Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Rapid Buses Arrive in NYC

The New York Times has the story on how the Big Apple is going green fast with this aggressive expansion of public transit that is already going while the 2nd Ave. subway line construction is just getting started. Why is New York going with rapid bus which Marc Elrich has been promoting for Montgomery County?


But it's the cost advantage that really hits home.

Officials estimate that modern metropolitan areas spend on average $1 billion per mile to build a new subway line. A full-blown, Bogota-style bus rapid transit system is estimated to be roughly a thousand times cheaper -- just $1 million per mile.
The buses themselves resemble light-rail trains, and they move in their own lanes. Federal grants are helping to pay for the improvements, even after MTA budget woes forced the agency to cut dozens of regular bus routes early last year.
"It's a lot faster," said Daniel Hernandez, a Brooklyn resident who rides the bus to work daily in Midtown Manhattan. "The best part is you can board through the back door. That speeds things up a lot."

Indeed, northbound traveling from the South Street Seaport to 42nd Street took a reporter less than 20 minutes to travel more than 50 blocks, a time comparable to a trip on a subway train that stops at every station. Southbound from Harlem, the trip gets disrupted by the 2nd Avenue subway construction but can still cover 125th Street to the Chrysler Building in about the same amount of time.
New York's testing of bus rapid transit began in 2008 in the Bronx, where DOT and MTA jointly implemented a system for the Bx12 bus along Fordham Road and Pelham Parkway.

The east-west route has since become one of New York's most heavily used. The Straphangers Campaign, a division of the nonprofit New York Public Interest Research Group that advocates for public transit riders, surveyed the route this summer and found that it now runs 25 percent faster than the old express service.

"It has really, really done a great job for east-west commutes in the Bronx," said Cate Contino, a campaign coordinator. "Ridership on that has skyrocketed. It's now in like the top five or 10 for the city."
Can Easily Expand the System:
Expansion of "bus rapid transit light" throughout New York City is now under way.

DOT plans to roll out a new line in Brooklyn, along the B44 route from Sheepshead Bay to Williamsburg.

Up next is likely a line along 34th Street in Manhattan that would cross the island east to west along that notoriously difficult thoroughfare. The city has considered plans to cut the middle portion off to passenger vehicles entirely to speed up the route for buses. Now Contino says there's talk that the entire route could become the first full-blown bus rapid transit route, with all curbside parking eliminated in favor of buses and stations.

Even Staten Island will likely be included. In that borough, DOT is already experimenting with technology that allows regular bus drivers to order a red light to turn green as it approaches, speeding up travel times to the Staten Island Ferry port. Officials are considering expanding this "signal prioritization technology" to the SBS routes in Manhattan and the Bronx and to any new routes added later.

Officials are also eying Queens for opportunities there. A recent DOT study of the feasibility of spreading bus rapid transit throughout the city concluded that the five boroughs could all benefit from such systems in at least eight to 10 heavily congested traffic corridors in each borough.

That suggests up to 50 new lines could be added to the nascent system in the years to come. Both the Pratt Center and Straphangers Campaign say their experience with the two lines put in so far tells them this is a good way for the city to go. DOT reports suggest the city is already moving forward on 16 of the most promising routes.