Select Bus Service In-Depth: Bx41

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The Bx41 +Select Bus Service+:  the most useless but best performing of all current SBS routes.

The Bx41 line runs along Webster Avenue between The Hub shopping district at 149th Street/3rd Avenue and the Gun Hill Road (2/5) Subway Station.  Most of the Bx41 route runs in an area which supposedly too far from a subway that buses are necessary to access any nearest subway station (even though the Grand Concourse is about a quarter of a mile away).

The main part of the Bx41 is in the center of the line, between 161st Street and Bedford Park Blvd, which is ironically enough the main meat of the Bx41 SBS’s ridership.

According to the MTA, 22,000 riders a day ride the Bx41, which includes the local and former Limited.  Much of the ridership is headed for The Hub, where they shop, dine, and catch the subway or the Bx15 bus into Manhattan, and to Fordham Plaza, the Bronx’s largest commercial shopping district and a hub for buses, SBS, and Metro-North.

The main reasons for SBS on Webster Avenue are:

  1. Webster Avenue has wide enough streets to implement offset bus lanes, bike access, bus bulbs, and other street treatments related to SBS without very much compromise unlike Fordham Road or 34th Street.
  2. The DOT conducted research for Bus Rapid Transit Phase II (Of which the five pilot BRT corridors are Phase I) and found that Webster Avenue was a potential corridor for improvements and the public wanted to see changes more immediately than the other corridors selected in The Bronx for study.
  3. Webster Avenue would be the chosen route for a bus route linking the Bronx more effectively with LaGuardia Airport compared to taking the subway into Manhattan and a transfer to the M60 bus to Queens.  The Webster-to-LGA route would bypass Manhattan altogether and allow airport employees who live in the Bronx to reach LaGuardia more easily.

In other words, if not for the reasons above, Webster Avenue would still be an afterthought, the Bx41 would still be the slow-pokey, unreliable, miserable route it was with Limited service only during the rush hours, and all of the SBS hype would be more centralized around Manhattan.

Riding the Bx41 of yesteryear was no walk in the park, quite the opposite.  You really get the feel of what riding the bus in the Bronx was like.  From the mingling of residents of the Butler and Webster Houses to the thrill that is dodging traffic lining up at the auto body shops to slicing your way through the madness that is Fordham Plaza, Webster Avenue had it all.  You were lucky to get from end to end in less time than it takes to drive from the city to any area airport.  Travel times are supposed to be roughly 45 minutes, but can jump to an hour or more on a bad day.  Even with the Limited.  Apparently, something needed to be done.

Much of the ridership from Fordham Road to about 167th Street (primarily the Butler Houses and the Webster Houses) appears to have been siphoned over to the Bx15 especially since the Bx15 started running articulated buses around 2004.

Some of the Bx55’s ridership has gone to the Bx15 as well, thus reducing the operating role of the Bx55 enough to eliminate it once the Bx41 SBS started last year.   That is not to say that there would be no Limited service on 3rd Avenue, but what was done was a conversion of the Bx15 to a three-part service: one, a Limited from 125th Street to Fordham during the Bx55’s weekday service hours, a local from 149th Street to Fordham during the same time period, and a local from 125th Street to Fordham all other times.

The Bx41 still needed improvement despite the siphoning of ridership simply because the line still schlepped along despite Webster Avenue being such a fast, wide street.  Yet, it also was an unsafe street to cross due to the speeding that went on in the widest parts, between 165th Street and Tremont.  Select Bus Service attempted to solve those problems, and the MTA and DOT made it happen.

I say that it’s useless because there could have just been the street improvements such as the bus lanes, pedestrian refuges for people to have a safe haven mid-street to stand while they wait to cross the street, and all-day Limited bus service much like on the old Bx12.

