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Posts from the Select Bus Service Category

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SBS Launches on 23rd Street – Placard Holders Remain Oblivious to Bus Lanes

"Flexible bollards" at Sixth Avenue aim to keep motorists out of buses way. Photo: David Meyer

At Sixth Avenue, “flexible bollards” keep motorists from violating the eastbound bus lane. Photo: David Meyer

Select Bus Service launched on 23rd Street in Manhattan this morning, the twelfth SBS route in the city and the sixth to start up under Mayor de Blasio.

With dedicated lanes, off-board fare collection, and consolidated stops, SBS should mean faster crosstown service for the riders who make 15,000 trips on the M23 on an average weekday.

The bus lanes extend eastbound from mid-block between Tenth and Ninth Avenues to Second Avenue, and westbound from mid-block betweens First and Second Avenues to Eighth Avenue. DOT’s initial 23rd Street proposal limited bus lane enforcement to either rush hours or 7 a.m to 7 p.m., but the agency adjusted its plans after local community boards asked for more bus lane hours. The bus lanes will be in effect 24/7, with the exception of a single westbound block between Seventh and Eighth avenues, which is a commercial loading zone outside of the morning and evening rush [PDF].

This morning riders took advantage of all-door boarding along the route, but illegally parked cars were a problem. Vehicles with government placards filled the north curb between First Avenue and Second Avenue, forcing delivery trucks into the bus lane and buses into the general travel lane.

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Deadly Woodhaven Boulevard and NYC’s Broken Community Board Process

Cross Bay Boulevard and 149th Avenue, where Jazmine Marin was struck and killed yesterday. Queens Community Board 9 does not want to change this street. Image: Google Maps

Yesterday morning, a driver struck and killed 13-year-old Jazmine Marin as she walked across Cross Bay Boulevard at 149th Avenue on her way to school. The location is deadly — one other person has been struck and killed there since 2012, and Cross Bay is one of the most dangerous streets in the city. From 2009 to 2013, 17 pedestrians lost their lives on Cross Bay and Woodhaven Boulevard (the name of the same street north of Liberty Avenue) [PDF].

And yet, opponents of DOT’s Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service project — which would create safer conditions by expanding pedestrian space and restricting vehicular turns — continue resist it by claiming pedestrians would be harmed.

To win the support of local Council Member Eric Ulrich, DOT has already scaled back plans for left turn bans in the Woodhaven project — including one at Jamaica Avenue, where more pedestrians were killed between 2009 and 2013 than any other intersection in the city, according to DOT.

While Ulrich is on board now, Queens Community Board 9 remains adamantly against the redesign. Despite the agency’s concessions, all but three CB 9 members voted last week to oppose the project. One person went so far as to say that if any fatalities occurred on the corridor after SBS implementation, “Their blood will be on your hands,” the Queens Chronicle reported.

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All-Door Boarding Works. Why Won’t the MTA Commit to It on Every Bus?

The results are in: M86 buses are moving 8 to 11 percent faster since SBS implementation. Image: DOT

The results are in: M86 buses are moving 8 to 11 percent faster since the implementation of all-door boarding. Image: DOT

Buses on the M86 are moving faster and people have noticed — ridership on the crosstown route is on the upswing again after declining for years.

The improved performance is due mainly to two changes the MTA and DOT launched last year: off-board fare collection with all-door boarding, and “queue jumps” at two locations that let buses move up to the front of the line at traffic lights. With faster boarding and less time in traffic, buses are traveling eight to 11 percent faster, and ridership is up about 10 percent from the previous year, according to the agencies [PDF].

These are the same kind of improvements that the NYC Bus Turnaround coalition wants to apply across the whole system. But while DOT has indicated that it supports more queue jumps, the MTA has refused to get behind the idea of all-door boarding on every bus.

Faster boarding is a big deal because the current boarding process, where riders dip a MetroCard or pay in cash one by one, significantly slows down buses. On the B44, for example, buses used to spend more than a quarter of the time stopping to pick up and drop off passengers. After the implementation of all-door boarding and off-board fare collection, that process became 40 percent faster [PDF].

As the MTA considers bids for its new fare payment system, advocates have called on the agency to ensure the system has the necessary technology for all-door boarding. That technology, electronic proof of payment, would allow riders to “tap-and-go” at bus stops or as they board.

