Thousands signed a petition against a no-turn-in-‘bus lane’ that turned out to be highly flawed

When new Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed The Esplanade, a right-turn-only lane connecting the Long Island Expressway and First Avenue in Lower Manhattan, into law, there was a parade of naysayers.

More than 1,000 people signed an online petition in opposition to the highway’s new “Bus Service Lane,” and fewer than 60 people attended a public hearing at Vanderbilt Hall on the first Friday in April.

In some neighborhoods, vehicle owners say the lane has already caused congestion. One driver described how he was forced to slow down near downtown, take a right turn, then stop on LaGuardia Airport’s northern border to make an illegal U-turn. He encountered difficulty on the expressway’s curved turns and was forced to enter the right lane only after braving a barrage of angry horns, shouting and honking from other drivers.

But some feel the promised improvements are even further off than they thought.

A report in February, commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, found that bus service along the Broadway Freeway did not improve since the lane was enacted. The lane, they found, had a “negative impact on reliability and safety” on the stretch between 55th and 55th streets, where they found that 60.6 percent of buses arrived in less than 15 minutes.

On The Esplanade, 16.9 percent of buses arrived in under 15 minutes and 45.4 percent were consistently on time, according to the report.

But there is a disconnect between the negative numbers and the 50 percent increase in fare collected through the first three months of this year.

Part of the issue may be that the report does not include what some consider to be the much-needed signal-coordination study. The MTA has promised to do a longer study next year to include the Federal Transit Administration and improve bus service along the entire 1.9-mile stretch of street.

The traffic report shows that the proposed signal-coordination study is one of the main reasons why more than 60 percent of buses arrived on time — compared to only 23 percent of buses showing up on time in the report’s first three months. The study will allow drivers to better connect buses with stations and signal the need for “continuous stops and service.”

The MTA hopes to do the project in tandem with the analysis of the bus lane.

“This is the worst day we’ve had since that report was released,” Steven Cohen, president of Buses New York, said of the report’s data, using the popular smartphone acronyms YYYY and LOL to translate. “It doesn’t really give much of a sense of what they’re trying to get at.”

Ronald Lanni, chairman of Brooklyn Bridge Park and a City Councilman for District 9, the narrow strip of asphalt currently housed by the bus lane, said he still doesn’t like the lane.

“It has slowed down the cars,” Mr. Lanni said. “We’re not good enough bus-wise to handle that.”

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