Neighbors aren't on board with proposed bus lane

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The city’s transportation department is moving forward quickly with a plan to add a bus lane on the southbound side of Broadway between West 225th and West 230th streets, prompting mixed reactions from neighbors who already believe traffic is a serious issue.

DOT is expected to make a formal presentation in front of Community Board 8’s traffic and transportation committee Thursday that would restrict one of the three southbound travel lanes directly under the 1 train tracks to just buses.

It also would eliminate right turns onto Exterior Street from Broadway.
The move, according to DOT, will help speed up buses along the route. Bronx buses are the city’s most used, but they’re also the slowest, averaging just under 7 mph, or the equivalent of a slow jog. For buses like the Bx9, Bx7 and Bx20 on Broadway, those average speeds can drop to as little as 3.3 mph — a typical walking pace.

Surveyed riders say buses bunch far too often and don’t adhere to
schedules. While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is working on redesigning the Bronx bus system, those plans won’t be released until later this month. They are expected to address scheduling issues while proposing other fixes for slow and inconsistent bus service.

This stretch of Broadway currently has six travel lanes in both directions, with parking on either side. Two of the three southbound lanes are located directly under the el, and one would be changed to allow only buses during specific times. It’s likely to be similar to the dedicated lane used by the Bx12 in the West Fordham Road area.

Broadway is lined with local businesses, and double-parked delivery trucks and passenger vehicles can cause significant congestion, DOT officials said, forcing other vehicles to maneuver around them. Providing a designated loading zone like one proposed below West 228th could alleviate some of that congestion by moving stopped trucks out of the flow of traffic.

Yet, such a curb cut would remove at least 10 parking spots along the curb, said Dan Padernacht, who also chairs the traffic and transportation committee. While some metered parking will be added on West 228th to offset the loss, that still won’t be enough.

Adding the bus lane will cost parking and be devastating to local businesses, said Orlando Kross, leader of the Marble Hill Merchants Association and owner of Flowers by Zenda on Broadway just above West 225th.

“They have to understand that this is the community, it’s got to be community based,” he said. “Everyone comes and shops. This business has been here since 1946, over 70 years. All these businesses depend on double-parking, there’s just not enough parking spaces.”
A number of local business owners planned to oppose the bus lane at
Thursday’s traffic and transportation committee meeting, Kross said.

“We need the parking and the double-parked space, we just need it,” he said. “Even if it’s against the law, we have no other choice. It’s going to drive me out of business.”

Padernact believes drivers in need of parking would most likely render the loading zone useless.

“One of the major flaws of the plan is that it depends on the service lane being free of traffic,” Padernacht said. “From a practical perspective, having lived in this area for 43 years, I do not believe that’s possible unless there are police stationed there 24/7.”

While the parking loss may irk some Bronx drivers, gaining a loading lane will benefit everyone, said Stephanie Burgos-Veras, a senior organizer at the Riders Alliance, a grassroots group that advocates improved mass transit in the city.

“Buses can’t always go around trucks,” she said. “Loading zones are not 24 hours, they’re only for a few hours. That change actually makes a huge difference in quality of life. That’s a sacrifice for a few hours that benefits the community for the greater good.”

DOT also wants to add a new traffic light at Exterior Street that could give buses and pedestrians a head start against northbound passenger vehicles on Broadway. While it could help speed up travel time of buses along the stretch, it also means right-turns onto Exterior from Broadway would be prohibited.

“I appreciate that the DOT is looking for ways to improve commuter times,” Padernacht said. “However, I think the practicalities of each neighborhood have to be given greater consideration.”

While he was not sold on the merits of the DOT changes, Padernacht had some faith in the soon-to-be revealed FastForward plan MTA has developed in an effort to improve mass transit, especially in the outer boroughs like the Bronx.

“One of the things I think can improve commuter times on buses is more thought and strategy employed in bus routes and timing,” Padernacht said, which is something “the MTA is presently working on in its bus redesign plan.”

The Broadway plans, along with Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to increase bus speeds 25 percent by next year, are all necessary to improve both bus service and passenger vehicle traffic, transit advocates say.

“They’re looking at the city comprehensively, it’s a complement to MTA’s plan,” Burgos-Veras said. “It’s a citywide transformation to make buses better. Over the last decade they’ve been getting slower and slower. Finally buses are getting the attention they need.”

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