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Posts from the "Bus Bulbs" Category

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Local BID and CB 2 Ask DOT for More Safety Upgrades on Atlantic Avenue

If DOT follows through on local requests, Atlantic Avenue, here at Hoyt Street, could get some pedestrian safety upgrades. Photo: Google Maps

If DOT follows through on local requests, Atlantic Avenue, here at Hoyt Street, could get some pedestrian safety upgrades. Photo: Google Maps

Last week, Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn became the city’s first “arterial slow zone” with a 25 mph speed limit. Now, a business improvement district on the avenue’s western end is asking for pedestrian safety upgrades, and Community Board 2′s transportation committee has signed on.

“Pedestrian improvements are customer improvements,” said Atlantic Avenue BID Executive Director Josef Szende. “[Shoppers] on Atlantic Avenue are all pedestrians, at least at some point in their journey.”

The BID is asking DOT to study the following safety improvements [PDF]:

  • Leading pedestrian intervals at all eleven intersections within the BID area. (LPIs have already been installed at Clinton, Third and Fourth Avenues.)
  • Bus bulb-outs at corners to speed loading time for bus riders and shorten crossing distances for pedestrians.
  • Shared-lane markings for cyclists along Atlantic Avenue.

Community board staff refused to talk about Tuesday’s unanimous vote supporting the BID’s request, but a board member characterized the committee’s discussion as involving very little debate. Szende said the committee was skeptical of the need for shared-lane markings, since there are parallel bike lanes on Dean, Bergen and Schermerhorn Streets, but did not ask the BID to remove sharrows from its letter to DOT.

The committee did request that the BID also ask DOT about improvements to Times Plaza, the triangle between Fourth, Atlantic, and Flatbush Avenues. ”It’s kind of a drab triangle right now. It’s just asphalt. There’s no lighting, there’s no wayfinding,” Szende said. ”We’re asking DOT to take an honest look at these things, to consider them, and come back to us with whatever they think is feasible.”

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Eyes on the Street: Painting SBS Bus Lanes on Nostrand Avenue

DOT crews were painting bus lanes on Nostrand Avenue this morning at Carroll Street. Photo: Haruka Horiuchi

Brooklyn’s B44 bus carried more than 12.5 million passengers last year between the base of the Williamsburg Bridge and Sheepshead Bay, making it the city’s fifth-busiest bus route. But the B44, which runs primarily along Nostrand Avenue, is notoriously unreliable and spends less than half of each run in motion. Half the time, it’s stuck in traffic or at bus stops and red lights.

There are 300,000 residents within a quarter-mile of the bus route, and 62 percent of households in that area are car-free, according to DOT and the MTA. Since 2009, the two agencies have been working to bring Select Bus Service to the B44. Limited-stop service would be converted to SBS, while local service on the B44 would remain.

Like other SBS projects, this one will add off-board fare collection, camera-enforced dedicated bus lanes, and transit signal priority to keep buses moving with green lights. It will also include curb extensions at bus stops, also known as bus bulbs, to keep the buses from having to move in and out of traffic every time they reach a stop.

The project, which received a $28 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, is nearing completion. Workers are painting the red bus lanes, and earlier this month, crews were spotted pouring concrete at a bus bulb near the intersection of Bedford Avenue and Fulton Street.

A presentation from last year [PDF] says the project will be complete by “late 2013,” with the more intensive reconstruction of Nostrand Avenue between Flushing and Atlantic Avenues set to wrap by fall 2014.

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City Receives Federal Funding for Full Nostrand Avenue Select Bus Route

The SBS stop coming to the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Empire Boulevard. Image: NYC DOT

The first Select Bus Service route in Brooklyn is on track to start speeding bus trips next year, after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced yesterday afternoon that the project has secured a $28 million federal grant.

The B44 route on Nostrand, Rogers, and Bedford Avenues, which runs between Sheepshead Bay and Williamsburg, is one of NYC’s most used but least reliable bus lines. Plagued by bus bunching, the B44 took home the Straphangers Campaign’s “Schleppie Award” in 2009 and consistently ranks as Brooklyn’s most unreliable route. After it’s converted to Select Bus Service, the B44 will feature off-board fare collection, dedicated bus lanes along most of the corridor, and 12 bus bulbs to improve speeds and cut down on the amount of time buses spend standing still.

The B44 links Brooklyn residents to Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn College, Kings County Hospital, and SUNY Downstate Hospital, as well as several subway lines. Weekday ridership currently stands at about 44,000 passengers. Not only will they see faster, more reliable service, but the improvements should attract more riders. Following SBS upgrades in Manhattan and the Bronx, more passengers started riding those routes, cutting against a citywide trend of declining bus ridership.

“I think everyone who saw Sandy from near or afar recognized the critical role buses played once the subway system went down, underscoring the value of these types of investments in our transportation infrastructure,” Sadik-Khan said in a press statement. “SBS continues to bring enhanced service to densely populated areas in need of transportation enhancements.”

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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.

