SBS Launches on 23rd Street – Placard Holders Remain Oblivious to Bus Lanes

"Flexible bollards" at Sixth Avenue aim to keep motorists out of buses way. Photo: David Meyer
At Sixth Avenue, “flexible bollards” keep motorists from violating the eastbound bus lane. Photo: David Meyer

Select Bus Service launched on 23rd Street in Manhattan this morning, the twelfth SBS route in the city and the sixth to start up under Mayor de Blasio.

With dedicated lanes, off-board fare collection, and consolidated stops, SBS should mean faster crosstown service for the riders who make 15,000 trips on the M23 on an average weekday.

The bus lanes extend eastbound from mid-block between Tenth and Ninth Avenues to Second Avenue, and westbound from mid-block betweens First and Second Avenues to Eighth Avenue. DOT’s initial 23rd Street proposal limited bus lane enforcement to either rush hours or 7 a.m to 7 p.m., but the agency adjusted its plans after local community boards asked for more bus lane hours. The bus lanes will be in effect 24/7, with the exception of a single westbound block between Seventh and Eighth avenues, which is a commercial loading zone outside of the morning and evening rush [PDF].

This morning riders took advantage of all-door boarding along the route, but illegally parked cars were a problem. Vehicles with government placards filled the north curb between First Avenue and Second Avenue, forcing delivery trucks into the bus lane and buses into the general travel lane.

A delivery truck forced this bus out of 23rd Street's dedicated bus lanes. Photo: David Meyer
With the curb blocked by vehicles with government parking placards, this Fedex truck stopped to unload in the bus lane. Photo: David Meyer
agency business placard 23rd st
A vehicle with a Department of Education placard was one of several blocking the bus lane between First and Second Avenue. Photo: David Meyer

The city painted the bus lanes in August, but the enforcement system just started sending warnings yesterday. Fines won’t take effect for 60 days.

There’s usually an adjustment period following any significant change to the street, but it was still disconcerting to see a few people with parking placards mess up the bus lanes for everyone. The 34th Street bus lanes are also frequently obstructed, often by NYPD.

Off-board fare enables faster boarding on the city's Select Bus Service lines. Photo: David Meyer
Off-board fare collection enables fast all-door boarding, a feature transit advocates want to extend to all MTA bus routes. Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer