City Advances Speedy Bus Plan

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Resurfacing, signage will start to appear; complaints about Turtle Bay transit access

By Rochana Rapkins

Beginning this month, East Siders can expect street resurfacing to start on the first phase of the “Select Bus Service plan for First and Second avenues. Street repair crews will roll into Lower Manhattan and work their way up to Harlem to create dedicated bus and bike lanes along the 8.5-mile route.

If all goes as plans, Select Bus Service is expected to be up and running by October 10. At a recent community advisory meeting, Ted Orosz, director of long-range bus planning at New York City Transit, described the completion date as “pretty firm.

The corridor follows the route of the M15 along the East Side. The MTA anticipates that the 57,000 passengers who travel the corridor on an average weekday will soon see reduced travel times and improved reliability.

The new route will feature on-street fare collection machines, dedicated colored bus lanes and separate bike paths. Over the next six months, East Siders can expect to see freshly paved streets, new lane markings, pedestrian refuge islands and overhead signs.

While curb parking regulations will stay roughly the same, about 20 percent of parking spaces will be lost along the route, according to Joseph Barr, director of transit development for the city"s Department of Transportation.

“It obviously has an impact on parking, Barr said of select bus service, “but [we] felt that the tradeoff was worthwhile.

At the meeting, held April 29, Adam Brickman from Assembly Member Jonathan Bing"s office spoke about plans to install security cameras to prevent cars and taxis from using the bus lanes.

“We think it is a pretty essential piece for the ability to enforce these bus lanes, Brickman said.

Cars that do enter the bus lane, which will be colored red, will be required to take the next available right turn. Legislation to allow bus lane cameras has been stalled in Albany, though lawmakers may try to roll the provision into budget negotiations.

One group that is not happy about the current Select Bus Service plan is the Turtle Bay Association, which is displeased that a stop originally planned for East 49th or 50th Street has been eliminated. Currently, the neighborhood is served by the M15 Limited stop at East 49th Street. According to Bruce Silberblatt, the association"s vice president, Department of Transportation and New York City Transit officials took plans for the stop off the table around September 2009.

Charles Seaton, a spokesperson for New York City Transit, confirmed that there are no plans for an East 49th or 50th Street stop because boarding for that area was “far below the average, compared with other stops along the Select Bus Service route.

That means Turtle Bay residents will have to take local buses to either the East 42nd or 57th Street stops to get on a Select bus.

Compounding the problem are proposed bus cutbacks to the three crosstown lines serving the area. The M104, which travels between Harlem and Murray Hill along Broadway and across 42nd Street, will terminate at Times Square instead of heading over to the United Nations. That means residents traveling to Lincoln Center or the Theater District will have to transfer buses to complete their trip. The M27, which travels across 49th and 50th streets between First and 12th avenues, is being eliminated all together. And the M50, which follows a similar route, is being cut on weekends and nights.

“We are better off without the [Select Bus Service] because at least we have a Limited bus we can get on and off, Silberblatt said.

Elected officials, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Borough President Scott Stringer, have sent letters to Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chair Jay Walder protesting the cuts and the elimination of the Select Bus Service stop.

“These cuts amount to a double whammy for residents of Turtle Bay, and add to the perception that the neighborhood is being singled out and isolated, Maloney said in a statement. “The MTA is proposing to virtually eliminate crosstown bus service for the neighborhood and to have the new Select Bus Service skip the 50th Street stop. These moves will be a harsh blow for the neighborhood, and I urge the MTA to reconsider them.

Community Board 6"s full board is scheduled to consider complaints about Select Bus Service stops at its May 12 meeting. 

With additional reporting by Charlotte Eichna.