Bronx bus redesign back on track, with some delays

The MTA board will vote on a local Bronx bus network redesign in December.
Photo Pablo D. Castillo Jr.

The summer 2022 Bronx MTA bus redesign plan has picked up speed, although some routes and express buses won’t be touched until later on.

As part of the proposal, 14 Bronx routes will change, two will be added, and others will have scheduling changes or stops removed.

The Bronx bus network hasn’t changed substantially in decades, with some lines still based on trolley lanes and speeds among the slowest in the United States at less than 7 mph at peak times, according to Dorian Statom, Bus Network Redesign director. A draft plan for Bronx buses was released in May 2019, and a would-be final plan was published that October. After a February 2020 public hearing, the initiative came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the following month.

The initiative, which sprung back into action in August, now focuses on local buses, even though the 2019 proposal included express ones. The express plans were put on hold because of community input, according to the MTA.

“The Bronx express bus network will remain the same and we will be taking up our redesign efforts after the local bus network redesigns happen across the five boroughs,” said Craig Cipriano, interim president of New York City Transit, at a presentation Tuesday.

Karina Hammer, a Fordham Hill Oval resident, told the agency it should focus on express buses, as she feels safer on them than subways and thinks local buses take too long. “Please stop messing with our service and let us keep what we need and deserve,” she said.

Cipriano said in a Sept. 13 meeting that citywide bus improvements — like bus lane additions, which have been underway, and other mechanisms that speed up service — and redesigns must be complete by 2026. The projection is five years later than an earlier MTA plan to begin the Bronx redesign in 2018 and finish all borough networks by 2021.

A draft plan for Queens was released in December 2019, and the existing conditions report, which was the first step for the Bronx plan in February 2019, was released in February 2020 for Brooklyn. The Staten Island express bus redesign was completed in 2018.

As for what has changed since the Bronx project paused, the MTA withdrew proposed Bx28 and Bx34 routes that received pushback, so the routes will not change, project representatives said Tuesday.

The other key difference is a delay.

The Bx6 Select Bus Service (SBS), Bx5 and Bx6 changes will not be implemented with the other local buses in 2022, but instead in 2023, when MetroCards are gone and the new OMNY contactless fare system is fully developed, to avoid installing fare machines that would only be used for one year.

Three other bus routes will be extended under the proposal, with the Bx11 going to Parkchester, the Bx18 to High Bridge and the Bx35 to West Farms.

Two new routes are also part of the plan. The Bx25 will connect Northern Co-op City to Bedford Park, and the M125 will replace the southern portion of the Bx15 that runs along 125 Street in Manhattan and to the Hub via Willis Avenue.

To balance space between stops, 400 stops will be removed from the Bronx and upper Manhattan, saving 20 seconds each. The average space between bus stops is 805 feet in New York City, while it is 1,030 feet in other major American cities, according to the MTA. In the Bronx, the average is 882 feet.

Farrah Rubin, who attended Tuesday’s presentation on behalf of Councilman Mark Gjonaj, a Bronx Democrat, spoke against removing three Bx29 stops in City Island, saying seniors have limited transportation options.

Several Bronxites expressed their opinions on the proposed changes, and the authority is still accepting feedback online.

The MTA’s 21-member board will vote on the plan in its final form in December, determining the fate of the summer launch.

“We will continue to monitor the project through and after implementation, and accept feedback continuously,” an MTA spokesman told the Bronx Times.

The proposed changes can be seen for each bus at new.mta.info/bronxbusredesign/routes.

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

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