We live in Manhattan between 1st and 2nd Avenues. Over the last two months or so, the city has repaved and repainted those two streets, and it's all part of a big experiment to revolutionize the city's bus system. I read about it in this New York Magazine article.
See, it's simply too expensive and time-consuming to work on the subways now, unfortunately, but the buses are super cheap by comparison, offering great return on transit investment. Recently, cities around the world, such as London and Bogotá, have had a lot of success revamping their bus systems. So New York is trying it out in a few places, including these two avenues now. "These, along with the Bx12 line in the Bronx, are being promoted as trial programs for what [MTA head Jay Walder] hopes will be, by the end of his tenure, a reconfiguration of the city’s streets. 'When the city adopts a world-class ‘Bus Rapid Transit’ system, people are going to have a tough time, efficiency-wise, telling a bus apart from a subway—it’s going to be like a subway with a view,' predicts Kyle Wiswall, general counsel for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign." Here are some of the great ideas they're implementing:
- The buses have their own dedicated lanes, reserved exclusively for them, which really improves the overall speed.
- New buses are built lower to the ground, making them easier to board and thus speeding up boarding times. They also have two entrances.
- You pay before you board, from a vending machine that gives you a receipt.
- Bus shelters are larger and hold more people.
- Soon, buses will be equipped with signal priority, meaning they can keep traffic lights green as they approach.
- There are new exclusive bike lanes, too, and parking has been moved to the other side of them (meaning, curb, bike lane, parking, car driving lanes, bus lane.) So, parked cars form a buffer between the bike lane and the rest of the traffic, which is much safer.
I'm anxious to see how this works and hope it's successful enough to be implemented elsewhere in the city soon. My alternative is waiting for the Second Avenue Subway, which was first proposed in 1929 and still not due to open (in part) till 2016. Until then, I'll happily take the bus.
Photo: You can see the new First Avenue includes speed boosts!