Union pushes two-stop bus service to Manhattan

Transit Worker's Union

The projected route for proposed Select Bus Service that would run through Hunts Point.

Proposed route links East Harlem and the Bronx

Five years after it was first proposed, Hunts Point might be getting an express bus that will bring residents to Harlem in two stops.

On March 13, representatives from the Transit Workers Union held a town hall meeting at The Point CDC to discuss the possibility of establishing a Bus Rapid Transit route, otherwise known as Select Bus Service, for the southeast Bronx. 

The route, which according to a union handout, is estimated to cost $55 million to construct and $6.7 million a year to maintain and operate, would begin at 125th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan and end at Co-op City Boulevard and Baychester Avenue. Stops in between would include 138th Street and Bruckner Boulevard, Barretto Street and Garrison Avenue, and Metropolitan Avenue and Castle Hill Avenue.

Though the route itself is still open to change, advocates presenting at last month’s meeting were adamant that its construction would benefit Bronx residents by giving them accessibility to jobs in Harlem and Manhattan.

“When we talk about economic development, job creation and opportunity, you can’t just say that in a vacuum,” said Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, who was recently appointed chair of the Bronx Democratic County Committee. “You have to look at the total picture of what is it that limits people’s access to those opportunities and transportation is one of the key areas where we need to continue to do a lot of work.”

According to the union, the new route could create 391 new transit jobs in its first year of construction.

The bus service could affect as many as 330,000 people who live within a half mile of the proposed route in neighborhoods such as Pelham Bay, Eastchester, Co-op City, Baychester, Pelham Gardens, Morris-Park, Parkchester, Soundview, Classon Point, Hunts Point, Port Morris and Mott Haven. The route has additional value in minority communities. According to Simran Noor, director of policy and strategy for the Center for Social Inclusion, African Americans are six times more likely than whites to rely on public transit, and Latinos are three times as likely. Other benefits include faster travel and quicker bus boarding. As with other express routes, passengers would pay at a kiosk before boarding the bus.

Though the 6 train is easily accessible on Hunts Point Avenue, with the new route, residents wouldn’t have to walk off the peninsula to get the bus.

The proposal marks the first time an organization other than the MTA is developing transit routes. The union decided the investment in the development phase was worth the potential for job creation for its members.

The MTA had no comment on the plan because the union has not discussed it with the agency, according to MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg.

“We’re in the beginning of this process and we’re doing things totally different and that have not been done before,” said Marvin Holland, political and legislative director for the union. The union undertook the task because it was the leadership’s opinion that the Bronx gets passed over when it comes to receiving funds for transit projects.

“When there’s a discussion about putting money into public transportation, the Bronx is always the last one to get the funds,” said Raybblin Vargas, an organizer with the union.

Since 2004, the MTA and the city Department of Transportation have conducted studies to identify neighborhoods suitable for select bus service. Factors included travel times, crowding, inadequate subway service, and economic growth and job expansion. Initially, 100 neighborhood corridors were found eligible, all of which had a ridership of 15,000 people or more. Select Bus Service began in 2008 with the Bx12, which runs along Fordham Road and Pelham Parkway, and the city has added seven additional routes across the city since. The list of potential other corridors has been whittled down to 16. Hunts Point and Soundview currently sit at number four.

Advocates were hopeful that ground breaking could happen as early as next year, with planning proceeding in three stages. Stage one is making sure the plan is included within New York State’s budget. Stage two would consist of presenting the Bronx plan to the city and seeing if the money already put aside by the MTA and the transportation department for other Bus Rapid Transit plans could be applied toward the Bronx plan. The plan would then go on to the federal government for review and would end with the construction of curbside bus lanes.

“There’s a lot that goes into this, but if we’re really going to grow this city and deal with some of the issues that the mayor’s been talking about—The Tale of Two Cities—we need to do something for public transit in the Bronx immediately,” Holland said.

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