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Eyes on the Street: NYC’s Newest Bus Zones on 23rd Street, Jay Street

New dedicated bus lanes on 23rd Street, where Select Bus Service is set to launch in the fall. Photo: Stephen Miller

The new bus lane on 23rd Street, where Select Bus Service is set to launch in the fall. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT crews recently put down new terra cotta paint for buses on 23rd Street in Manhattan and Jay Street in Brooklyn.

In the fall, Select Bus Service will bring faster bus service to the M23’s 15,000 daily riders with dedicated lanes, off-board payment, and consolidated bus stops. The bus lanes are set to run eastbound from Ninth Avenue to Second Avenue and westbound from mid-block between First and Second Avenue to Eighth Avenue.

The red lanes are here already — Streetsblog alum Stephen Miller snapped this photo of 23rd Street looking west from Seventh Avenue.

And in Downtown Brooklyn, there’s fresh red paint on Jay Street at the long bus stop alongside the Myrtle Avenue plaza:

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DOT Replaces Loading Zones With Metered Parking Along B44 SBS Route

Nostrand Avenue Merchant Association Vice President Pia Raymond speaks alongside Assembly Member Diana Richardson (right) and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (far left). Photo: David Meyer

Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association Vice President Pia Raymond speaks alongside Assembly Member Diana Richardson (right) and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (far left). Photo: David Meyer

DOT announced today that it will adjust the curbside parking rules on Nostrand Avenue in Flatbush, where B44 Select Bus Service launched in November 2013. The agency plans to replace some commercial loading zones with metered parking along the half-mile stretch of Nostrand between Empire Boulevard and Parkside Avenue. DOT says the changes, which merchants asked for, won’t lead to more bus lane blocking on the B44 route.

When DOT puts down new bus lanes or protected bike lanes on commercial streets, the city’s curbside parking dysfunction gets thrown into sharp relief. Double-parking that previously went more or less unnoticed becomes a more visible problem, for example, when it blocks a bus lane. The success of these projects depends in no small part on getting the parking policy right.

In this case, DOT took some steps to reduce illegal parking as part of the bus lane project. Before SBS launched on Nostrand, most of these blocks had free curbside parking with time limits. DOT added meters and loading zones in an effort to reduce illegal parking by shoppers and delivery vehicles.

But since then local merchants have said the balance is out of whack — they wanted more metered parking and fewer loading zones.

After conducting a months-long study using time-lapse video to analyze curb activity, DOT agreed that there were a number of underutilized loading zones along the corridor. The agency will replace that curb space with metered parking. DOT does not expect the changes to affect the rate of parking violations in the bus lane.

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Assembly Member Nick Perry Tried to Weaken Bus Lanes All Over NYC

Riders board the B46 SBS at the bus stop where the route connects to the 3 and 4 trains. Photo: David Meyer

Perry bill’s aimed to weaken bus lane enforcement on Brooklyn’s busiest bus route — the B46, where Select Bus Service debuted last week — as well as bus lanes throughout the city. Photo: David Meyer

Upset at the prospect of camera-enforced bus lanes on Utica Avenue, which carries more bus passengers than all but a few other streets in New York, Assembly Member N. Nick Perry introduced a bill in Albany this session that would have rendered every bus lane in the city next to useless during midday hours. The bill picked up a sponsor in the State Senate majority — Brooklyn Republican Marty Golden, who later withdrew the bill, preventing a vote.

Assembly Member N. Nick Perry

Assembly Member N. Nick Perry

New York has the nation’s slowest buses, but NYC DOT and the MTA have started to tackle the problem in recent years by rolling out Select Bus Service routes that feature dedicated bus lanes. With less car congestion and double parking blocking the right of way, the lanes make bus travel faster and more reliable. Together with improvements like off-board fare collection, bus lanes have improved travel times for passengers in the range of 15 to 30 percent.

The newest camera-enforced bus lane is on Utica Avenue in Perry’s East Flatbush district. Brooklyn’s busiest bus route, the B46, runs on Utica and carries 44,000 passengers each weekday. SBS launched there last week, making the B46 the tenth SBS route with bus lanes or bus-only segments. Several older bus lane segments on major avenues are also eligible for camera enforcement.

All of these bus lanes could have been compromised by Perry’s bill, introduced in April, to let drivers travel in bus lanes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. if they stay at least 250 feet away from buses. Text accompanying the bill argued that “bus lane violations serve as a trap for tickets and summons by the police.”

