Transit and community officials Tuesday welcomed a Select Bus Service route along the famed 125th Street in Harlem. But the route isn’t quite finished yet.
A key feature of SBS routes throughout the city is a dedicated lane for buses, which are enforced with a camera. The bus-only lane on the 125th Street corridor just runs between Lenox and Second avenues, meaning that SBS buses on the western part of the route will be mixing it up with traffic.
“DOT had to navigate some very choppy political waters in installing this,” said Councilman Mark Levine, who called the event a “slightly less wonderful day for Central and West Harlem.” “We’re seeing growing support for the idea that we want the full length of 125th Street served.”
The new SBS route, which went into service Sunday, replaces the M60 bus on the congested 125th Street corridor, which moves 33,000 riders a day on four bus routes. It also takes riders to LaGuardia Airport. In addition to a bus-only lane, Select Bus features off-board fare payment and priority signals.
During the planning process, the DOT cut the bus-only lane to east of Lenox Avenue. Then, the MTA and DOT pulled the project last year after they were still unable to garner enough community support. Eventually, the Select Bus route moved forward, without a bus-only lane in the western part of the route.
Levine said he believes a full bus-only lane can be installed in the fall. Once riders see travel times shorten on the new SBS route, support in the community for extending the lane will grow, he said.
“Riders are going to be zooming along on this lane as they head towards Lenox and then they’re going to come to a halt and get stuck in traffic,” he said.
NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco said existing Select Bus routes — there are six in operation and the de Blasio administration is pushing for 20 altogether — saw travel times reduced 20% and ridership increase by 10 to 20%.
“Wherever we’ve had the opportunity to introduce SBS the community has embraced it after realizing its vast benefits,” Bianco said. “I believe that will happen here, as well.”
Omar Johnson, 34,who lives on the Upper West Side, praised the bus for getting him to the Madison Avenue and 125th Street stop from West 106th Street and Broadway.
“I believe it’s faster,” he said. “We needed the [SBS] M60 on this route.”
His wife Sameerah, 35, was pleased with the extra space she gets on the Select Bus.
“The M60s were really packed,” she said. “In the Select Bus, there’s more room.”