MIDTOWN — The MTA is considering splitting the lengthy M5 bus route into two sections to alleviate delays that build up over the course of the 12-mile route.
Representatives of the agency showed up to a meeting of the Community Board 5 transportation committee last week and laid out the plan, which would would separate the route in Midtown, where buses to and from South Ferry would turn around at 38th Street and buses from Washington Heights would turn around at 37th Street.
The M5 is among the longest routes in the system, running from the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal in Washington Heights to the South Street Ferry Terminal, and travels through some of Manhattan’s most congested areas southbound on portions of Riverside Drive, Broadway and Fifth Avenue and northbound on Church Street and Sixth Avenue.
Most M5 bus riders do not use the route across the proposed separation point, according to the MTA.
The M5 has an average weekday ridership of 11,700, with about 7,300 of those riders exclusively using what would become the northern route and about 2,800 only using the southern half, according to MTA ridership statistics.
On such a long and congested route, incremental delays build up and make it difficult for riders to rely on the scheduled time, according to MTA representative Zach Campbell.
“When too many buses get caught in traffic in either direction, you wind up with either bunching or tremendous delays, and passengers can be waiting for a long period of time and then several buses can arrive,” Campbell said at meeting of the Community Board 5 transportation committee.
Delays sometimes get so bad that some buses along the route are already forced to do a makeshift route splitting, Campbell said.
“Sometimes when it gets so stuck in traffic, we’ll have a manager turn it around wherever it’s stuck,” he said. “We want to address that because we think that’s a very big problem, not only for us but for our customers. It provides completely unreliable service.”
The proposal is currently in its early stages, and would be subject to a public review process before the MTA could implement changes. If the route separation moves forward it would likely happen sometime in 2016, according to an MTA spokesman.