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Posts from the West Harlem Category

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Levine and Rodriguez Press DOT to Implement West Harlem Bus Lanes ASAP

Council Member Mark Levine speaks in support of bus lanes on 125th Street in West Harlem. He was joined by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and advocates from Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, and StreetsPAC. Photo: Stephen Miller

Council Member Mark Levine calls for bus lanes on 125th Street in West Harlem. He was joined by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and advocates from Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, and StreetsPAC. Photo: Stephen Miller

Transit advocates and Upper Manhattan elected officials gathered this morning at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 125th Street to urge DOT to extend bus lanes on 125th Street to West Harlem as soon as possible.

The city installed bus lanes on 125th east of Lenox Avenue last spring, and DOT says they will be extended west to Morningside Avenue next month. Given the contentious history of the project, however, local electeds who support the bus lanes don’t want to take any chances. Earlier this month, Council Member Mark Levine and State Senator Adriano Espaillat sent a letter to DOT stressing the need to follow through on the project [PDF].

While the vast majority of local residents depend on transit, not private cars, the proposal for West Harlem bus lanes continues to draw fire at community board meetings — particularly CB 10, where the chair has complained about bus lanes slowing down her cab rides and transportation committee meetings are often filibustered by bus lane opponents.

“Look, the politics of this are always complicated. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be fighting over it,” Levine said this morning. “There’s still a very entrenched car culture in this city, and for years the car has been king. And that’s how we made policy.”

Levine is worried that further delay could push the bus lane project into next year. “We’re going to keep the pressure on every day until the work is completed,” he said. “That’s my commitment.”

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Will CB 9 Take Its Cues From a Denny Farrell Rant Against a Safer Broadway?

Five pedestrians,

Five pedestrians, including four seniors, have been killed on Broadway since 2009. But Denny Farrell thinks stopping for pedestrians is causing traffic and a road diet will lead to massive congestion. Image: DOT [PDF]

Council Member Mark Levine and the local precinct commander spoke in support of a traffic safety plan [PDF] for a deadly stretch of Broadway last night at a Manhattan Community Board 9 transportation committee meeting. Then Denny Farrell, chair of the New York State Assembly’s powerful ways and means committee, let loose with a nonsensical rant against the plan.

The project calls for adding pedestrian space and trimming car lanes from three in each direction to two. Will Community Board 9 vote for safety or go along with Farrell? We should find out this fall, when the board is expected to weigh in on the proposal.

Denny Farrell at a 2008 hearing on congestion pricing. Photo: Aaron Naparstek

After DOT’s presentation last night, Levine spoke up in support. “The status quo is a big problem, and not something we can tolerate,” he said. “Something has to be done, and we have a plan that seems to provide safety for pedestrians.”

The plan also received support from Captain Michael Baker, commanding officer of the 30th Precinct. Baker said he was pleased with changes DOT made to nearby Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, also known as Seventh Avenue, and looked forward to similar changes on Broadway. “What they did with Seventh Avenue made sense. The traffic does flow,” he told CB 9. “There need to be changes to the Broadway corridor. And I think what DOT is looking at will help.”

Most speakers at last night’s meeting were receptive to the plan. A few urged DOT to consider bus lanes or protected bike lanes. DOT project manager Jesse Mintz-Roth said center-running bike lanes like those on Allen Street would be difficult to install because Broadway, unlike Allen, has through streets at nearly every block and DOT isn’t willing to make significant changes to cross traffic along Broadway.

LaQuita Henry, a CB 9 member who also volunteers with the Community Alliance of Sugar Hill and Hamilton Heights, spent the week speaking with business owners on Broadway about the plan. She found that while most preferred three lanes in each direction, their primary concern was securing additional loading zones, which are part of DOT’s plan.

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Tonight: Community Board 9 Weighs Fix for Dangerous Stretch of Broadway

DOT's plan for 18 blocks of Broadway in West Harlem would drop it from three lanes to two lanes each way. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT’s plan for 18 blocks of Broadway in West Harlem would widen pedestrian medians and narrow motor vehicle lanes. Image: DOT [PDF]

A street safety plan [PDF] for Broadway in West Harlem is going before the Manhattan Community Board 9 transportation committee tonight. The redesign is a road diet similar to other DOT projects that have reduced deaths and injuries, but CB 9 members also have a track record of opposing attempts to improve safety by removing car lanes.

