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125th Street crosstown bus to stay local

Lack of community consensus thwarts plan to bring M60 into Select Bus Service rapid transit program

On Tuesday morning, New York City’s transportation agencies announced that a plan to add the M60 bus, which crosses 125th Street in Manhattan, to the city’s bus rapid transit program would not move ahead.

“There are still a number of concerns about the project from the local Community Boards and elected officials that we have not been able to resolve to date,” the Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced in a joint email.

The M60 bus currently stops frequently along 125th Street in Manhattan. Photo courtesy MTA/DOT

The M60 bus currently stops frequently along 125th Street in Manhattan. Photo courtesy MTA/DOT

“As a result,” the email continued, “NYCDOT and MTA New York City Transit have decided not to proceed with the M60 Select Bus Service project at this time. We do hope to have a continued dialogue with community stakeholders about ways that we can continue to improve bus speed and service, traffic flow, parking, and pedestrian safety along 125th Street.”

The bus rapid transit program — officially called Select Bus Service (SBS) — is the city’s initiative to improve traffic flow on major thoroughfares and shorten travel time on the city’s most heavily used bus routes. An SBS route is already in place at 34th Street and on First and Second avenues in Manhattan. In June, the Bx41 on Webster Avenue in the Bronx took its inaugural run.

The M60, which crosses 125th Street on its way to LaGuardia Airport, was on the agencies’ list of buses slated to get the faster service.

According to a study released by the DOT in May, the M60 travels at an average of 2.7 miles per hour on 125th Street, while the average New York City bus travels between seven and eight miles an hour. A typical pedestrian walks at the speed of 3 miles per hour, the same study showed.

The M60 carries roughly 9,700 passengers a day, more than half of them getting on or off on 125th Street, according to the city. Roughly 11 percent of the passengers use the bus to get to the airport.

Cate Contino, a coordinator at the Straphangers Campaign, a rider advocacy group, called the M60 “horrifically slow.”

The advent of Select Bus Service on 125th Street would have eliminated multiple stops on the M60 route and replaced them with express stops, where passengers pay their fare at the curb. The DOT would have added a special dedicated bus lane for the M60.

“There would have been massive improvements to the roadway that were going to benefit business and residents,” Contino said. “Those might not happen.”

According to Tuesday morning’s email, the DOT and the MTA “plan to work with the Community Boards to explore whether any parking or traffic improvements discussed during the SBS outreach process can improve 125th Street for all users.”

The proposal had met a mixed reaction from Harlem residents. In March, State Senator Bill Perkins wrote a letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to ask the agency to slow down, “allow for thorough deliberation” and consider alternative proposals.

“The plan and process as presented to some members of the community served only, at least, to inform not to gain consensus,” Perkins wrote.

While a series of community meetings took place, Perkins said, questions about the effect of the SBS route on the local businesses, the relocation of some bus stops as well as the effect on the neighborhood’s seniors and other residents weren’t answered.

Critics and transportation blogs have blamed the delay of the project on opposition from Perkins and the local community boards.

In a phone conversation on Tuesday afternoon, Perkins said that the community welcomes Select Bus Service, but that he opposes the way in which it was handled.

“We are unequivocally in support of SBS bus service,” Perkins said. “And we are looking forward to SBS service coming across 125th Street.

“This is not the Bill Perkins show of trying to stop something,” he continued, “quite the opposite.”

In an email, Community Board 10 Chairwoman Henrietta Lyle said that the board is “glad to learn” that the plans for an SBS route were halted.

“The Community Board is prepared to work with NYCDOT on a comprehensive study plan,” Lyle wrote. “Up until now, NYCDOT was on a fast track to implement the 125th Street improvements without adequate or appropriate input from community leaders and other stakeholders.”

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