In practice, the bill would render bus lanes unenforceable during the middle of the day, when ridership remains high and service is frequent on busy bus routes. On the B46, for instance, buses run every 5-6 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Golden introduced a companion bill in the State Senate in May but then withdrew it from consideration the following month.

Perry claimed his bill would make bus lanes “more efficient.” “If [drivers] see a bus approaching behind them, they should safely exit the bus lane,” he said. “But when there are no buses using the bus lane, we should not waste [road space].

But that scenario highlights why the bill would not work for either cars or buses — the constant merging by drivers in and out of the bus lane would slow down both motorists and bus passengers.

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Relief for Riders on Brooklyn’s Busiest Bus Route as B46 SBS Debuts

B46_SBS

Riders boarding the B46 SBS at the connection from the 3 and 4 trains no longer have to wait for everyone to dip a Metrocard. Photo: David Meyer

The B46 on Utica Avenue is Brooklyn’s busiest bus route, with more than 44,000 trips each weekday. Like other high-volume NYC bus routes, the B46 has also been susceptible to paralyzing traffic congestion and a boarding process that takes ages, as each passenger dips a Metrocard at the front of the bus. But B46 riders got some relief from slow, unreliable service this weekend with the launch of Select Bus Service.

With camera-enforced bus lanes, off-board fare collection, fewer stops, and priority for buses at traffic signals, NYC DOT and the MTA implemented a suite of improvements similar to the nearby B44, where travel times improved 15-30 percent after the debut of SBS.

Dedicated bus lanes were implemented on Utica Avenue in 2014 and 2015. Image: DOT

Bus lanes were implemented on Utica Avenue in 2014 and 2015, but camera enforcement didn’t begin until this month. Image: DOT

Where it runs through East Flatbush, the B46 serves some of the densest neighborhoods in the city outside of convenient walking access to the subway. (Last year, Mayor de Blasio suggested extending the subway from Eastern Parkway down Utica Avenue.)

DOT implemented bus lanes and transit signal priority on Utica in 2014 and 2015. On Sunday, off-board payment, bus stop consolidation, and camera enforcement of the bus lanes took effect, though drivers who violate the bus lanes will receive warnings instead of fines for the first 60 days. Bus bulbs — which enable passengers to board without the bus driver pulling in and out of traffic — will be installed next year.

On the evening commute yesterday, Elizabeth Bruno, who takes the B46 one stop between her home and the Utica Avenue subway station on Eastern Parkway, said she has noticed improvements even though riders are still adjusting to the service. “Because it’s new, I think, it takes a little while for people to get accustomed to, but once they get accustomed to [it], I think it will be fine,” Bruno said. “The Select is moving really faster because you don’t stop at every stop.”

“With the Select, it has gotten a little better,” said Yvette Glover, who rides the B46 every day from Eastern Parkway to Broadway and Myrtle. “I believe it’s a good thing.”

The B46 SBS runs from DeKalb Avenue to Kings Plaza, replacing the old B46 Limited that ran the length of the route but made express stops between DeKalb Avenue and Avenue H. The local B46, which previously stopped at DeKalb Avenue, will now make local stops from Kings Plaza all the way to the Williamsburg terminus.

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B44 Moving 15-30 Percent Faster After Select Bus Service Upgrades

Total travel times have gone down since the implementation of Select Bus Service on the B44 route. Image: DOT/MTA

Total travel times have improved 15-30 percent since the implementation of Select Bus Service on the B44. Image: DOT/MTA

As bus speeds decline in NYC, the few routes that are getting dedicated bus lanes and off-board fare collection are bucking the trend. The newest evidence comes from the B44 route along Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn, where buses are moving 15-30 percent faster since NYC DOT and the MTA upgraded the line to Select Bus Service, according to an update the agencies released yesterday [PDF]. Ridership on the route increased in 2015, going against the borough-wide pattern, following years of ridership losses before and during SBS implementation.

SBS upgrades make routes faster and more reliable via camera-enforced bus lanes, off-board fare collection, bus bulbs that expand waiting areas and enable bus drivers to make stops without pulling in and out of traffic, stop consolidation, and traffic signals that prioritize buses. On the B44, which runs between Sheepshead Bay and Williamsburg, total northbound travel times improved 31 percent during the morning peak and 20 percent in the evening after SBS launched. Southbound travel times improved by 19 percent in the morning and 15 percent in the evening.