This stretch of Broadway is three lanes in each direction with a center median. Six people have been killed between 135th Street and 153rd Street since 2007, according to DOT, including five pedestrians and one motor vehicle passenger. Four of the five pedestrians were senior citizens.

There were 35 severe injuries and 455 total injuries from 2009 to 2013, mostly among people in cars. Of the 108 pedestrians injured, 53 percent were crossing with the signal, nearly double the percentage crossing against the light. DOT also found that up to 30 percent of drivers were speeding, even before the speed limit was lowered to 25 mph.

To address the dangerous conditions, DOT is proposing a road diet similar to projects already implemented on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. The Broadway redesign calls for going from three lanes in each direction to two, with space reallocated to buffers along the median, larger pedestrian zones at intersections, and wider parking lanes.

Broadway runs parallel to the Henry Hudson Parkway. Even during summer Friday afternoons, when traffic increases on Broadway, DOT says two lanes in each direction is enough. The issues for motor vehicles, DOT says, have to do with left turns and trucks making deliveries.

Today, truck drivers often double park in the right lane, reducing visibility for pedestrians and forcing drivers to weave around them. On the other side of the street, drivers turning left often stack up in the left lane.

New loading zones would be added along Broadway to reduce double parking. In addition, left turns from northbound Broadway at 138th and 145th streets would be banned, and U-turns from southbound Broadway at 152nd Street would also be prohibited.

Like the other road diets on similar streets, however, there is no bike infrastructure in the plan. Instead DOT opted to devote all the repurposed space to enlarge the median and create super-wide parking lanes, which will double as space for illegally double-parked vehicles.

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Bus Lanes Coming to 125th Street in West Harlem This Summer

bus_125

West of Lenox Avenue, there are no bus lanes on 125th Street. DOT plans to change that this summer. Photo: josepha/Flickr

Bus riders may not be stuck in crosstown traffic on 125th Street much longer. DOT plans to extend bus lanes from Lenox Avenue to Morningside Avenue this summer [PDF].

The news came last night at a meeting of the Community Board 9 transportation committee. “As far as CB 9 is concerned,” said board chair Rev. Georgette Morgan-Thomas, “I didn’t hear anything that made me think that we should not support the plan.”

Bus lanes on 125th have been held in check by years of political wrangling. But Council Member Mark Levine campaigned on moving forward with them, and his election in 2013 was a breakthrough for the project.

“I think we have great local support and a great need,” Levine said last night, adding that buses “crawl” once the bus lane disappears in West Harlem. “It’s just a great win for people in the community.”

On the section of 125th Street that already has camera-enforced bus lanes and off-board fare collection, the changes have worked wonders for bus riders. The M60 is now 32 to 34 percent faster between Lenox and Second Avenue. Local buses have also sped up between 7 and 20 percent in the bus lanes.

Meanwhile, local buses in West Harlem, which doesn’t yet have bus lanes, have actually slowed slightly between Lenox and Amsterdam Avenues, said Robert Thompson, the MTA’s manager of long-range bus service planning.

While they’ve sped up buses, the new bus lanes haven’t affected car traffic. GPS data from taxis show that eastbound driving trips on 125th are generally faster, while westbound trips have either slowed slightly or not seen any change, according to DOT.

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Levine Stands Up for Riverside Drive Road Diet Under Attack By CB 9

A road diet for the speeding-plagued Riverside Drive viaduct is already missing bike lanes. Community Board 9 members want DOT to scrap the road diet, too, but Council Member Mark Levine backs it. Image: DOT [PDF]

A plan to calm traffic on a speeding-plagued stretch of Riverside Drive in West Harlem would be gutted if Community Board 9 members get their way, but Council Member Mark Levine, who represents the area, wants DOT to move ahead with the safety plan.

“It’s all really sensible stuff that’s been succeeding in other parts of this district and this city,” Levine said. “I certainly value all the community input, and it needs to go through all the steps on the community board, but… I think DOT should move forward.”

