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Harlem Torn About Expanding Bus-Only Lanes on 125th Street

By Gustavo Solis | April 17, 2015 5:11pm | Updated on April 20, 2015 8:57am
 The plan is to create bus-only lanes from Lenox Avenue to Morningside Avenue, according to the Department of Transportation.
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WEST HARLEM — Harlem is torn between the Department of Transportation’s plan to expand bus-only lanes on 125th Street west to Morningside Avenue.

Bus-only lanes on 125th Street currently run between Lenox and Second avenues. The DOT plans to expand them westward later this summer, a department spokesman said.

West Harlem City Councilman Mark Levine supported the expansion, citing faster bus times as a community benefit.

“If you ride the bus you kind of plod along in traffic if you are moving around the western half of the street — actually buses have been timed at 3.5 miles per hour which is slower than walking,” he said.

“When you get to Lenox Avenue things pick up because you have a bus-only lane. We want the same benefit a little bit farther out in our neck of the woods.”

According to a DOT study, bus-only lanes on the east side have sped up the M60 bus by more than 30 percent — from 18 minutes down to 12. 

The DOT visited West and Central Harlem's community boards this month to share its expansion plan.

During a transportation committee Tuesday Community Board 10 raised a number of concerns about the expansion including parking changes on 124th and 126th streets and the left turn restrictions on Lenox, Seventh and Eighth avenues.

Henrietta Lyle, the chair of the board, said via email Friday that the board has no official position on the issue. She has previously criticized the DOT for forcing the service on the community.

On Thursday, West Harlem’s community board was ready to support the expansion plan but only as long as its Central Harlem counterparts did. The board's transportation committee had drafted a letter of support.

“Essentially what the letter says is that we support it provided Board 10 supports is because it would be ridiculous to have one lane dedicated bus and then no lanes of dedicated bus until you got to Lexington Avenue when the dedicate bus lanes begin again,” said Ted Kovaleff of Community Board 9.

However, the committee withdrew the letter to allow the DOT to look into some of the concerns raised by Community Board 10. The concerns, some of which Community Board 9 shares, include parking, safety, and enforcement of double-parked vehicles, said CB9 Chair Georgette Morgan-Thomas.

“The chair of Community Board 10 indicated that at their transportation meeting [Tuesday] many questions came up,” she said. “I am really excited that we found out [Thursday] morning at the borough board meeting that DOT is now saying that they are going to come back and give us some answers,” she added.

The DOT will conduct a series of traffic studies on 124th and 126th street and will go back to the community boards, a department spokesman said.