STATEN ISLAND — The city's vaunted Select Bus Service is now headed to Staten Island — with its first pick-up scheduled on Sunday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on hand at Richmond and Yukon avenues Thursday morning to annouce the changes to the S79's route.
The S79, which runs through from the Staten Island Mall to Bay Ridge on Hylan Boulevard and Richmond Avenue, is being turned into Staten Island's first route in the MTA's Select Bus Service (SBS).
The bus will drop 55 of its local stops when it switches to an SBS route, and cut riders' time by an estimated 20 percent, Bloomberg said.
The S79 transports roughly 9,000 riders daily, and 37 percent of them take the route from end to end, said Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
"Imagine riding an elevator that stops 80 times before it got to your floor," Saidk-Kahn said. "By streamlining the number of stops to 22, we're bringing a red carpet to the borough's busiest bus corridor."
To try and speed up the buses' trip, the city created new bus lanes in the right lane of sections of Richmond Road and Hylan Boulevard.
Drivers will not be allowed to enter the lanes during rush hours on Hylan Boulevard or at all times on Richmond Road, except when making a right turn, Bloomberg said.
And while some residents complained about losing the lane for cars, Borough President James Molinaro said that they will help both drivers and bus riders.
"It doesn't hurt you," Molinaro said. "It helps the driver and it helps the people riding mass transit."
The S79 will be the city's fourth SBS route, with others already in place in the Bronx and Manhattan. Bloomberg said that the other routes have increased ridership on those buses by nearly 10 percent, and expects the same to happen on Staten Island.
"Our experience has been on the other places you improve the service, the time goes down and the ridership goes up," Bloomberg said. "There's no reason to think that's not going to happen here."
Unlike the other SBS routes, the S79 will not have off-board fare collection, because boarding times on the Staten Island are already pretty short, the MTA said.
The city will also install Transit Signal Priority on the S79 in the spring, which will shorten the times of red lights and lengthen the times of green for the bus.
It cost around $5 million to transform the S79 to SBS, which was provided by a federal grant to the city.
When the S79 SBS rolls out, the S58 and the S78 will take over the local stops cut out in the new route.
The MTA is also considering adding SBS routes in Brooklyn near Nostrand Avenue and to LaGuardia airport.