Council Member Mark Levine.

The proposal features a mix of curb extensions and pedestrian islands on Riverside Drive between 116th and 135th Streets. Between 2008 and 2012, there were 20 serious injuries on this stretch of Riverside, including one pedestrian and 19 motor vehicle occupants [PDF].

The most dangerous section, according to DOT project manager Dan Wagner, is the Riverside Drive viaduct, which runs from just north of the General Grant National Memorial to 135th Street.

The average speed on the viaduct is 36.5 mph, according to DOT, with 79 percent of drivers clocking in above the posted 30 mph limit. In December, Levine and fellow Council Member Helen Rosenthal asked DOT to bring Riverside’s speed limit in line with the citywide 25 mph default [PDF].

DOT says it will do that, but only if the street is also redesigned to reduce speeds. Under the agency’s proposal, the viaduct from the Grant Memorial to 135th Street would be slimmed from two lanes in each direction to one, with the remaining space used for wide striped buffers. (Though Riverside is already a busy cycling route, DOT has refused to propose bike lanes.)

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West Harlem CB Members to DOT: Let Drivers Use Neighborhood as Shortcut

Key community board members in West Harlem say having anything less than two lanes in each direction will gridlock Riverside Drive. Photo: Google Maps

Key community board members in West Harlem say anything less than two lanes in each direction will gridlock the Riverside Drive viaduct. Photo: Google Maps

Riverside Drive in West Harlem is shaping up to be another test case for DOT’s commitment to safety improvements, and whether the agency will allow ignorance of basic street design principles and fear of change guide its decisions.

DOT didn’t put bike lanes in its road diet plan for Riverside Drive. Now, key members of Community Board 9 don’t want a road diet in the plan, either. DOT says that without the lane reduction, which will lower the design speed of the street, it won’t go along with requests to reduce the speed limit on Riverside to 25 mph.

The project includes pedestrian islands and curb extensions along Riverside Drive, 116th Street, and 120th Streets between 116th and 135th Streets. Its centerpiece is a road diet, from two lanes in each direction to one, on the viaduct that carries Riverside over West Harlem [PDF].

CB 9 transportation committee chair Carolyn Thompson and Ted Kovaleff, who served as CB 9 chair in the 1990s, spent much of Wednesday night’s meeting trying to maintain as many car lanes as possible on Riverside Drive.

Kovaleff said that he used to frequently drive to Vermont on Friday afternoons, and found that spillover traffic from the West Side Highway would clog Riverside, backing up on the viaduct. Removing one lane, he said, would lead to total gridlock. DOT project manager Dan Wagner said his analysis showed the viaduct road diet would slow driver speeds without leading to excessive back-ups, but Kovaleff wasn’t convinced. It would become a terminal bottleneck,” he said, “and that bottleneck would lead to increased pollution.”

“The asthma rate in this community, it’s horrible,” Thompson added. She also claimed that buses wouldn’t be able to operate on the viaduct with one lane in each direction.

Kovaleff didn’t evince much concern about dangerous speeding on the viaduct — and wasn’t convinced, despite ample evidence, that road diets work. “If people are gonna speed, whether it’s one lane in each direction, or two lanes in each direction, they’re gonna press down on the accelerator,” Kovaleff said. “And, you know, I don’t really care if people go 50 miles an hour on the viaduct.”

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Bus Lanes Worked Wonders on East 125th. Now What About the West Side?

On the section of 125th Street with new bus lanes, bus trips are now a third faster than before. Image: DOT/MTA [PDF]

On the section of 125th Street with new bus lanes, transit speeds increased by a third. Image: DOT/MTA [PDF]

Since debuting last year, Select Bus Service on 125th Street has dramatically improved transit speeds, especially on the section with dedicated bus lanes east of Lenox Avenue, according to NYC DOT and the MTA. The results strengthen the case for adding bus lanes west of Lenox, which DOT had scuttled in 2013 in response to resistance from local electeds. With more favorable politics prevailing today, the agency could revive bus lanes for West Harlem and greatly extend the impact of 125th Street SBS.

