New busway to launch at 181st Street in Washington Heights next week

Photo courtesy of the MTA via Flickr

Faster bus times are coming to Washington Heights next week.

Starting on April 26, the city Department of Transportation is launching the 181st Street Busway. The half-mile stretch of busway will bring faster bus speeds to 66,000 daily riders in Washington Heights, in the latest project in Mayor de Blasio’s Better Buses initiative announced last June.

The project follows the success of similar projects on Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn, 14th Street in Manhattan, and Flushing-Main Street in Queens. The 181st Street Busway will bring transit and truck priority on the road between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue in the eastbound direction, and Amsterdam Avenue to Wadsworth Avenue in the westbound direction. Through traffic will be limited to buses, trucks, and emergency vehicles — cars, taxis, and vans must make the next available right turn off the busway. Local access and parking are allowed, with improved truck loading and parking meter regulations.

As one of the busiest and most congested corridors in Manhattan, the 181st Street busway average bus speeds of less than 4mph, causing unreliable service for commuters trying to make connections to the A or 1 trains, six other MTA bus routes and the Port Authority’s George Washington Bridge bus terminal. The project aims to increase the speed of the buses, therefore increasing reliability, calming traffic, and improving truck travel while still maintaining local access to support businesses and services.

The NYPD will provide traffic enforcement as well as inform motorists about the new regulations after the busway launches. The DOT will also install bus lane cameras in the coming weeks. For the first 60 days following their installation, the DOT will issue warning letters to registered vehicle owners who violate the new regulations, before beginning to mail out violations with fines.

A Community Advisory Board was formed by the DOT to guide the project before, during and after implementation. The DOT also met with Community Board 12, the Washington Heights BID, local elected officials, and small businesses about the project.