The M86, the Upper East Side-Upper West Side connector with a following.
The M86 (originally the M18 up until the 1980s) is the 86th Street Crosstown and one of the busier crosstowns in Manhattan, with about 30,000 riders a day. It runs from Yorkville at the extreme eastern end of Upper Manhattan to West End Avenue at nearly the extreme western end of Upper Manhattan, with retail on either end and museums in the middle. It cuts through Central Park via the 86th Street Transverse and connects with the 1, 4, 5, 6, B, and C trains. It also connects with the M15 +Select Bus Service at 1st and 2nd Avenues.
Because of all of this potential ridership, the M86 is one of the more crowded crosstowns north of Midtown Manhattan. Because of the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art and retail stores on Madison Avenue to lure museum-goers to spend money, traffic can be a nightmare. Most of the traffic, though, is caused by the hundreds and hundreds of taxicabs and car service vehicles; the rest is caused by all of the M1, M2, M3, and M4 local buses and numerous express buses to and from The Bronx. Let’s not forget sightseeing buses.
Therefore, due to the success of the M15 SBS and other SBS lines in the city, namely the M34/M34A and M60 SBS, there has been a push by council members and their constituents to improve bus service on the M86. Well, with the DOT having their way, that improvement will come in the form of Select Bus Service, with off-board fare collection, branded buses (the buses to be used on the M86 SBS are already used a lot on that line, the NovaBUS LFSAs), a few bus bulbs to bring the bus stop out to the bus, sidewalk extensions, and targeted bus lanes.
A side note: I would have chosen the M14 for a Crosstown SBS route simply because both branches, but especially the M14D Avenue D branch, can experience longer than normal travel times from the far reaches of the Lower East Side to any subway in the center of Manhattan below Midtown. Both the M14 and M86 were among the potential candidates in the NYC DOT’s BRT Phase II Bus Rapid Transit planning workshops, but theyu chose the M86 over the M14, which could be implemented later on. The M86 is due for implementation sometime this summer.
For the M86 to work, there should be at least bus lanes along most of 86th Street between York Avenue and Madison Avenue, bus bulbs at Lexington Avenue, Broadway, Columbus Avenue, Central Park West, and 5th Avenue, and off-board fare collection at every stop. If they were to eliminate any stops along the route to make for a faster trip, it would be Park Avenue and the stop inside Central Park along the Transverse. I would also consider consolidating two of the three or four stops along York Avenue and make the combined stops into super-stops with extra-large shelters. If that is done, then they should be designed in the same fashion as the B44 SBS stops along Nostrand and Rogers Avenues in Brooklyn.
We shall see what comes of this by the end of the summer.