The improvement in bus service thanks to camera-enforced transit lanes, off-board fare collection, and other SBS features is impressive [PDF]. From end to end, the M60 bus from 110th Street to LaGuardia Airport now travels 11 to 14 percent faster than it did before. On 125th Street between Second and Lenox Avenues, the only part of 125th to receive dedicated bus lanes, the M60 is now 32 to 34 percent faster, an improvement that MTA bus planner Evan Bialostozky called “shocking, to even me.”

The M60 isn’t the only route to benefit from the new bus lanes: Local bus trips on the M100 and Bx15 are 7 to 20 percent faster between Second and Lenox.

“That’s helping a lot of people,” Bialostozky told the Community Board 9 transportation committee last Thursday. Crosstown buses on 125th Street serve more than more than 32,000 riders every day. Before the dedicated transit lanes debuted last year, these routes had been among the city’s slowest buses, crawling through traffic and around double-parked cars.

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DOT Proposes Riverside Drive Traffic Calming, But Not Bike Lanes

Riverside Drive is getting a road diet and a 25 mph speed limit, but bike lanes? Fuhgeddaboudit. Image: DOT [PDF]

Riverside Drive is getting a road diet and a 25 mph speed limit, but bike lanes? Fuhgeddaboudit. Image: DOT [PDF]

Last night, DOT presented a plan to the Manhattan Community Board 9 transportation committee that would bring pedestrian safety improvements and a road diet to Riverside Drive, but DOT is proposing no bike lanes for the popular cycling route [PDF].

The plan for Riverside Drive stretches from 116th to 135th Streets, which ranks in the top third of high-crash Manhattan corridors and was the site of 20 serious injuries from 2008 to 2012. Of those injuries, 19 were motor vehicle occupants and one was a pedestrian.

The average midday speed on the Riverside Drive viaduct in West Harlem is 36.5 miles per hour, according to DOT, with 75 percent of all drivers exceeding the street’s current 30 mph limit. Council Members Mark Levine and Helen Rosenthal asked DOT last month to lower the speed limit on Riverside to the new citywide default of 25 mph [PDF]. The agency said last night that the speed limit on all of Riverside Drive will soon drop to 25 mph, with signals retimed to match the change.

The project also includes two blocks of 116th and 120th Streets between Riverside and Broadway. East of Broadway, 120th Street is already one lane in each direction and 116th Street is a pedestrian walkway on the Columbia University campus. Due to low traffic volumes, those two east-west streets will receive road diets, dropping them from two lanes in each direction to three, including a center turning lane with pedestrian safety islands. The road diet includes an extra-wide parking lane to provide breathing room for cyclists, but no bike lanes.

On 120th, four refuge islands would be installed — one each at Riverside and Broadway, plus two at Claremont Avenue — while on 116th, just two refuge islands would be installed at Riverside and Broadway, with none at Claremont to accommodate trucks that would be unable to turn around them.

An audience member suggested closing the curved “slip lane” from Claremont Avenue to 116th Street, but DOT said that roadwork would exceed the project’s budget. Instead, the department is proposing adding a sidewalk and parking to the eastern side of the triangle at 116th and Claremont. Parking would also be added to the southern side, though some residents worried it might impact visibility for drivers going from Claremont to 116th.

The plan as currently designed results in a net gain of six parking spaces, but some community board members wanted more. “We need to be finding extra spaces to take care of people who are not well enough off to have a garage and the luxury of a garage,” said CB 9 member Ted Kovaleff, who asked that DOT add angled parking to 116th and 120th Streets to squeeze in more cars. DOT project manager Dan Wagner explained that adding diagonal parking would mean there wouldn’t be space for pedestrian islands.

“Do you prefer more parking or do you prefer pedestrian safety? I think that’s the debate,” Wagner said.

