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Uptown Pols Want Select Bus Service Plan Restored for 125th Street

By Jeff Mays | August 14, 2013 9:43am
 After an almost year-long process where the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Department of Transportation announced plans to bring  Select Bus Service  to 125th Street to speed the molasses-like M60 LaGuardia Airport bus, both agencies said Tuesday that the plan was being scrapped due to  community opposition . Now two uptown politicians want the plan to be revived.
MTA Cancels 125th Street Select Bus Service
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HARLEM — Two uptown politicians want the Department of Transportation to reconsider its decision not to add Select Bus Service to the lethargic M60 LaGuardia Airport bus along 125th Street.

State Sen. Adriano Espaillat and East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito have both sent letters to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan asking her to reconsider the idea, which was scrapped after the agency and community representatives couldn't agree on a plan.

"This project would deliver significantly improved bus service to my constituents, many of whom do not have access to a vehicle and who rely overwhelmingly on public transportation," wrote Espaillat, whose district covers 125th Street from Amsterdam Avenue to the Hudson River.

Mark-Viverito said Select Bus Service would help tens of thousands of riders and that "I believe strongly that we should continue to pursue this proposal."

Citing what they called strong community opposition to the plan, both the DOT and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last month dropped plans to speed bus service along the busy stretch by adding Select Bus Service and other traffic and parking restrictions. The service allows riders to pay before they board and has a dedicated route on the street with limited stops. 

Both agencies spent at least a year putting the plan together and gathering public input.

Leaders of uptown groups opposed to the plan say they were never opposed to the idea of SBS on 125th Street, but that the MTA and DOT failed to act as true partners in developing the plan.

For example, local leaders say officials ignored their request to add SBS to other buses along 125th Street, in addition to the M60. Local leaders also wanted to see SBS extended along the whole length of 125th Street to 12th Aveneue, where a new waterfront park and a budding restaurant scene are located. Many worried that the changes would push traffic farther into the neighborhoods around 125th Street.

The DOT and MTA drastically altered their plans, shortening the length of a dedicated bus lane and dropping the proposal to eliminate some left turns on 125th Street. It wasn't enough.

In a recent interview, state Sen. Bill Perkins said he is still meeting with a working group of local leaders and they want still want SBS to come to 125th Street. They are drawing up their own plan to present to the DOT and MTA.

The DOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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, according to MTA data.

But 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.

At previous areas where Select Bus Service has been implemented, the service can increase speed 15 to 20 percent and ridership jumps by 5 to 10 percent, according to the MTA. The proposed plan would have sped the M60's trip by 10 minutes.

The MTA has said it will have "continued dialogue with community stakeholders" but Espaillat said he wants more.

"We can't give up on a project that will solve so many neighborhood problems," he said.