Bee-Line Bus riders on Central Ave. in Westchester could be getting major improvements in service, with buses every 10 minutes, more and better bus shelters, and speedier and more reliable travel times. That’s the potential of the Westchester Dept. of Transportation’s Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) study, which held its second open house on Monday in Yonkers. Unlike at the first open house, held one year ago (see MTR # 559), the study team had hard data documenting current conditions on the Central Ave. corridor and detailed concepts for bus rapid transit routing and stations.
The 12-mile Central Ave. corridor connects White Plains and the Bronx, represents 10% of Bee-Line’s total ridership, and includes three bus lines – the No. 20 local, No. 21 limited, and Bx4MC express to Manhattan. Westchester DOT characterized Central Ave. as a “retail corridor” rather than a traditional commuting corridor, since it has multiple destinations and most congestion occurs in the middle of the day and the evening rush hour. The team found that the No. 20 local bus line spent up to 40% of its running time stopped at stations or traffic lights, with 71 stops and 44 traffic lights to contend with! Depending on traffic and ridership, the No. 20 takes anywhere from 60 to 93 minutes to make an end-to-end run.
The BRT would run all day, including weekends, every 10-15 minutes. It would make 25 stops (about every 3/4 mile) and complete an end-to-end run 16.5-37 minutes faster than the No. 20 using a package of improvements including pre-boarding fare collection, a dedicated bus lane between Sadore Ave. in Yonkers and the Yonkers-Greenburgh border, “queue jumper” lanes at some intersections, and traffic signal priority. All stations would have shelters and real-time information displays telling riders when the next bus will arrive. (The BRT would likely replace the No. 21 limited, which runs one way only during peak hours).
Some of the most interesting ideas coming out of the study center around land use. For example, the team suggested that the Cross County Shopping Center’s planned expansion take the form of an extension built directly over Central Park Ave., allowing buses to stop at the extension instead of making a time-consuming circuit through the mall parking lot to pick up and drop off shoppers. The team also identified three areas where the BRT line could anchor mixed-use, transit-oriented development.
The study is expected to wrap up by the end of this year with a concrete proposal for a BRT line. Study team members have high hopes, predicting that bus rapid transit could increase corridor ridership by up to 35% and change the way Westchester views buses. They also said that they would be watching NYC’s bus rapid transit pilot in the Bronx (that route will begin service later this month). For more information on the Westchester BRT study, including the presentation and information boards shown at the Yonkers open house, click here.