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Select Bus Service Launches on 125th Street

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today's event marking the launch of Select Bus Service on 125th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today’s event marking the launch of Select Bus Service on 125th Street. Behind the podium are City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Mark Levine, Carmen Bianco of New York City Transit, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, and City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: Stephen Miller

On Sunday, Select Bus Service launched on a route that stretches from 125th Street in Harlem to LaGuardia Airport. Public officials marked the occasion — the first SBS route to debut during the de Blasio era — at a Harlem press conference today. With off-board fare collection and dedicated bus lanes (on part of the route), the upgrades will speed cross-town trips for 33,000 bus riders daily, on both the M60 SBS route and local routes that will benefit from the bus lanes only.

Not that long ago, it seemed like SBS on 125th Street might never happen. The bus lanes were originally planned to extend between Second and Morningside Avenues, but after State Senator Bill Perkins led objections to the planning process, the plan was scaled back, calling for bus lanes between Second Avenue and Lenox. The entire project appeared dead soon after, then was revived in October after closed-door meetings with Perkins and other erstwhile opponents.

At today’s press conference, elected officials made the case for extending the bus lanes west to Morningside.

“While it’s a fabulous day for East Harlem, it’s a slightly less wonderful day for Central and West Harlem, because a key feature of this route, which is the bus-only lane you see right here, stops — comes to an abrupt halt — at Lenox Avenue,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “That’s simply not fair to residents in the western part of this wonderful street.”

Levine, whose call for extending the bus lane was echoed by State Senator Adriano Espaillat, said he hoped that it could be implemented as soon as this fall.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito thinks success on the initial segment will lead to westward expansion. “Once people start using this and really seeing the benefits, you’re going to start getting the support of people asking and clamoring for more,” she said. “Some of us, we thought this wouldn’t move forward.”

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New CM Mark Levine Will Push NYC DOT for Full 125th Street SBS Route

The deal that brought 125th Street Select Bus Service back to life last fall didn’t revive the full, cross-town enhanced bus route that was originally on the table. With the current plan calling for bus lanes east of Lenox Avenue only, bus riders who travel to or from West Harlem would still get the short end of the stick. Freshman Council Member Mark Levine wants to change that.

Levine, elected this fall to an Upper Manhattan district that includes West Harlem, made full-length SBS a staple of his campaign. Now that he’s in office, he’s banging the drum for his district’s bus riders. In an interview published on DNAinfo today, reporter Jeff Mays asked Levine, “Where will residents first see your mark as a councilman?”

He responded:

Council Member Mark Levine

Council Member Mark Levine

125th Street is a vital commercial spine and transportation corridor for Upper Manhattan…But the [east-west] bus speed is approximately 3.5 miles per hour. It’s slower than walking. Mass transit is moving at a crawl. This has to change.

There’s a [DOT] proposal out there that could significantly improve transit. [With Select Bus Service], buses get a dedicated lane. Riders pay before they get on the bus and there are other enhancements of speed. Unfortunately the plan they’re implementing has an [SBS] bus only east of Lenox Avenue…the plan is crazy and it’s simply not justifiable based on public policy. I am committed to making the DOT make the bus lane the whole length of 125th Street. I think we could see impact on that early in 2014.

Beyond being a positive sign from an incoming council member, Levine’s push for a better SBS route offers a test for Mayor Bill de Blasio and incoming Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. To make make river-to-river bus lanes happen on 125th Street, City Hall and DOT will run up against the neighborhood’s political establishment, particularly its Albany delegation, which attempted to scuttle SBS in the first place.

De Blasio’s mayoral campaign was all about the hurdles faced by working-class New Yorkers. In his transportation platform, he pledged to build at least 20 “world-class” Bus Rapid Transit lines, and on the air he made the connection between transportation and economic opportunity.

The partial 125th Street SBS route is scheduled for implementation in April. Restoring the full route to West Harlem would be a big improvement, though the bus lanes, which will just be paint on the road, won’t qualify as great BRT. If Trottenberg’s DOT is going to pursue “world-class” BRT in the future, though, a simple first step would be standing up for a complete bus lane on 125th Street sooner rather than later.

Update: If she wants to fast-track West Harlem bus lanes, Trottenberg will have to change DOT’s status quo position when she takes over later this month: “There are no plans to alter these [plans] prior to implementation,” a department spokesperson said in an email. “We welcome the input of Councilmember Levine and will work closely with him…holding discussions on potential for changes west of Lenox in the future.”