Backtracking From Ambitious Bus Lane Promises in New York City

Back in June, the city of New York seemed poised for a major shift in transportation priority. In October, reality is setting in about how hard a sell the transformation will be.

2 minute read

October 28, 2020, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Coronavirus and Transportation

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Julianne Cuba reports that New York City officials are waving the white flag on a promise to deliver 20 miles of dedicated bus lanes and car-free busways this year.

In June, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to keep buses moving through an anticipated spike in automobile traffic as subway ridership in the city plummeted during the pandemic,  and laid out out an ambitious plan to car-free busways in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as bus lanes in the Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens.

However ambitious, the mayor's plan fell far short of a proposal for 60 miles of dedicated bus infrastructure proposed by New York City Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg earlier in the same month.

Since then, however, progress on the promised bus improvement projects have been slow to materialize, meeting opposition from local business owners and elected officials along multiple proposed routes.

Now, it appears the city is admitting that it will fall short of its promised goal. Cuba reports how the public learned of the program's less-than-planned status:

Last week, a bus rider named Natasha called in to Brian Lehrer’s “Ask The Mayor” segment on WNYC and asked if all 20 miles would indeed be painted by Nov. 1, the end of the striping season. The mayor admitted he had not followed up on his own proposal and needed to be briefed before he could answer.

One week later, on the same show, Mayor de Blasio was prepared to answer:

“We wanted to do 20 miles by the end of the year. It looks like it’ll be closer to 17, which is a good achievement,” de Blasio said during his weekly segment. He attributed the missing three miles to “that issue in Flushing with community organizations and leaders and businesses that we’re addressing,” a reference to the administration’s months-long delay in completing just a .3-mile stretch of car-free busway on Main Street in Queens after local Council Member Peter Koo led a racially insensitive campaign against it.

But, according to Cuba, the .3-mile busway in Flushing is going to be completed, while some of the other stretches include in the total are less likely to be completed by the end of the year. Details on the status of each of the proposed projects is include in the article, as well as at least one note of optimism about the city's efforts to overcome intense political opposition for the Main Street busway project.

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