34th Street Express Bus Barely Improved Crosstown Travel Times, DOT Says

By Mathew Katz on August 23, 2012 5:38pm 

MIDTOWN — The push to build a faster bus service on 34th Street resulted in a ten percent drop in river-to-river travel times — far less of a speed-up than the Department of Transportation expected.

According to a report by the DOT and MTA, the overall time to get from the East River to the Hudson on the M34 bus dropped to 25 minutes and 10 seconds since the 34th Street Select Bus Service was introduced in November.

That's a drop of about two-and-a-half minutes from 2009's 27 minute and 53 second travel time.

The often-confusing new system resulted in faster travel times, but they're a far cry from the DOT's prediction that the new system would have saved commuters 7 minutes on a river-to-river trip.

The DOT and MTA introduced Select Bus Service's offboard fare collection last fall, allowing passengers to pay their fares on the street and get on the bus without having to stop to swipe a Metrocard. 

Overall, buses on 34th Street spend about 35 percent less time at bus stops thanks to the new system, the largest factor in the travel time reduction, the report said.

Ridership on the oft-delayed line, which was one of the slowest in the city before SBS, is up five percent since last year, with weekday ridership topping out at 20,000 passengers.

The MTA and DOT plan several more upgrades as part Select Bus Service Project on 34th Street, including bringing larger, three-doored buses to the route, re-paving new bus lanes, and renovating stops.

When the project is finished in 2014, the MTA expects travel times to drop even more.

An earlier version of this story said the project cost $36.5 million. That funding will be spent on further improvements to the 34th Street Bus System and has not yet been spent.

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