Who Killed 125th Street SBS: A Timeline

After years of advocacy and months of meetings, 125th Street bus riders will still be stuck with bus rides that are often slower than walking. Image: ##http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/downloads/pdf/2013-03-18-sbs-125-cac3-slides.pdf##DOT##

Throughout the development of the 125th Street Select Bus Service project, local elected officials and community boards never came out in support of actual bus improvements. Instead, they cloaked their opposition in concerns about “process.” Following yesterday’s announcement from the MTA and NYC DOT that they will no longer pursue Select Bus Service on 125th Street, now is a good time to review that process.

Here is a timeline of events, from initial advocacy to the end of SBS on 125th Street. Which parts look broken to you?

  • Summer 2011: WE ACT for Environmental Justice launches its Transit Riders Action Committee (TRAC) in response to fare hikes. Reaching out to neighborhood riders at bus stops and subway platforms, TRAC decides to make better bus trips on 125th Street one of its priorities.
  • Spring 2012: TRAC focuses its 125th Street advocacy on bringing Select Bus Service to the corridor.
  • September 19, 2012: DOT and the MTA launch the 125th Street SBS project with a public workshop sponsored by elected officials and all three community boards to identify problems on 125th Street and solicit feedback on how SBS measures could be implemented.
  • October 11, 2012: DOT and the MTA announce that SBS routes on 125th Street and Webster Avenue in the Bronx, as well as buses in Queens, will tie into a comprehensive plan for improved access to LaGuardia Airport. (Only 10 percent of M60 riders are airport-bound.)
  • November 28, 2012: The project’s Community Advisory Committee (CAC), which included elected officials, business interests, transit advocates, and community boards, holds its first meeting. The project team provides updates on its parking and traffic analysis, and merchant and shopper surveys. After the meeting, WE ACT’s Jake Carlson tells Streetsblog that he is concerned about the role of community input in the planning process.

  • December 3, 2012: The second public workshop is held.
  • January 17, 2013: The project team hosts a walking tour of 125th Street with more than 50 people to gather feedback.
  • January 23, 2013: The CAC meets for a second time. The project team provides the results of its parking, traffic, shopper, and merchant surveys, and unveils its proposed locations for bus stops, dedicated lanes, and turn restrictions.
  • February 1, 2013: The project team hosts a tour of SBS on First and Second Avenues, which received upgrades in East Harlem in Fall 2012.
  • March 18, 2013: The CAC meets for its third and final time. The project team proposes locations for curb extensions and bus bulbs, and solicits feedback on parking regulations.
  • March 2013: The project team presents the plan to Community Boards 9, 10, and 11. CB 11 is the only board to pass a resolution in support.
  • March 20, 2013: Council Member Bill Perkins sends a letter to DOT claiming that the agency isn’t listening to public input, but he does not cite examples of what is being ignored. Perkins claims that feedback from other SBS lines in the city “indicated dissatisfaction and even failure.” He asks the agency to “slow down” and present “alternative plans and proposals,” but does not come out in favor of any bus improvements himself.
  • April 9, 2013: A third public workshop is held.
  • May 23, 2013: Perkins hosts an “emergency town hall” meeting, where DOT and the MTA announce a scaled-back plan that cuts the length of the bus lane in half and eliminates some turn restrictions. “We are definitely pleased,” Perkins’ deputy chief of staff tells Streetsblog. WE ACT says it was happy Perkins “took leadership” to host a forum, but was disappointed that the proposal shrunk.
  • June 27, 2013: The MTA and DOT host a fourth public workshop, this time on the shortened plan.
  • June 2013: The project team presents the modified plan to Community Boards 9, 10, and 11. CB 11 passes a resolution withholding support for the plan unless the MTA makes changes to the M35 bus to Randalls Island. The M35 does not run on 125th Street, but the community board has long sought to re-route it.
  • July 9, 2013: CB 11 member Brodie Enoch, who voted against the anti-SBS resolution, tells Streetsblog he is afraid the MTA and DOT will scrap the SBS plan.
  • July 16, 2013: Without community board support, and facing opposition from key elected officials, MTA and DOT cancel SBS plans for 125th, but leave the door open for some improvements. City Council Member Robert Jackson says he is “pleased” with the decision and called for a comprehensive study of 125th Street, but would not come out in support of specific bus improvements. Perkins claims he actually supports SBS improvements. “We stand with Senator Perkins in calling for a comprehensive planning process,” WE ACT’s Jake Carlson said.