MTA calls on NYC to add 60 miles of bus lanes as city reopens

Posted On Fri, June 5, 2020 By

Posted On Fri, June 5, 2020 By In Policy, Transportation

Photo by Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit on Flickr

With up to 400,000 New Yorkers expected to return to the workforce under the city’s phase one reopening on Monday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to add 60 miles of dedicated bus lanes to alleviate crowding. In a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sarah Feinberg, interim president of NYC Transit, wrote a “robust bus system will be crucial” for the city’s rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are all in agreement that New York and its world-class transit system will not only survive this unprecedented worldwide pandemic, but the rebound will make us smarter, better and more efficient,” Feinberg wrote. “Creating more dedicated bus lanes is one way to make that happen.”

The 60 additional miles of bus lanes and busways would bring the city’s total to over 200 miles. The MTA has identified three priority corridors for new or upgraded bus lanes:

  • Bronx: East 149th Street,  the E.L. Grant Highway, Tremont Ave, Fordham Road,  University Avenue
  • Brooklyn: Flatbush Avenue between Avenue H and Empire Boulevard
  • Staten Island: Bay Street between the St. George Ferry Terminal and Canal Street, Richmond Terrace between the St George Ferry Terminal and Jersey Street

And three priority corridors for busways:

  • Manhattan: 181st Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue
  • Queens: Main Street between Kissena Boulevard and Northern Boulevard, Archer Avenue between 146th Street and 168th Street
  • Brooklyn: Livingston Street between Court Street and Flatbush Avenue

City and state officials have estimated between 200,000 and 400,000 New Yorkers will return to the workforce during this first phase, which kicks off on Monday. This includes all construction, manufacturing, and some retail stores.

According to Feinberg, bus ridership has continued to grow since the start of the pandemic. From its lowest point of about 400,000 daily riders, the MTA reported an increase to about 715,000 bus riders daily on June 2.

Transit advocates and public officials have also called on the city to add more bus lanes to help disperse crowds as New Yorkers return to work. Earlier this week, four borough presidents sent a letter to de Blasio demanding he fast-track the creation of 40 miles of new bus lanes across the city, as the New York Daily News first reported.

The MTA and City Hall have been on different pages when it comes to reopening public transit ahead of the city’s reopening. Both the transit agency and de Blasio’s office released safety plans for the subway and bus system this week, but the agency called the mayor’s call for capacity limits and social distancing on the subway “utterable unworkable.”

During a press briefing on Wednesday, de Blasio called on the MTA to create public capacity limits on trains and buses, as well as subway platforms. “If you’re on the subway, here’s how many people should be on that train, on that car and the markings of where you should stand or sit the same with the buses,” de Blasio said. “It is crucial that every other seat be blocked off so that it’s clear, you’ll never end up sitting right next to someone, there’s at least a seat between people.”

The MTA pushed back on the mayor’s idea. In a statement to THE CITY, agency spokesperson Abbey Collins said: “Like many of the mayor’s ideas, this is nice in theory, but utterly unworkable. The mayor’s plan would allow us to serve only a tiny percentage of our riders–around 8 percent.”

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