DOT offers three proposals to finally improve bus service on Fordham Road – Streetsblog New York City

Two out of three isn’t bad.

The Department for Transport last week revealed three scenarios to improve bus service along the traffic-congested Fordham Road – and two of the three projects call for a partially or fully car-free bus lane design between Morris and Webster Avenues , where the average bus speed is less than 4 miles per hour.

DOT officials released the three proposals to the region’s bus “Community Advisory Committee” last Tuesday. [PDF] after years of talks that did nothing to improve service along the traffic jammed Fordham Road. Shortly after Mayor de Blasio took office in 2014, bus speeds and ridership on Bx12 and Bx12 Select buses peaked, with speeds dropping from an average of 9 miles per hour to 7.5 miles per hour during his eight years in office. During that time, ridership fell from nearly 50,000 a day to just over 40,000 a day. With other bus routes that touch Fordham Road, the total number of passengers per day is 85,000, according to the DOT.

But the speed of buses on the entire Bx12 route between Upper Manhattan and Co-op City – the busiest route in the borough – average speed of 5.4 miles per hour during peak hours – 2 .5 miles per hour below the city average. Before he was DOT commissioner, then-Council member Ydanis Rodriguez saw Fordham Road as a critical transportation corridor connecting his Upper Manhattan neighborhood to the Bronx — particularly critical because 62% of households in the corridor don’t have no access to a car and 71% of residents move around. by public transport, on foot or by bicycle.

And in street surveys conducted in July 2019, 86% of visitors to Fordham Road businesses told DOT they arrived on foot, by bus, or by train — a finding that suggests the agency should focus on bus riders, not car drivers, though local businesses told DOT they are concerned about their minority of customers who drive.

Each of the three solutions – the fruit of the latest round of workshops that started in June 2019 – aims to improve bus service, but differ in their approach:

Variant A

In this scenario, the DOT would add painted bus lanes in areas where they currently do not exist:

Map: DOT
Map: DOT

Passengers will certainly appreciate that the “upgrade” calls for the conversion of existing curbside bus lanes – which are often packed with cars – into staggered lanes, which is an effort to keep parked cars out of the way. of buses (although double-parked cars would still block the way).

In this scenario, the agency also bet on what it would do on the University Heights Bridge, where bus speeds are “among the slowest [on] the Bx12-SBS route,” according to the DOT.

“Offset or curbside bus lanes will be explored on 207th Street, from 10th Avenue and across the University Heights Bridge,” the agency said.

Variant B

In this scenario, eastbound bus riders get a car-free bus lane between Morris and Webster avenues, where bus speeds are among the slowest:

Map: DOT
Map: DOT

As part of the “busway” system, although traffic, except trucks and buses, is required to leave the route by making the first available right turn. (The rest of the route would receive the same treatments offered by Alternative A.)

This segment of busway would be less than half a mile – roughly similar to the bus priority zone on West 181st Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan, which has successfully increased bus speeds since its implementation l ‘last year.

But this alternative only offers eastbound bus riders the benefits of having cars mostly away from their crowded buses. And, according to the DOT’s own report, eastbound bus speeds tend to be 50% faster than westbound speeds in this congested corridor. Which brings us to…

Variant C

In what is probably the most exciting plan from the perspective of transit advocates, the bus lane between Morris and Webster avenues would be in both directions:

Map: DOT
Map: DOT

As expected, this scenario received immediate support from activists.

Chart: MTA
Chart: MTA

“Fordham Road is the main transit artery through the Bronx and should be an all-day, every day bus route,” said Danny Pearlstein of Riders Alliance. “Alternative C would give riders the biggest speed boost. In addition to that, DOT should also make big improvements to West 207th Street, which is currently a parking lot at the west end of the Bx12 SBS route.

Transportation Alternatives, which has long called for improvements on Fordham Road, was also pushing for Alternative C, in particular how the car-free space proved better for buses (see table, above, of Bus speed improvements on 181st Street and the EL Grant Freeway in the Bronx.

“The busiest bus lines in the Bronx need protected bus lanes, and the five lines along Fordham Road…shouldn’t crawl through traffic,” said Juan Restrepo, the group’s lead organizer. “Polls show that almost nine out of 10 people are in favor of improving existing bus lanes, including 72% of non-bus users. Reclaiming car space to build car-free bus lanes, upgrading existing bus lanes and improving service for tens of thousands of passengers should be a priority as the city plans investment in Fordham Road.

A crowded Fordham Road bus.  Photo: Eve Kessler
A crowded Fordham Road bus. Photo: Eve Kessler

Lucia Deng, a Bronx transportation activist popular on Twitter as @luciadlite, said Alternative C “would be great in calming the space down and making it a more attractive destination for the vast majority of people who go there. their purchases”.

Given the vast majority of people arriving at businesses on Fordham Road by public transport, “it follows that changes making Fordham Road easier/quicker to access by bus…would have a significant positive impact on the [business] community,” she added. “Fordham Road is currently a very dangerous corridor for everyone, so further deterrence of private car traffic benefits everyone.”

She called Alternative A “a mistake” because “buses (and bus lanes) are constantly jammed with double-parked cars along sections of this corridor”.

“Accommodating parking will only increase illegal/double parking and congestion,” she said.

Other experts have pointed out that improving bus service for 85,000 people a day is a crucial equity issue for a city where a disproportionate number of black residents rely on public transit compared to white residents. And in the census tracks that touch the West Fordham Road part of the corridor, almost 80% of residents commute to work by bus or tube. In this same area, 90% of the inhabitants are black or Latino. And the median income is $32,000 a year, about half the city’s median income.

The existence of one proposal — well, three proposals — is the first step forward since January 2021, when DOT made its first presentation to the Community Advisory Board and said it “didn’t have a design proposal for the hallway” and would wait until this panel of elected officials, community groups and local community councils offer sufficient input.

At the time, Streetsblog reported that judging by past timelines, this seizure process could take “another year before the Bronx’s long-suffering bus riders are given relief.” This schedule turned out to be optimistic. At the March 15 meeting, DOT said its timeline would end with “estimated implementation” in “mid-fall 2022.”

The problem with getting advice from a “community advisory board” is that transit laymen often send mixed signals. In June 2021, for example, this Fordham Road CAB told the DOT it wanted a bit of everything, including “physical barriers for bus lanes,” “offset bus lanes to allow parking along sidewalk” and a “bus lane option for congested areas”.

From now until the summer, DOT says it will study the traffic implications of all three scenarios and return “early fall” with the results of the study and “refined designs.”

Melvin Z. Madore