During his campaign for mayor, Bill de Blasio called for the creation of a citywide, “world-class” Bus Rapid Transit network consisting of at least 20 routes. These new routes would provide a crucial link for communities beyond the reach of subways and speed trips that are poorly served by the city’s Manhattan-centric rail system.
Now that he is mayor, de Blasio will have to build out new routes much more rapidly than his predecessor if he is to keep his campaign promise.
While de Blasio has not offered a timetable for completing the rapid bus network, it took the Bloomberg administration approximately six years to build the city’s first six Select Bus Service routes.
“It’s possible to pick up the pace,” said Joan Byron of the Pratt Center for Community Development. “The constraint is staffing.”
The Department of Transportation will likely need more planners and community liaisons in order to work on multiple projects at the same time.
“If you have one team working on planning for SBS, you can get one route done per year. If you have two teams you can get two routes done, and so on,” says Byron.
One key challenge for de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg will be to accelerate the public engagement process while following through on his campaign language about “extending [outreach] beyond the community board.” As public advocate, de Blasio criticized Bloomberg and transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan for moving too fast on major street redesigns. Now that he’s mayor, he will likely have to contend with the opposition that has met previous SBS projects.
It’s not impossible to imagine that future Select Bus Service routes will encounter less friction than before. SBS is now up and running successfully in several neighborhoods, and the concept is no longer new and alien to residents and community boards. There is a clear record of success.