Advocates say they would like to see the timely completion of other major projects in the borough before Mayor de Blasio steps down, including the addition of bus lanes on Gun Hill Road and University Avenue, and reducing the number of cars and trucks often blocking bus lanes on Fordham Road.

NYC POINT

The Bx5 runs along Story Avenue and serves more than 14,000 passengers per day.

The Bronx doesn’t have cross-metro lines, so tens of thousands of residents depend on buses, which aren’t always up to par. In many parts of the borough, buses do not run more than a few kilometers per hour, crosswalks are too far away, and double-parked cars prevent buses from maneuvering in traffic or even stepping through traffic. stop at designated stops.

Transit advocates are pushing Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s Department of Transportation to continue their improvements to Better Buses in the Bronx before the mayor steps down at the end of the year.

Some of these improvements are imminent: The DOT announced that it will begin implementing bus lanes on Story Avenue this month to speed up service for the Bx5, which carries more than 14,000 passengers every day, said a agency spokesperson at City Limits.

Advocates say they would like to see the timely completion of other major projects in the borough before de Blasio steps down, including the addition of bus lanes on Gun Hill Road and University Avenue, and the reduction in the number of cars and trucks often blocking bus lanes on Fordham Route.

“We ask the mayor to come back to his beliefs, to go back to what brought him to power – to end the history of two cities – and to say ‘we have a city and it relies on better buses'” said Danny Pearlstein, a spokesperson for the Riders Alliance, which hosted a rally on Wednesday alongside Transportation Alternatives, the Straphangers Campaign, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the TransitCenter and city council member Oswald Feliz, which represents the 15th arrondissement of the Bronx.

In an emailed statement, DOT spokesman Brian Zumhagen said DOT plans to start putting up bus lanes on Gun Hill Road next year. Construction of a dedicated bus lane is also underway along the southern portion of University Avenue, from Tremont Avenue to the Washington Bridge, and is expected to be completed by the end of the year; lanes further north, from Tremont Avenue to Kingsbridge Road, are “in development and will require more community outreach in the fall,” he said.

“Keeping New Yorkers on the move is critical to the city’s recovery, and Mayor de Blasio is prioritizing Bronx projects as part of the Better Buses initiative in 2021,” Zumhagen added.

Bus lanes can reduce traffic problems such as cars blocking bus stops, double parking, weaving and merging. In turn, this increases the speed at which the buses complete their routes. Bus speeds on Story Avenue currently drop to 5 miles per hour during rush hour, according to a DOT report.

New York has some of the slowest bus speeds in the country. The average speed is 6.7 mph, according to a 2018 TransitCenter report. That’s about double the walking speed of an average human and well below the average 10mph bus speed in cities like London and Boston, according to the group.

“Bus riders have wasted thousands of hours in slow traffic,” Pearlstein said. “Giving back time to bus riders means more time to earn a living, more time to educate and help children get their education, and more time to participate in the Bronx community and civic life. “

Faster, more reliable buses help create fairness in transportation, Pearlstein said.

“The Bronx is where fairness for bus passengers is most striking, the most striking, as 95% of bus passengers are people of color and the average income for Bronx bus passengers is 20. $ 000 per year, ”he said. “Buses are a driver of opportunity in the Bronx like they are nowhere else.”

According to a 2017 report from the City Comptroller’s Office, bus riders generally earn less money than metro riders and are more likely to be immigrants and people of color. As in many areas of city politics, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted disparities in access to reliable transportation.

“Bus attendance was the least elastic; this was partly due to the fact that the bus rider was free for part of the year, which exceeded that of the metro, but this was largely because bus riders are people who have to show up at work in person, whether in a health care facility, drugstore, grocery store or daycare, ”Pearlstein said. “A very large percentage of bus passengers are essential workers and their daily journeys are arduous. The bus is really a critical connector for essential work.

Pearlstein said one of the few bright spots in the pandemic was that bus speeds had skyrocketed because fewer people were on the road.

“Tragically, there has been an epidemic of wrecks with some people taking the roads at 100mph, but there has also been, finally, fast and reliable bus rides,” he said. “At the time, we and the MTA jointly asked the mayor to help cement some of these gains, and we achieved the Better Buses Restart. “

Launched in June 2020, Better Buses Restart has resulted in 16 miles of new bus lanes, the largest one-year effort in the city’s history, according to the MTA.

De Blasio has about six months left before a new administration takes over. After that, advocates say they will continue to pressure the next mayor to further improve the bus system.

Democratic candidate for mayor Eric Adams has expressed support for improved bus service, the rapid bus network and electric buses. As Brooklyn Borough President, he joined the Riders Alliance in rallies against bus budget cuts in the past.

Republican candidate Curtis Sliwa focused more on subway travel, where he made a name for himself in the 1980s as the founder of The Guardian Angels, a civic public safety group that would take trains for the purpose to deter crime and violence. Sliwa remains concerned about the safety of the metro and would like to see more police stationed in the terminals. In May, before the primary election, he challenged Democratic candidates to take the subway with him for 24 hours and offered hockey masks to wear in case they feared being slashed in the face. None of the candidates joined him.

Pearlstein says there is enough time for de Blasio to create more new bus lanes before he leaves office because they are inexpensive and easy to install.

“All you need is political will,” he said. “DOT has been pushed back onto the Story Avenue lanes by people who enjoy driving in that area, but they haven’t heard from the 15,000 passengers on the bus.”

He highlighted the city’s previous projects which have successfully improved the bus service for passengers.

“These are truly transformative projects,” he said. “On 149th Street, they unlocked a major commercial corridor. On the EL Grant Freeway, they’ve pioneered new techniques to really speed up long-distance buses and get people from low-income communities in the South Bronx to jobs in Washington Heights, Manhattan. These are patterns that can be repeated across the Bronx. “