Advocates for Fordham Road bus lane changes continue to push city, second protest planned for Tuesday

bus along curb
Advocates want the city to reconsider a busway for a congested stretch of Fordham Road.
Photo ET Rodriguez

Advocates for better bus service on Fordham Road are not giving up.

In late May, the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) announced intentions to move forward with offset bus lanes on Fordham Road instead of a busway — a more extreme measure for prioritizing bus service — just days after business leaders against both ideas wrote a letter to Mayor Eric Adams.

Transit advocates, particularly from Riders Alliance, were enraged by what they saw as Adams caving to wealthy critics who live in the suburbs and don’t rely on Bronx bus service.

Now, the activists want to make sure the offset lanes are actually installed — as soon as possible — and that a busway is studied further, Riders Alliance spokesperson Daniel Pearlstein told the Bronx Times.

After launching a petition on June 8 that Pearlstein said garnered more than 1,000 signatures and staging a protest on June 21 in animal and flower costumes mocking the local Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden — two of the businesses against the project — advocates are speaking out again on Tuesday.

At an 11 a.m. protest at Fordham Plaza, Riders Alliance will be joined by the MTA Chief Customer Officer Shanifah Rieara, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, Laborers’ Local 1010, New York Public Interest Research Group Straphangers Campaign, Transportation Alternatives and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

Advocates dressed as animals in reference to the Bronx Zoo on Wednesday, June 21, 2023 speak to Bx12 riders about a scrapped proposal to create a busway on Fordham Road. Photo Pamela Rozon

The Bx12, which traverses Fordham Road, is the busiest route in the Bronx, and the second busiest citywide, according to a March 2022 MTA and DOT presentation. The road is a crucial crosstown connector in the Bronx, but it’s riddled with congestion, parking issues and vehicles blocking bus lanes, leaving sluggish bus speeds. The route serves 85,000 riders daily.

In the presentation, the agencies proposed three options to improve bus conditions on Fordham Road: Convert the existing curbside bus lanes to offset lanes, create an eastbound busway from Morris Avenue to Webster Avenue, or create a two-direction busway on that stretch. For the latter two options, the existing bus lanes outside of that corridor would be converted to offset.

Offset lanes would create space between the curb and bus lane for parking and loading, hopefully deterring cars from blocking it. On the other hand, busways essentially reserve the road for buses and trucks, otherwise allowing for only local access to cars but not through traffic.

A DOT spokesperson told the Bronx Times that a busway would have a negative effect on traffic flow for buses traveling on north and south streets, and the offset lanes balance concerns over bus speeds and traffic access.

The protestors’ message is directed at Adams, who has the ultimate sign-off on the roadway changes. In June 2022, Adams said he would bring 150 miles of new and improved bus lanes and busways over the duration of his first term, and Fordham Road was listed as one of the priority locations for 2022.

Even though DOT announced that the agency was going forward with offset lanes, advocates are concerned about how quickly the improvements will come.

Riders Alliance activists speak with bus riders on Fordham Road dressed in flowers in reference to the Botanical Garden on Wednesday, June 21, 2023. Photo Pamela Rozon

In a June 22 presentation to Community Board 6’s Transportation Committee, DOT said it will “continue to study” offset lanes, refining the design and taking feedback over the summer for a fall implementation.

But Pearlstein said that if offset lanes were identified as the best improvement possible this year, the mayor should approve them now, without further assessment. Meanwhile, further study of a busway — what transit advocates see as the most impactful measure — could allow DOT to find ways to mitigate any adverse impacts, he said.

And according to city officials, locals support major changes to Fordham Road.

Results from an Association for a Better New York poll that surveyed 302 people in November 2020 found 89% of respondents support improving existing bus lanes, 66% support additional bus lanes and 70% support a busway, according to MTA and DOT officials. The survey also found that if buses on Fordham Road were faster and more reliable, 67% of riders who take the bus once a week or less reported they would be more likely to ride the bus, and 28% of non-riders said so as well.

The agencies also found that bus riders and pedestrians make up the majority of Fordham Road users. Along the Bx12 corridor, 62% of households do not have access to a private vehicle, and 71% commute to work on public transportation, or by walking or biking.

But local business leaders were not impressed with the ideas. In a May 26 letter obtained by the Bronx Times, leaders of the Belmont Business Improvement District, Fordham Road Business Improvement District, Wildlife Conservation Society (The Bronx Zoo), New York Botanical Garden, Fordham University, SBH Health System and Monroe College requested a meeting with Mayor Eric Adams to discuss their opposition to the proposals.

Despite the schedule posted above, cars still blocked the bus lane on Fordham Road on a Tuesday afternoon. Photo ET Rodriguez

In their eyes, the offset lane design would cause traffic issues by leaving one regular travel lane, and a busway would burden side streets. The letter claims that a pedestrian survey conducted in Bronx Little Italy (through an independent consulting firm they do not name) found that half of respondents would not visit as often if a busway was installed. They pointed to the city’s other enforcement tools, like bus cameras and booting or towing cars blocking bus lanes.

“Instead of DOT simply enforcing and improving the existing bus lane, we fear that DOT will advance this proposal and we will face unintended consequences,” the business leaders wrote.

Fordham Road has had fixed bus lane enforcement cameras dating back to 2011, and the MTA installed cameras on Bx12 buses in November 2022. While the on-bus cameras improved bus speeds, lanes are still frequently blocked and buses are still moving slower than they were after the Bx12 Select Bus Service launched in 2008, according to the June presentation.

An unnamed Botanical Garden spokesperson told the Bronx Times that the institution “recognizes the need to improve local public transportation in our Bronx community” and encourages the city “to reach a solution that meets the needs of Bronx residents, businesses, and the environment.” The spokesperson did not answer questions from the Bronx Times, however.

Bronx Zoo spokesperson Mary Dixon said the zoo is “working with NYCDOT and our neighbors to find a Fordham Road bus transit solution that minimizes negative impacts on the community and environment” but did not respond to a request for elaboration.

Local business leaders also wrote a letter against the project with the support of local Councilmember Oswald Feliz in June 2022, Streetsblog reported.

DOT spokespersons did not answer whether the agency planned to pursue a busway prior to the recent letter to the mayor. The mayor’s office deferred to DOT for comment.

Reach Aliya Schneider at or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes