City starts fining drivers in 181st Street busway in Washington Heights this weekend

The 181st Street busway in Washington Heights.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

You may drive in the Heights, just not in the busway!

New York City will start fining motorists caught on automated cameras illegally driving in the 181st Street busway in Washington Heights beginning Saturday, July 17.

After a 60-day grace period, the Department of Transportation will issue fines for people caught on automated cameras driving through the four blocks of red-painted lanes from Broadway to Amsterdam Avenue, which will be off-limits for private vehicles daily between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Local access for private vehicles is still allowed from cross-streets at Wadsworth, St. Nicholas, Audubon, and Amsterdam avenues, as well as on and off the Washington Bridge, but drivers must turn at the next intersection.

Penalties for rule-breaking motorists start at $50 per offense, and increase by $50 increments per violation, up to a maximum of $200 for each violation during a 12-month period.

DOT debuted the 0.3-mile uptown busway in April to improve bus speeds and reliability for five routes.

It is the third of five such projects Mayor Bill de Blasio promised in June 2020 as a “restart” of DOT’s Better Buses initiative to speed up buses amid declining ridership, following the success of the 14th Street busway downtown.

The agency expanded the project starting with Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn in September, followed by Main Street in Flushing, Queens, in January.

The agency is slated to install another busway in Jamaica, Queens sometime this year, reported the Queens Daily Eagle.

Plans for the fifth project on Fifth Avenue in Midtown appear to be dead, following backlash by luxury retailers along the strip, Streetsblog reported.

Busways have repeatedly been shown to speed up rides by upwards of 30% thanks to the unclogged streets, while also drawing staunch opposition from some locals.

A recent amNewYork Metro analysis found that drivers blocking 14th Street were almost three times more likely to get caught than on other busways. It is the only busway where the enforcement cameras are mounted on the buses rather than on the street.