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Ridership Up 12 Percent on 34th Street, With More Improvements to Come

Crosstown bus service on 34th Street runs faster, more frequently, and has attracted more riders since DOT and the MTA began phasing in Select Bus Service improvements four years ago. Compared to 2008, travel times for buses on 34th Street are down 23 percent, or 7.5 minutes along the full corridor. And according to an update released by DOT yesterday, ridership is up 12 percent, with weekday ridership regularly reaching 20,000 passengers. A quarter of riders say that they use the buses more often because of the service upgrades.

Longer buses will come to 34th Street next year. Photo: DOT

The gains outpace those made on some other SBS routes, in part because crosstown buses have the most room for improvement. In 2003 and 2004, the Straphangers Campaign awarded the M34 its “Pokey” award for slowest bus in New York.

Dedicated bus lanes first arrived on 34th Street in 2008. In November 2011, off-board fare collection, expanded bus lane camera enforcement, and new buses that match the blue SBS color scheme were added. Those changes improved the efficiency of the route to the point that the MTA was able to schedule 24 more bus runs a day, Monday through Saturday.

Originally, 34th Street was slated for a river-to-river traffic-separated busway featuring a block-long pedestrian plaza between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. That version of the project was scrapped after major real estate interests objected. It was replaced by DOT with a scaled-back proposal to run buses between the curb lane and the general traffic lane.

To get the buses away from the curb, where they currently have to deal with illegally-parked cars, DOT and the MTA are planning to build bus bulbs — sidewalk extensions where passengers wait for the bus. In early 2013, the route will also begin using articulated buses, like those seen on other SBS routes, that carry up to 85 passengers.

DNAinfo erroneously reported that the project has spent $36.5 million to achieve the benefits realized so far, but in fact, many of the improvements that have been budgeted for have yet to be built. Update: Since 2008, DOT and the MTA have spent about $4.3 million on bus lanes and off-board fare payment for 34th Street, according to a DOT spokesperson.

In the next two years, 13 bus bulb stations and three other curb extensions are scheduled for installation to further speed the boarding process. East of Lexington Avenue, construction is scheduled to begin in late 2013, and will last for up to two years. Two bus bulbs between 10th and 11th Avenues, constructed by the Hudson Yards Development Corporation, are scheduled for completion by summer 2013. The rest of 34th Street west of Lexington Avenue should see construction begin in spring 2013 and wrap up in early 2014.

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Eyes on the Street: The Bus Bulb at the Nexus of the Universe

Spotted at the corner of First and First ("the street that intersects with itself"). Photo: Ben Fried

Thanks to @J_uptown for tipping us off to this transit enhancement in the making (and providing the Seinfeld-inspired headline). The fresh sidewalk addition here is a bus bulb for Select Bus Service on First Avenue. When it’s in working order, bus drivers won’t have to pull over to the curb to pick up and drop off riders, and passengers waiting for the bus won’t have to share scarce sidewalk space with passersby. There are ten bus bulbs coming to the SBS route on First Avenue, and two slated for Second Avenue.

Also spotted around the corner: The staging area for the reconstruction of East Houston Street. This project is based on a 2006 plan from the Department of City Planning [PDF], and it includes a number of sidewalk extensions (and, when we last checked in on it in 2009, a buffered bike lane). We haven’t seen the final drawings, but the guys on the crew confirmed that the pedestrian island between Houston and First Street, which is to the left of the big jumble of materials, is going to be much bigger when this puppy wraps up.

I asked the crew what was happening here, and one of them said, "You hate us now but you'll love us when this is done." Photo: Ben Fried

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Bus Bulbs Will Boost Nostrand Avenue Select Bus Service

Bus bulbs will improve bus service and the pedestrian experience along Nostrand Avenue as part of the new SBS service. Image: NYC DOT/MTA.

With Select Bus Service speeding trips and boosting ridership on Fordham Road and First and Second Avenue, the next route slated for an upgrade is Brooklyn’s Nostrand Avenue. The B44 bus runs over nine miles from the Williamsburg Bridge to Sheepshead Bay. It attracts 41,000 riders a day, making it the seventh busiest route in the city, despite running at an average speed or seven or eight miles per hour and having the least reliable service in the borough. Last night, the Department of Transportation and MTA held an open house to present an updated design for the corridor [PDF], one of the final revisions before construction begins next year.

Nostrand Avenue SBS will, as in the Bronx and Manhattan, create dedicated bus lanes enforced by automated cameras and use high-capacity buses and off-board fare payment. With fewer stops, the bus will also spend more time in motion and less time starting and stopping.

The Nostrand project will add another new feature: bus bulbs. By extending the sidewalk out to the street, bus bulbs mean that drivers don’t have to pull to the curb and back into the lane, resulting in a smoother and speedier ride. A raised curb means more level boarding onto the bus, advantageous for the elderly and the mobility-impaired. The extra space also means that the bus stop won’t crowd the sidewalk.

