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MTA, DOT Offer Revised Plan to Speed LaGuardia Bus Service

By Jeff Mays | May 24, 2013 12:04pm
 The MTA and DOT offered a revised plan to speed M60 LaGuardia Airport Select Bus Service that included cutting the amount of dedicated bus lanes on 125th Street in half.
The MTA and DOT offered a revised plan to speed M60 LaGuardia Airport Select Bus Service that included cutting the amount of dedicated bus lanes on 125th Street in half.
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HARLEM — The city has altered its proposal to bring M60 Select Bus Service to 125th Street to speed the trip to LaGuardia Airport, cutting the length of a dedicated bus lane in half and backing away from limiting left turns after criticism..

Instead of stretching a dedicated and offset bus lane from Morningside Avenue to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, the exclusive bus lane will now only reach from Lenox Avenue to Third Avenue.

The proposal to limit left turns off 125th Street has been eased, while a plan to install metered parking on the thoroughfare between Morningside and Amsterdam avenues has also been scrapped.

A new suggestion would change parking regulations to allow parking on West 124th and West 126th streets during the day.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the DOT presented the new plans to more than 200 people gathered at the United House of Prayer for All People located just off West 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard Thursday night.

"We think we've come up with a revised plan that addresses the concerns we've heard today," said Tom Maguire, an assistant commissioner with the Department of Transportation.

State Sen. Bill Perkins, who had written a letter to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan criticizing city agencies for ignoring the concerns of residents after a near-final proposal was unveiled, said Thursday's event was designed to allow feedback.

"We are here saying we want you to hear the proposal and let us know what you think," Perkins said. "It is not a good idea for anything to happen with such impact without your voice.'

Both agencies performed extensive public outreach that involved several designs and a walking tour.

There was little argument that the M60 crawls along 125th Street and that something had to be done to speed the bus that travels to LaGuardia Airport.

DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione said the M60 is the most used bus line on 125th Street. More than 9,600 of the 32,000 passengers who use the four bus lines on 125th Street board the M60.

However, only 10 percent of the people who board the M60 on 125th Street are headed to the airport. About 51 percent are using the bus for cross-town travel.

The bus is at a standstill 60 percent of the time that it's on 125th Street. At an average speed of  2.7 miles per hour, the M60 travels 5 miles slower than the average city bus along the stretch.

The previous M60 Select Bus Service proposal might have sped the trip of the bus along 125th Street by 10 minutes, but wouldn't have done much to quicken the trip of others using the roadway.

That's what bothered many Harlem residents who spoke at the meeting.

Some were concerned the dedicated bus lane would remove a lane of traffic and cause bigger jams.

"We don't need the M60 bus to the airport so the convenience is not for us," said Harlem resident Renee Harrison.

Lois Smalls, who works on 125th Street, agreed.

"The M60 bus is a community bus but the emphasis from the DOT seems to be on the airport when it should be servicing the community," said Smalls.

Community Board 10 Chair Henrietta Lyle called the DOT study "piecemeal" and said she would like a more comprehensive one conducted.

"We are all for improvement in this community but it has to be done the right way. Treat this community the way you treat other communities," she said.

Others were concerned that changing the bus stops would affect the vendors along 125th Street. The M60 would still make limited stops on 125th Street, mostly near subway and rail lines.

"Don't do anything that would interfere with the vendors on 125th Street because it's part of our culture, part of our economy and very important to us," said Julius Tajiddin, founder of the group Preserve Harlem's Legacy.

Many speakers said the DOT should reconsider the plan to make the M60 the only bus on 125th Street to offer Select Bus Service and should also improve bus service to provide better river to river access from 12th Avenue to First Avenue.

Cecil Corbin-Mark, deputy director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said Harlem, especially West Harlem, is clamoring for better bus access to the Hudson River at 125th Street where Harlem Piers Park and a Fairway supermarket are located.

"It's a place people need to access because of jobs, food and health and exercise," said Corbin-Mark.

Not everyone was happy to hear about the proposed changes. Detta Ahl, 34, a dance instructor who lives off of 125th Street, said she thought the plan would have made the street better for everyone.

"It was an holistic approach that would have made things safer for pedestrians and transit users. It's not just people using the M60 that would have benefited," said Ahl.

MTA officials said the M60 was chosen for Select Bus Service because of its high volume and its travel between boroughs.

Forgione said the DOT will take the questions and comments they heard last night and make more revisions to the new plan and even issue a Q&A sheet responding to some of the concerns.

"We've taken detailed notes," she said.