BX29 goes 24/7 providing long-awaited relief for City Island residents and visitors

COVID, buses, MTA
The BX29 is now operating 24/7 benefitting City Island residents and commuters to and from the East Bronx island.
Photo Adrian Childress

For years City Island commuters have advocated for late night bus service for the BX29. Their pleas were finally heard when on June 26, the bus began operating 24/7.

This new service is part of the Bronx Bus Redesign, which was approved in December 2021 and offers Bronx and upper Manhattan residents a more direct, efficient and reliable bus service that provides better connections, with increases in service including during off-peak periods. The redesign was supposed to be implemented a few years ago, but like many projects, was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The BX29 is the only non-express bus that connects City Island to Pelham Bay Park. Prior to the unveiling of the Bronx Bus Redesign, however, it only ran until midnight weekdays and 1 a.m. on the weekend, leaving City Island restaurant workers stranded late at night with long wait times at the Pelham Bay Park Subway Station.

While the Bx29 weekday and weekend frequencies will not change, the route will now provide overnight service to and from City Island. The bus, which ran from City Island to the Pelham Bay Park station, Co-op City and then reverse commuted, will now bypass Co-op City and avoid Interstate 95, thereby making the commute quicker for riders.

Twenty-one percent of the Bx29 stops along the new alignment will be removed, improving spacing between stops from 1,480 to 1,875 feet. By removing these stops, it will improve reliability along the route.

“This is very much needed,” said John Doyle, president of the nonprofit City Island Rising. “City Island is a blue-collar community. For many years the bus in terms of travel time cuts off at 12 or 1 a.m. and now it’s going to be a 24/7 bus and that’s going to help people visiting City Island, the workers and residents. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

Doyle told the Bronx Times this was an eight-year effort by City Island residents and commuters, adding that residents have filed more than 700 complaints to the MTA about the bus running late. He also started a petition to improve the BX29, which garnered 800 signatures.

According to Doyle, the issues with the BX29 are nothing new. For nearly 20 years people could wait up to an hour at the Pelham Bay Park Station because the bus was stuck in traffic on I-95. Doyle said this has only gotten worse as traffic has increased on the highway.

He said the other issue is many people on the island work at restaurants and don’t finish their shifts until 1 or 2 a.m., when the bus isn’t running. These straphangers are often stranded on the island until 5 a.m. or risk riding a bike in the dark back to the Pelham Bay Park station.

In 2015, 27-year-old Gabriela Aguilar-Vallino was forced to ride her bike home from City Island after getting off work late and missing the buss — she was struck and killed by a car.

“By getting the bus off of 95 all of that traffic will not be an issue,” Doyle said.

Ellen Amy Cohen, who has lived on City Island for a decade, took the BX29 for eight years into downtown Manhattan until the pandemic afforded her the ability to work remotely from home.

Cohen had often worked late in the city and when returning home, could wait up to an hour for a bus into City Island. She added that people would be stuck in freezing cold or sweltering hot temperatures at the Pelham Bay station with no other option unless they wanted to pay for a taxi or Uber.

“As long as they stick with a regular schedule, I think this will really help people,” she said. “This will definitely save lives.”

Reach Jason Cohen at jasoncohen306@gmail.com or (646) 899-8058. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes