Our Town: Turtle Bay Area Gets Speedy Bus
By Alexandra Waldhorn
June 9, 2010
Reversing its position, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to place a Select Bus Service stop in the Turtle Bay neighborhood, officials announced June 4.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer joined other city officials to announce the inclusion of a stop at East 49th and 50th streets, on First and Second avenues. Select Bus Service, a rapid transit system that includes features like prepaid boarding and three-door buses, is expected to make fewer stops than the current M15 Limited route. The officials also urged the MTA to scratch plans to cut the neighborhood’s crosstown service on nights and weekends.
“At one time, there were [Select Bus Service] plans distributed showing a stop at this location—but the plan adopted by the MTA omitted a stop here,” said Maloney, standing in front of the current Limited bus stop with a dozen Turtle Bay neighborhood leaders.
The decision came days before the city and MTA announced June 7 that this month they would start implementing Select Bus Service on the M15 bus line, Manhattan’s busiest route. The first phase of the project will create dedicated bus lanes from 125th Street to Houston Street along the right side of First and Second avenues. For phase two of the project, starting in 2011, some sidewalks will be extended to allow passenger boarding without the bus having to exit and reenter traffic, and traffic signals will be adjusted to give buses priority. The dedicated lanes are expected to be in use by October, with other improvements coming on an ongoing basis.
Earlier this year, MTA cutbacks to east Midtown bus service pared back several transportation options for Turtle Bay residents. A stretch from East 42nd and 57th streets in the First and Second Avenue corridor was left devoid of any Select Bus Service stops.
Maloney sent letters to the cash-strapped MTA and Department of Transportation, urging them to add a bus stop along the Select Bus Service route.
“We’re taking a great step forward by creating a new Select Bus Service stop in Turtle Bay. Let’s not take two steps back by cutting crosstown service on nights and weekends,” Council Member Jessica Lappin said in a statement. “Especially this far east, we rely on buses to get around. Don’t strand this neighborhood by cutting that service.”
The MTA is cutting the M27 bus, which links Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal to First Avenue via 49th and 50th streets; eliminating night and weekend service on the M50, which runs from the Hudson River to First Avenue via 49th and 50th streets; and eliminating crosstown service on the M104, which runs from Broadway to the United Nations along 42nd Street. Combined, these cuts will leave Turtle Bay residents with no crosstown service outside of business hours.
A disabled elderly woman at the press conference who declined to give her name said the cuts have meant a greater reliance on taxis.
“I travel around all day and that means as many as 18 to 20 taxis a week,” she said. “I used to never take a taxi.”
Another resident, Teri Black, added that taxis aren’t an option for everyone.
“All the disabled people and elderly in the neighborhood can’t take the subway, but they might not have the money or psychology to take a taxi,” she said.
While the addition of a Turtle Bay bus stop along the north-south route is a step forward, Maloney stressed that it’s only one piece of re-linking Turtle Bay to the center of the city.
“New York is the city that never sleeps—and our bus service shouldn’t, either,” she said.