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NYC unveils plans to speed up buses — the slowest in the U.S.

Brooklyn bus route singled out for improvements

April 19, 2019 Mary Frost
The mayor singled out the bus route on Livingston Street from Boerum Place to Flatbush Avenue. Eagle file photo by Mary Frost

New York City buses are the slowest in the United States, averaging 8 miles per hour — and even slower during peak times.

With ridership dropping 13 percent over the last four years, the city has come out with a Better Buses Action Plan it says will increase bus speeds by 25 percent by 2020.

Part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2019 OneNYC plan, it includes a package of road changes, technology improvements, pedestrian priority zones and off-hour delivery requirements.

De Blasio announced the changes on Thursday. He said bus improvements would build a fairer city for New Yorkers, and would complement congestion pricing.

One troubled route in Brooklyn, on Livingston Street from Boerum Place to Flatbush Avenue, was singled out in the mayor’s announcement. Planned improvements include extended bus lane hours; a dedicated westbound right turn arrow and signal phase to help buses turning right from westbound Livingston Street onto Boerum Place; and physical barriers to prevent illegal parking and standing. The city says 63,000 commuters ride this route every day.

Other bus routes in Brooklyn slated for improvements include Pennsylvania Avenue; Malcolm X Boulevard; Church Avenue and East New York Avenue. The city says it will reach out to residents and stakeholders before implementing changes.

Delivery truck changes

The mayor said that the number of business locations enrolled in the Overnight/Off-Hour Delivery program will triple this year, from just over 500 to 1,500. Most of the current participants (119 businesses) are in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The idea behind the program is to reduce roadway congestion and double parking in active bus lanes. The city plans to spend $1 million on outreach to all businesses in areas of Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn to invite them to participate in the program.

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Not everyone is happy with restricted delivery hours, however.

In April, dozens of business along Fulton Street in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill fought their own business improvement district over a city plan to take away parking spaces and add bus-only lanes in front of their stores.

The city said the bus lanes will speed up snarled bus service for the roughly 20,000 riders who take the B25 and B26 lines every day. Transit advocacy groups like Riders Alliance and New York Public Interest Research Group’s Straphangers Campaign applauded the plan, which would eliminate parking on Fulton Street (on the south side during the evening rush and on the north side during the morning rush).

Roughly 80 shopkeepers, however, petitioned Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop demanding that the city stop the project, arguing that the lanes will mess up deliveries and drive away customers.

Fulton Area BID Executive Director Phillip Kellogg told the Brooklyn Eagle at that time that the city modified the plan so that only one side of Fulton would be affected. “[We] did not get the plan eliminated, but did secure a 50 percent cut in number of hours from the original proposal,” Kellogg said.

Signal priority

Other improvements include the installation of 300 additional Transit Signal Priority intersections per year. This helps buses move through intersections faster by holding a traffic light green or turning a red light green sooner. Currently, there are 600 units installed.

The city also wants to install more bus lane cameras to identify and ticket bus lane violators. NYPD has already initiated deployment of seven tow truck teams to enforce bus lanes citywide.

The City Council has also funded real time bus arrival information at nearly 500 bus stops, with plans for nearly 200 more.

Planning workshops also resulted in additional recommended Select Bus Service corridors.

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