Yet, I do say it’s the best performing simply because of the running times from top to bottom partially thanks to the red painted bus lanes and to off-board fare collection.  For the most part, even with the three choke points on the line (149th Street/3rd Avenue, Fordham Plaza, and Gun Hill Road), regardless of the time of day, SBS buses do the trip from 149th to Gun Hill Road in roughly 35-40 minutes, even less during the evening hours.  I don’t ever recall going from 149th Street to Fordham Plaza in 20 minutes pre-SBS on any of the north-south bus lines in the area (Bx1, Bx2, Bx15, Bx41, Bx55), nor do I recall a 15-minute trip from Fordham to Gun Hill Road, except maybe on the Bx55 (Bx55s were less crowded due to lower frequency; most Bx55s ran as far north as Fordham Plaza).  Points in my book.  It’s almost worth riding the Bx41.  At least the SBS.

As far as the stations go, same deal as the other lines, fare machines at the sidewalk, shelters at most stops but not all of them, they just stick out there in the middle of the sidewalk.  Some stops will receive bus bulbs later on; the only station that looks something like a station is southbound Tremont Avenue, where the SBS stop is on the former traffic island that separates Webster Avenue from Burnside Avenue and regulated traffic flow from southbound Webster to westbound Tremont and westbound Burnside (or northbound Valentine Avenue.  They have reconfigured the area to have traffic circle around this island and make the SBS stop the centerpiece of a reconfigured transfer point.

These are display boards from the Bx41 SBS Open House last year.
Source:  NYC DOT’s BRT website, http://www.nyc.gov/brt

I do find interesting that the Bx41 SBS was incorporated into the Gun Hill Intermodal Transportation Facility at the Gun Hill Road (2/5) station.  The Bx41 SBS is inside the center on two sides (one side is shared with the northbound Bx39 bus).  It combines the access to the subway station with a bus-only station area for the SBS, making it appear “intermodal” and allowing seamless transfer between the subway and the “surface subway.”  The northbound SBS stop is a left-side bus-only pad that is shared with the northbound Bx39 for those who wish to continue their trip north on White Plains Road, much like the Bx41 of yesteryear.

Bx41 Select Bus Service

Bx41 pre-Select Bus Service.
(c) 2013 C. Walton

Aside from the construction of bus bulbs later on this year, I think the MTA and the DOT got this one right, with the wide width of Webster Avenue proving to be ripe for SBS-related street treatments, off-board fare collection familiar to residents who also ride the Bx12 SBS, a recent resurfacing of the roadway, a simple service pattern, and a branding of machines and shelters (much more simplified than the original Bx12 SBS shelter brandings) which actually debuted on the M15 SBS.

I now anticipate the addition of the route from somewhere along the Webster Avenue SBS corridor to LaGuardia Airport.  I would probably call it the Bx50, since that was the route designation for a proposed route from the Bronx to LaGuardia Airport that would have been created under former MTA Chairman Eliot “Lee” Sander’s administration.  (He wanted to implement a number of bus routes and route improvements aside from SBS, but the harsh reality of the MTA budget nipped that in the bud quite quickly.)  The Bx50 would start from Fordham Plaza and run down the Webster Avenue corridor, work its way to a future 138th Street/3rd Avenue SBS stop before taking the Triboro (RFK) Bridge into Queens and making probably the same stops as the future M60 SBS to the Airport.

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3 Responses to Select Bus Service In-Depth: Bx41

  1. Great pictures!! Makes me want to ride!!

  2. Abdul says:

    The bx15 should become a select bus service route

    • C. Walton says:

      I would have thought that the Bx15 would have been an SBS route. All of the people who went to the Webster Avenue meetings and the people who went to the 125th Street meetings all though the Bx15 would be SBS. Instead, the Bx15 and Bx55 were restructured and the Bx41 received all of the SBS treatments. It was cheaper for the MTA in the long run to provide all-day SBS service on Webster with all of the extra buses that usually serve the rush-hour-only Bx41 Limited than to put extra resources into a Bx15 that would only need SBS treatment during the day. Then there is the complication of two SBS routes on one route once the M60 was converted to SBS.

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