Work on Lexington Avenue Bus Lane Continues to Be Delayed

Bus service along Lexington Avenue was set to speed up this summer with the implementation of an upgraded bus lane, but the work to upgrade it has gone more slowly than planned. While work has been completed between 96th Street and 73rd Street, it is yet to be completed in the area next to Hunter College.

As of now, the Lexington Avenue bus lane is in effect from 7 to 10 a.m. — a busy time for southbound travel from Washington Heights, Harlem and the Upper East Side. Despite the presence of the bus lane, buses only travel at 3.9 mph in the p.m. rush hour, lower than the citywide p.m. rush hour average of 6.79 mph, and the lane is often obstructed by delivery trucks and police cars.

Citywide, bus service has become slower and more unreliable, leading bus riders to turn to alternative forms of transportation, like Uber and Lyft, which, in turn, means even less revenue for the MTA and even worse service.

To stop the decline in bus ridership, the Mayor released the Better Bus Action Plan in April. The plan calls for speeding up bus service across the city by 25% through targeted improvements in 24 locations, including Lexington Avenue between 96th Street and 60th Street.

Lexington Avenue, from seventh floor skywalk. Photo by Shaul Picker

As part of the plan, the bus lane will be moved from its current position right next to the curb to a position one lane away from the curb, replacing a travel lane. The lane currently used as a bus lane will then be available for deliveries and metered parking. In addition, sidewalk extensions will be installed at M101 stops to allow buses to stay in the bus lane to pick up passengers, instead of having to pull over to the curb. Turn lanes will be installed at major intersections to reduce congestion. The plan says that the lane will be in effect 24/7.

When the specifics of the Lexington Avenue bus lane were presented to local community boards in May, implementation was scheduled for the summer. Later, the Department of Transportation announced that the bus lane would be implemented in September.

At the beginning of that month, several blocks of Lexington Avenue had their pavement removed so that the street could be repaved with newly painted bus lanes. Over a month and a half later, the street remains unpaved.

While work to repave the street was scheduled for the weeks of Oct 21 and 28, it has not taken place. In an email sent on Oct 28, the DOT’s Manhattan Borough Commissioner, Edward Pincar Jr., said that the work on the lane would be completed that week, weather permitting. Given last week’s rainy weather, however, the work has yet again been rescheduled, this time for Monday and Wednesday.

Unless the work is completed soon, it will have to be pushed back to the spring since the paint for the bus lanes will not stick in temperatures under 50 degrees.

In an email, DOT Deputy Director of Select Bus Service Kyle Gebhart said “we’re hopeful that we’ll have [the repaving] complete before it gets too cold.”

Once the bus lane is installed, service will improve for the 44,000 bus riders who use the M98, M101, M102 and M103 buses.

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