Big changes coming to First, Second avenues as part of bus pilot
The Second Avenue subway is years away, but the East Side is changing a lot sooner than you think.
A makeover is coming to First and Second avenues — all the way from 125th to Houston streets —as the city tries to speed up its busiest bus route.
By October, parking, trees and traffic lanes will be removed from sections of the 8.5-mile route to lay down red bus lanes for the M15, one of the slowest lines in the city. But some elected officials are worried all the work is for naught, as the bus lanes don’t include barriers to prevent drivers from parking in them.
“We are skeptical,” said Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, (D-Manhattan). “If we’re going to just paint the pavement red, is that the best we can do?”
Some drivers and businesses, meanwhile, are angry the plan would remove parking spots, squeeze traffic and limit deliveries in the bus lanes during rush hours.
“No parking? That’s going to kill us,” said Ibrahim Ozdemir, 55, co-owner of a Turkish restaurant on Second Avenue.
The M15 will be the city’s second “select bus service,” which speeds up travel by providing dedicated lanes and bus shelters where passengers pay before boarding. Commuting times on a one Bronx route has fallen by 10 percent since select services were trotted out in 2008, according to estimates. The city’s buses are the slowest in the nation with the M15 being especially sluggish.
“It sounds good to me. It’s a slow bus,” said Raj Jain, 26, a rider from Murray Hill.
Bike lanes would also be beefed up on both First and Second Avenues. The DOT says it can pay for the plan within its existing budget, which include more than $20 million for select bus projects.
Nineteen elected officials are gunning for the DOT to do more by building physical barriers by the bus lane, like in other cities with rapid transit service. “They haven’t gotten to the heart of the matter, which is how this will increase the speed of bus service,” Kavanagh said.
DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said the agency is taking the feedback seriously and that the plan “was generally well-received.” The city will solicit more public input before rolling out the changes, with construction slated to begin in September.
Robert Levin contributed to this story.Second Avenue Subway
- As of December, the MTA finished 65 percent of the work needed to launch a massive tunneling machine to dig the subway
- The first phase of the $4.4 billion project, with stops between 63rd and 96th street, is schedule to complete in December 2016