The city installed bus lanes on 125th east of Lenox Avenue last spring, and DOT says they will be extended west to Morningside Avenue next month. Given the contentious history of the project, however, local electeds who support the bus lanes don’t want to take any chances. Earlier this month, Council Member Mark Levine and State Senator Adriano Espaillat sent a letter to DOT stressing the need to follow through on the project [PDF].
While the vast majority of local residents depend on transit, not private cars, the proposal for West Harlem bus lanes continues to draw fire at community board meetings — particularly CB 10, where the chair has complained about bus lanes slowing down her cab rides and transportation committee meetings are often filibustered by bus lane opponents.
“Look, the politics of this are always complicated. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be fighting over it,” Levine said this morning. “There’s still a very entrenched car culture in this city, and for years the car has been king. And that’s how we made policy.”
Levine is worried that further delay could push the bus lane project into next year. “We’re going to keep the pressure on every day until the work is completed,” he said. “That’s my commitment.”
“Anything that will help move our buses safer and faster is something we’ll support,” said City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez.
Where they have been implemented, bus lanes have sped trips on 125th Street. The M60, which was converted to limited-stop Select Bus Service, is now 32 to 34 percent faster between Lenox and Second Avenues. Local bus trips on the M100 and Bx15 are 7 to 20 percent faster. Taxi speeds, meanwhile, have mainly held steady. The project also added on-street parking and loading zones.
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While Levine said the benefits to drivers are good, the bottom line has to be about improving trips for bus riders.
“That’s how we move on 125th Street — we’re on the buses. A policy that respects the needs of the majority of the community is going to have to prioritize bus travel, and that’s what we’re fighting for,” Levine said. “There’s no logical reason to oppose extending this bus lane along 125th Street” (source).