Faster bus speeds slated to come to stretch of 181st Street in Washington Heights

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Following the success of new bus projects in the city, Washington Heights is finally getting better bus service.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that on April 26, the city will launch the 181st Street Busway, which will bring faster bus speeds to 66,000 daily riders on the 0.5-mile busway between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. This project follows the success of similar projects on Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn, 14th Street in Manhattan, and Flushing-Main Street in Queens, and is a part of the Better Buses initiative that launched last June.

The DOT formed a Community Advisory Board (CAB) to guide the project before, during, and after implementation, and also met with Community Board 12, the Washington Heights BID, local elected officials, and small businesses.

“Washington Heights deserves faster, safer, more reliable bus transit. The 181st Street busway will help this iconic neighborhood come back stronger than ever,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Busways have transformed transportation across the city – most recently in Flushing, where the new busway has dramatically increased speeds in just two months – and I look forward to bringing these changes to even more neighborhoods citywide.”

As one of the busiest and most congested corridors in Manhattan, the 181st Street busway has average bus speeds of less than 4 miles per hour. The slow speeds create unreliable service for riders making connections to the A 1 trains, as well as the six MTA bus routes traveling on the north-south avenues and the Port Authority’s George Washington Bridge bus terminal. This project aims to not only increase bus speed and reliability, but also calm traffic and improve truck travel, loading and unloading, while maintaining local access to support businesses and services.

The project will also bring priority to transit and trucks 181st St between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue in the eastbound direction, and Amsterdam Ave to Wadsworth Avenue in the westbound direction. Through traffic would be limited to buses, trucks and emergency vehicles, and cars, taxis, and vans must make next available right turn off busway. Local access and parking are allowed, with improved truck loading and parking meter regulations.

“Next month, DOT will continue our great Better Buses work by speeding up commutes across Washington Heights,” said DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman. “We have already worked closely with our partners at MTA New York City Transit to deliver busways with faster and more reliable bus service, including in Flushing, downtown Brooklyn and of course on 14th Street in Manhattan. In all of these locations, busways are successfully connecting New Yorkers, including essential workers, to employment as well as to dynamic commercial hubs, where local business owners are working hard to emerge from the COVID crisis. We expect similar great results along 181st Street – and I for one cannot wait to ride.”

The NYPD will provide traffic enforcement at the busway and inform motorists about the new regulations when the project launches. The DOT will install bus lane cameras, and during the first 60 days warning letters will be sent to drivers who violate the new regulations before beginning to mail out violations with fines.

The DOT also announced that two months after the launch, the Flushing-Main Street busway is providing faster and reliable service to 155,000 Queens commuters. Data shows that the bus speeds have been significantly faster since Jan. 19, with northbound speeds being 15%-24% faster during the day, and 13%- 31% faster during the afternoon peak.

“We have seen across this city the benefits of faster, more reliable bus service, and the early success of the Flushing-Main Street busway is just the latest example,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Laura Anglin. “Washington Heights is up next in our continued expansion of busways, and we are looking forward to the positive impact this project will have on the more than 60,000 daily riders.”

“The key to an effective bus system is well-enforced bus priority.  We’re thrilled that the Main Street Busway is improving commutes for thousands of customers with up to 31% speed increases, and are excited to bring improvements to our customers on 181st Street and in other parts of the city,” said Craig Cipriano, President of the MTA Bus Company and Senior Vice President for Buses, MTA New York City Transit.

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