M60 Select Bus Service has improved commuting along 125th St., but should be extended west to Morningside Ave.

New_York_Daily_News_logo.pngBy State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Council Member Mark Levine 

M-60 Select Bus Service along Harlem’s busy 125th St. corridor currently runs only between Second and Lenox Aves.

Select Bus Service has finally arrived on 125th St., and riders are already impressed. While more than 32,000 people take the M60 bus each day — mostly local residents commuting to work or school — it earned a reputation as “the slowest route in the city.”

For families without other transit options, the M60s often less than 3 mph speeds clearly made their lives more difficult and stressful.

No longer. Pre-paid fare collection, dedicated lanes between Second and Lenox Aves., buses equipped with cameras for safety and enforcement, and smarter left-turn regulations at unsafe intersections have transformed this line for the better. And the local routes that cross 125th St. remain unchanged, giving straphangers more options than ever. Better service will take cars off the road, leading to safer streets for pedestrians, and cleaner air for everyone.

Our constituents who live west of Lenox Ave., however, have a little less cause for celebration. Because by the time westbound commuters get used to faster speeds, the M60’s dedicated lane ends, giving way to gridlock.

Although the bus-only lane was originally slated to reach Morningside Ave., the current route runs for only six blocks before terminating at Lenox Ave. That means the M60 will have to compete with three lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic for most of its route along 125th St. — where heavy congestion stretches all the way from the Triborough Bridge to the West Side Highway.

This means Manhattanville and Morningside Heights commuters won’t enjoy the full benefits of the plan. More than two-thirds of the people in these neighborhoods — many of whom live in New York City Housing Authority developments like the Grant Houses, rely on public transit as their primary means for getting around — nearly three-quarters of these households do not own cars.

Shutting out West Harlem not only inconveniences the immediate neighborhood, it also disconnects 125th St. from the rest of northern Manhattan. As it has in other neighborhoods, Select Bus Service is expected to help local businesses draw in new customers and create jobs. Linking SBS to north-south routes along Broadway would provide an even greater economic boost.

Select Bus Service has been wildly successful in other corridors around the city, like First and Second Aves., and 34th St. Speeds are up, and ridership is soaring. This has allowed the MTA to increase service along these routes, further reducing wait times. But the benefits of SBS can only be reaped when it is fully implemented.

The city Department of Transportation has done a terrific job moving this project forward in spite of political gridlock that threatened to cancel the plan altogether. But the faster speeds are already getting rave reviews, and it won’t be long before riders begin asking why the dedicated lanes end midway.

We’ll continue to keep pushing for a complete dedicated lane, so commuters have more time to spend with their families, instead of waiting in traffic.

Sen. Adriano Espaillat represents portions of upper Manhattan and the Bronx. Council Member Mark Levine represents parts of Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights, Morningside Heights, Manhattan Valley and the Upper West Side.

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