and implementation plan in 2013.