DOT and the MTA made a few revisions to the plan under the new design. A station was added at Avenue D/Newkirk Avenue in response to community requests. Bus lanes were removed on Bedford Avenue between Fulton and DeKalb — the agencies said bus speeds were already high there but the bus lane would have interfered with the bike lane — but lanes were added to a congested section of Nostrand between Farragut Road and Avenue I.

In order to preserve the same number of motor vehicle lanes during rush hour, where a bus lane is being installed DOT proposes turning the left parking lane into a through lane during the morning and evening peaks. This shouldn’t have too much of an impact on local merchants. At Nostrand and Empire Boulevard, only 14 percent of shoppers had driven to the area (and not all had parked on Nostrand). Further south, at Glenwood Road, only 13 percent of shoppers had arrived in a car.

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Count It: First and Second Avenue Redesigns Are a Success

With results like these, it’s hard to understand why the city isn’t rushing to complete the redesign of First and Second Avenue all the way up to 125th Street. According to DOT’s presentation to its community advisory council Wednesday night, both the bus improvements, which go the length of the corridor, and the protected bike lanes, which run from Houston to 34th, are improving safety and mobility for all New Yorkers. Here are the highlights:

  • The new Select Bus Service is 15 percent faster than the old limited was. It goes 11 percent faster while moving, thanks to dedicated lanes enforced with cameras, and spends 36 percent less time at stops thanks to off-board fare payment.
  • Those faster speeds mean that 4,000 more people ride the M15 every day, from a previous base of a bit more than 50,000 daily riders. That increase is even more impressive in the context of the overall decline in Manhattan bus ridership by 5 percent over the same period.
  • Where the bike lane and pedestrian refuge islands were installed, the street is much safer. Injuries declined by 8.3 percent compared to an average of the three previous years.
  • Riders are flocking to the new protected lanes. On First Avenue, there were more riders counted in December, January, and February with the lanes than in June without them. From June 2010 to April 2011, the count rose by 153 percent. On Second, where the base of riders was higher to start, the number of cyclists rose by 55 percent from June to April.
  • All of this came without imposing a cost on motorists. Based on taxi data, traffic appears to actually be moving faster on Second Avenue than before the redesign, and at about the same speed on First. Traffic volumes, too, are basically the same: a little higher in some locations, a little lower elsewhere.

M15 riders can expect an even easier ride moving forward. Bus bulbs will be installed over the next two years eliminating the need for bus drivers to pull over to pick up passengers, and starting this fall, transit signal priority will give buses a few extra seconds of green below Houston.

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DOT Presents Scaled-Back Concept for 34th Street

Between Ninth Avenue and Third Avenue, the proposal for 34th Street calls for a curbside bus lane on one side of the street, and an off-set bus lane with expanded pedestrian space and loading zones on the other side of the street. Image: NYC DOT

“Consensus” and “process” were the buzzwords last night when NYC DOT presented its new concept for improving transit on 34th Street [PDF]. Gone was the plan for New York’s first physically separated busway — scuttled by local property owners and residents seeking drive-up curbside access. In its place was a package very similar to Select Bus Service on the East Side of Manhattan: bus lanes offset from the curb, off-board fare collection, camera enforcement, and bus bulbs to speed boarding and relieve sidewalk crowding.

The average bus speed on 34th Street is 4.5 mph, and DOT’s preliminary estimates suggest these improvements could improve speeds 15 to 25 percent.

City Council Member Dan Garodnick supplied one of the evening’s most apt remarks, calling the plan “a lot more modest than some earlier ideas, and I believe it is extremely promising.” (His East Side colleague on the Council, Rosie Mendez, also seemed to capture the spirit of the moment when she handed the mic back to transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and quipped, “There are some potholes that we need to cover up. I hit them on the way here.”)

The new plan, which DOT expects to hone and present in more detail this fall, may not be the groundbreaking project originally envisioned, but it still has a lot going for it. In addition to improving bus speeds, the project would add 18,000 square feet of pedestrian space to some of the most crowded sidewalks in the city. It also drastically increases the number of legal mid-day loading spaces along the corridor, from 55 to 355.

The details are still getting hashed out, but the general concept for 34th Street now looks like this:

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Eyes on the Street: If You Build It, They Will Sit

bus_bulb_benches1.jpgA Soho shopper takes a break on a new bench between the sidewalk and the bus bulb. Construction's still underway on this block. Photo: Paco Abraham

A couple weeks ago, we showed how the bus bulbs on Lower Broadway were being integrated with the sidewalk next to them. For drainage reasons, a small gap and a large fence had separated the two pedestrian spaces, but DOT capped the gap with a small grate and replaced the fence with benches. That work's now largely complete and Streetsblog reader Dave "Paco" Abraham sent along these pics of Soho pedestrians taking advantage of their new public space. There's a lot more breathing room on a stretch of sidewalk that's often packed and it looks like people appreciate it. 

bus_bulb_benches2.jpgAt this time of day, bench users didn't seem to be waiting for the bus. Photo: Paco Abraham.

This'll be our last post for the day, so see you on Tuesday and have a great Fourth of July.