All seven of New York City’s Select Bus Service (SBS) lines have proven to be successful, demonstrating improved service, increased ridership, street safety improvements, as well as economic and environmental benefits. Adding to the pile of success stories, the New York City Department of Transportation and the MTA recently released a progress report on the Bx41 SBS line along Webster Avenue in the Bronx, which, like all other SBS routes, has yielded significant improvements for neighborhoods along the line.
Thanks to changes such as off-board fare collection, signal timing improvements and dedicated bus lanes, the Bx41 SBS is operating up to 23 percent faster than the Bx41 Limited route that it replaced. Faster bus travel times have also led to decreased bus delays, with an average time savings of 8.5 minutes per trip. Additionally, total Bx41 ridership has increased nearly 25 percent since it was upgraded to SBS in June 2013. Unsurprisingly, all these improvements led to 97 percent of riders reporting as “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the service.
As NYC DOT and the MTA take steps toward achieving Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious call for a “world-class” bus rapid transit network of 20 routes, all eyes are now on Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens for the next roll out of enhanced bus service.
Though it will be Queens’ first SBS route, its story is familiar: according to feedback from recent community workshops and a 2008 NYC DOT Woodhaven Boulevard Congested Corridors study, the boulevard is plagued with slow and unreliable buses, traffic congestion and dangerous conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike.
The SBS treatment will partially address these issues, but it won’t transform the corridor — up to 10 lanes wide in some places — the same way the implementation of true, center-running bus rapid transit could. While the Webster Avenue SBS service is operating up to 23 percent faster, that figure is less impressive when compared to the 34 percent increase in bus speeds for Cleveland’s Healthline BRT, which utilizes median-aligned bus-only lanes. Other BRT features, such as station-level boarding platforms (like Curitiba, Brazil’s famous “tube station“) will help to further expedite the boarding process, and traffic signal priority will help keep buses running on schedule.
For now, the implementation of offset bus lanes between Eliot and Metropolitan Avenues and curbside bus lanes approaching Rockaway Boulevard are scheduled to begin fall 2014 – but this is only Phase 1. A continued community engagement process slated for 2015 will help to develop a plan for more robust BRT features. It’s time for the city to use the success stories of SBS and use them as launching pads into full-fledged BRT.