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Each day of the week, Desiree Walker said she had to allow 40 to 50 minutes to wait for the Bx4A bus bound for the South Bronx. Walker, a longtime resident of the borough, said relying on Bronx buses is “an everyday nightmare.”
With experiences like Walker’s mundane, transit advocates are now calling on outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, to keep his promise to install 28 miles of new and improved bus lanes and bus lanes in 2021. and to improve public transportation infrastructure in the Bronx which has led to infamously long wait times and congested roads.
“The mayor has promised 28 miles of new and improved bus lanes this year and so we are trying to hold him accountable for that promise by putting his toes on fire,” said Jolyse Race, lead organizer of the public transport advocacy group Riders Alliance. “I’m not sure if any of the Bronx bus projects have been implemented yet and they promised 20 miles last year and only 13 were completed, so they have a habit of not following through on their promises. . “
Officials from transit groups such as the Riders Alliance, who attended a rally on August 4 in Fordham, said solutions such as car-free bus lanes and lane conversions would alleviate high congestion areas such as as Fordham Road, Gun Hill Road, Story Avenue. and avenue de l’UniversitÃ©.
New York’s northernmost borough has a 57-bus transit system that serves more than 79,000 people commuting between midnight and 5 a.m., which was the highest in the city. , according to pre-pandemic census data. The Bronx is also home to two of the city’s busiest bus lines, the Bx 12 and Bx19, which had a total ridership of 7.9 million and 5.4 million in 2020, respectively.
The Bronx and Staten Island are the only boroughs in the city that do not have car-free bus lanes – an effort by the Blasio administration that built 20 miles of bus lanes and car-free bus lanes in Manhattan. , Brooklyn and Queens in 2020 – which would have improved travel times for busy bus lines such as the M14 line by 47%.
Advocates say that if car-free buses were implemented on Fordham Road, one of the Bronx’s busiest roads, it would go a long way in reducing traffic accidents and improving the environmental health of the borough.
Transportation Alternatives is one of 80 organizations promoting an initiative called 25 Ã 25, which aims to turn 25% of New York’s automotive space into pedestrian spaces by 2025.
Over 75% of New York City’s current 91 square kilometers is devoted to moving and parked vehicles, despite 54.6% of the city’s population not owning a vehicle. According to transportation advocates, only 0.2% of New York’s cityscapes are reserved for auto-bus lanes and 0.93% for bicycle lanes.
âThe Bronx is the only borough with Staten Island that does not have car-free bus lanes and we need them in the Bronx because the majority of people who live here do not own a car,â said Luke Zavados, Member. of Transportation alternatives. âWe need a more equitable distribution of street space [in New York City].
As part of the City Department of Transportation’s âBus Improvement Action Planâ, ongoing projects are underway to add a reverse eastbound bus lane on busy Westchester Avenue between the Burr Avenue bus route to Pelham Bay and improve bus speed, bus reliability and pedestrian safety along Story Avenue. , Bronx River Avenue and White Plains Road.]]]]]]]]]]]
In 2020, two bus projects in the Bronx – adding boarding blocks and protected bike lanes to Edward L. Grant Highway and traffic improvements on 149th Street East from Exterior Street to Southern Boulevard – were completed .
As part of the MTA’s city-wide bus network overhaul plan – which began on Staten Island in 2018 – the Bronx was slated for bus line upgrades in the summer of 2020, but COVID -19 brought these plans to a screeching halt.
The MTA unveiled a final plan for improvements to the Bronx bus network that included the removal of bus stops and lane changes along Eastchester Road to Broadway and more improvements to reduce congestion and downtime. ‘waiting along the busy roads of Story Avenue and University Avenue.
Sonia Vazquez, who commutes on the Bx9 to West Farms, told the Bronx Times that her commute to work is often filled with passengers who have to wait almost 30 minutes for a bus to arrive.
“If I see the bus passing in front of the [3 Avenue/East Fordham Road] station, I know I should just call a Lyft because that bus doesn’t come for 30-35 minutes and I’ll be late for work, âshe said. “People don’t understand that a late bus can affect your pay or make the difference if you miss a doctor’s appointment.”
For Bronx officials, investment in the Bronx’s transit infrastructure has always been lacking.
âThe city invests a lot to hire the best [transportation] experts and creating the best downtown commuting environments, but we don’t see the same in the Bronx, âsaid New York Democratic Councilor Oswald Feliz, District 15.â The bus problem we have in Fordham Road is the best example. We’ve had traffic jams for decades, with very little time and investment to fix, and we need fair transportation for all parts of the city.
Repairing bus routes is also a systemic problem, advocates say, as bus riders are more likely to be people of color, immigrants and older people than metro riders, according to demographics from the MTA from year to year.
âUnreliable buses also cause financial damage, because [c0mmuters] lose wages, âsaid Michael Beltzer, a community organizer. “The bus service in the Bronx is so slow I had to ride a bike [to Fordham Plaza] from Parkchester because a bus would take 40 minutes and that’s not correct. Time and time again I face long and complicated journeys, wait for a bus that is out of order or is stuck behind cars and [stop] lights.”‘
Ridership fell sharply in the first few months of the pandemic – around 40% in March – but has recovered and has regularly averaged over a million trips since July 2020, which is more than the half of bus ridership before the pandemic, according to the MTA in April this year.
Advocates say that with the reopening of New York’s schools, bus ridership will continue to move closer to pre-pandemic ridership, making the bus projects promised by de Blasio a timely issue for riders and the next administration. which will attempt to tackle the city’s transit problems.
âBuses have become an important form of transportation for essential workers during the pandemic, and this ridership will only increase as students return to school in person,â said Race, of the Riders Alliance. âThe mayor’s promises can help the next administration build on a fair transit system for all New Yorkers. “
Contact Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bxtimes.