The SBS improvements reduced the amount of time B44 buses spend motionless at stops, traffic lights, and stuck behind general traffic. While total time in motion before and after SBS remained relatively steady on the B44, it now accounts for 57 percent of travel time, compared to 45 percent before implementation.

The most substantial reductions in travel time occurred where dedicated bus lanes were installed, primarily north of the intersection of Nostrand and Flatbush Avenue. Between Flatbush and Fulton Street, where most of the bus lanes were installed, northbound travel times improved by 37 percent in the morning and 33 percent in the evening. (The lack of bus lanes on the southern part of the route shows: The agencies note that overall B44 speeds are lower than on other bus lines where DOT installed dedicated lanes along the entire route.)

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DOT and MTA Unveil Plan for Select Bus Service on 23rd Street

m23_design

Image: NYC DOT

About 15,000 daily passengers on the M23 will get faster trips starting this fall under the plan from NYC and the MTA for Select Bus Service on 23rd Street. Last night the agencies revealed their preliminary plan for M23 SBS, which calls for bus lanes on most of 23rd Street and off-board fare collection [PDF], to the Manhattan Community Board 5 transportation committee, which voted for it unanimously.

Most M23 passengers board close to the eastern or western edges of Manhattan. The route provides connections to eight subway lines, the PATH train, and 14 other bus routes — but it is currently one of the city’s slowest buses. The two agencies found that M23 buses are stopped in traffic or at a bus stop 51 percent of the time, and are “crawling” at speeds under 2.5 mph another seven percent of the time.

To bypass congestion, the bus lanes will run from Ninth Avenue to Second Avenue on the eastbound side and from midblock between First and Second to Eighth Avenue on the westbound side. DOT expects the lanes to be camera enforced, but buses won’t get priority at traffic signals “due to the complexity of Manhattan’s traffic signal system,” according to an agency spokesperson.

As on other SBS routes, pre-paid fares will speed up the process of boarding at stops. The project would eliminate one redundant local stop — at Fifth Avenue — that is barely 400 feet from the Broadway stop, which will remain.

On most of the street, the bus lanes will be “offset” from the curb, running between a parking lane and a general traffic lane, and in effect from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. On narrower sections, however, the bus lane will run curbside. The curbside bus lanes will not be in effect from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to allow for commercial loading and parking midday.

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Eric Ulrich Flip-Flops on Woodhaven Boulevard Redesign

After coming out strong for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard, City Council Member Eric Ulrich has done a 180.

Eric Ulrich

Eric Ulrich

“The plan that they proposed, it stinks,” Ulrich told the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, according to the Queens Chronicle. “I don’t think it’s good. I think we have to go back to the drawing board.”

The Woodhaven redesign, which calls for dedicated bus lanes and pedestrian safety infrastructure, enjoys widespread support from elected officials — a roster that once included Eric Ulrich. In April 2014 Ulrich and Joan Byron co-authored an op-ed for the Daily News that called for “world-class” bus rapid transit on Woodhaven, with dedicated lanes and signal priority:

Taking this opportunity to incorporate even more advanced Bus Rapid Transit features will benefit not only those who ride the Q52/Q53, but everyone who drives, walks or rides on this congested and dangerous artery.

Later that year Ulrich told Streetsblog that something has to be done on Woodhaven to prevent traffic deaths and injuries, because “whatever we’re doing now obviously isn’t working.”

So what happened?

Well, the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, which Ulrich was addressing, has been raising a stink about the project for all the usual reasons — that it will slow down traffic and divert motorists to side streets.

According to the Queens Chronicle, Ulrich said he became disillusioned with the plan in part because it would eliminate left turns at Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue. But the left-turn ban helps achieve two goals Ulrich said he supported: faster buses and fewer injuries. It lets buses proceed without waiting for left-turning drivers, and it prevents conflicts between turning drivers and people crossing the street.

At the intersection with Jamaica, 38 traffic crashes resulted in 52 injuries and two fatalities from July 2012 to December 2014, according to Transportation Alternatives.

TA found that more people lost their lives on Woodhaven from 2011 to 2013 than on any other Queens street. A major benefit of the Woodhaven SBS will be physical improvements, like pedestrian islands, to prevent injuries and save lives.

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