City unveils Lower Manhattan bus lanes to speed up Staten Island-bound commutes

A Staten Island Express Bus in Lower Manhattan.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

The city unveiled on Thursday three blocks of new bus lanes and a bus-priority traffic signal at Battery Place near the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel in Lower Manhattan, which officials say will relieve congestion for commuters heading to Staten Island.

“Bus improvements at Battery Place will save valuable time for Staten Island bus riders,” said Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Hank Gutman in a June 10 statement. “In a year’s time, each commuter will have gotten more than a full day of their lives back.”

The DOT added a curbside bus-only lane to three westbound blocks of Battery Place, between Broadway and West Street, along with a traffic signal allowing buses a head start when turning right toward toward the inter-borough tunnel.

The last block at West Street also has a raised ridge with plastic flappers to discourage other drivers from illegally hogging the red-painted lanes.

The three new blocks of bus lanes at Battery Place and West Street in Lower Manhattan.Photo by Kevin Duggan

The changes — which are in effect 24/7 — will mostly benefit the 12,000 daily riders of the Staten Island express buses who find themselves routinely stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic during the evening rush hour, according to one senior DOT rep for the island, who related her own commute home from the agency’s headquarters at nearby Water Street.

“I get on the bus on Water Street, then I sit in traffic along State Street and then Battery Place, anywhere from 20-40 minutes — and that’s a good night,” said DOT Staten Island Borough Commissioner Roseann Caruana. “You can only imagine the frustration after a long day at work sitting on the bus — sometimes standing on the bus — watching traffic lights turn green, then yellow, then red, and sometimes moving a few inches for each cycle.”

In contrast, the buses zoom past other drivers once they reach the far side of the tunnel due to high-occupancy vehicle lanes there, according to DOT.

A new signal gives buses priority to turn right from Battery Place onto West Street heading to the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel.Photo by Kevin Duggan

The new bus lanes came at the request of Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo, and are part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Better Buses initiative to speed up the city’s notoriously slow bus network through the addition of dedicated lanes and busways around the Five Boroughs.

“The redesign of the express bus system for Staten Island has been one of the most challenging endeavors of my career,” Oddo said in a statement. “Moving 30,000+ Staten Islanders to and from Manhattan every day will never be easy. That’s why it is that much more important to aggressively correct and improve everything in our control.”

The DOT has committed to build or improve 28 miles of Better Buses projects this year, serving almost one million riders a day.