New York: Planning for Multiple Modes

In 2009, NYC Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) and MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) teamed up to design and implement the M15 Select Bus Service (SBS) line along First and Second Avenues in Manhattan. The SBS project, which was modeled after bus rapid transit to provide subway-like service with buses, aimed to meet goals previously outlined in Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC sustainability plan and NYCDOT’s strategic plan, as well as NYCT’s Capital Plan. This SBS project gave NYCDOT and NYCT the opportunity to reexamine existing infrastructure in order to improve transit and all modes on two major Manhattan thoroughfares.

The First and Second Avenue SBS project redesigned streets from lower Manhattan to 125th Street, reducing the number of lanes available for general traffic in certain sections in order to provide consistent dedicated bus lanes and off-board fare collection. (A transit signal- priority system that grants SBS buses an extended green light at intersections will also be activated on parts of the route.) The project also included pedestrian islands at selected intersections and parking- protected or curbside bike lanes from Houston Street to 34th Street on both avenues. Since 2010, the bicycle facilities have been and continue to be extended substantially.

By integrating transit and transportation planning, NYCDOT and NYCT were able to improve safety and efficiency for almost everyone on the roadways. (By not providing accessible pedestrian signals, however, some of these new streetscape features can act as barriers to people who are blind.) In the year since service began in October 2010, bus ridership increased by 9% and bus speeds improved by 15% to 18%. Traffic injuries fell by 21% in roadway sections with full treatment redesigns, and bicycle volumes increased by 18% to 177%, while traffic speeds and volumes remained about the same.

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.