Concern for Seniors Runs High at Low Turnout CB 11 Meeting

Low_floor_bus.jpgSelect Bus Service’s new low-floor buses will make it easier for seniors to get on and off the bus. Image: Second Avenue Sagas.

Last night the MTA and DOT continued their tour of East Side community boards, presenting plans for better bus service and safer streets to the Manhattan CB 11 transportation committee. Attendance was low, but the community board made clear that its chief concern was the plan’s impact on senior citizens.

CB 11 represents the area east of Fifth Avenue between 96th and 142nd Streets. Because the MTA and DOT are still determining whether buses will run next to the curb or in an offset lane in this district, Joe Barr, DOT’s director of transit development, noted that he’s looking to hear specifically where the bus lane should run. The committee lacked both a quorum and its chair, however, so a more thorough discussion of the two designs was tabled until next month’s meeting.

The few questions that surfaced from CB members mainly underscored concerns for seniors. Concerns that were, for the most part, easily resolved. After Barr mentioned that the sidewalk on bus bulbs would be raised to make boarding more level, one board member asked whether bus riders would have to step up onto the higher curb. Her worry dissipated after Barr explained that there wouldn’t be a step up, only a gradual slope.

It didn’t come up in the Q&A session, but older New Yorkers stand to benefit from the plan’s safety improvements, with pedestrian refuge islands creating shorter, more manageable distances to cross on the East Side’s wide avenues. 

Another issue that didn’t surface last night but falls right in the middle of the CB 11 district is street safety near the Triborough and Willis Avenue bridges. When the East Side plans were first presented last month, Elena Conte of the Pratt Center for Community Development suggested that planners consider improvements for pedestrians and cyclists who use the Willis Avenue Bridge and encounter extremely hazardous conditions near the foot of the Triborough.

"It would be a mistake if they don’t look at the bike-pedestrian safety around the Triborough Bridge, even though it technically might be outside the scope" of the project, Conte told Streetsblog. "That area is crying out for it, it’s a horror show, and it’s important to both the South Bronx and East Harlem."

The presentation did reveal a few new details about the plan. Barr said planners are looking at creating a midday window when regulations against parking in the exclusive bus lanes would not be in effect, so businesses can receive curbside deliveries. Under current plans, he said, SBS service would run on weekdays until 11 p.m.

In addition, Benson told the crowd that some of the pedestrian refuge islands would only consist of paint at first. "We won’t be able to build them all in one season," he said. "We’ll be playing a bit of catch-up." Finally, while the renderings of the design still show flexible bollards between the bike lane and the floating parking lane, those bollards are no longer part of the plan. Instead, there will only be paint, as on Grand Street.