A group of Northern Manhattan residents is campaigning to make life a little easier for uptown commuters.
The Transit Riders Action Committee, a nonprofit dedicated to environmental justice, is lobbying the city to make changes to 125th Street’s bus travel to speed up the street’s notoriously slow lines, including the M60.
“If you’re trying to cross 125th Street, especially in rush hour, you’re better off walking. It’s so congested right there,” Jake Carlson, transportation equity coordinator of TRAC, said.
The changes that TRAC is proposing would designate one of 125th Street’s lanes as buses-only, and would change the bus lines that travel 125th to rapid-transit, increasing the frequency and speed of the buses. Rapid-transit buses arrive every five to 10 minutes and have extended green lights at intersections.
A representative for the MTA said that the experience of bus transit in northern Manhattan is no different from other parts of the city. But bus riders on 125th Street say otherwise, with many claiming that buses on 125th Street are the slowest in the area.
High school student Dayna Enriquez, 17, waits for a bus on 125th Street and Broadway every day for up to 25 minutes.
“It’s very slow. In the morning, it’s not as slow, but when you come home from school, it’s always packed,” she said.
Carlson said that the 125th Street bus rapid transit idea is not yet at the top of the city Department of Transportation’s priority list—but he wants to get it there.
“Not that DOT is necessarily opposed, but not as supportive of it as we would like. We want this thing soon,” he said.
But TRAC faces an uphill battle with the city before it can get that plan in place. TRAC members acknowledge that their plan would reduce curb-side parking, which could upset businesses along 125th Street, and that the bus-only lane would reduce space on the road for cars.
Transportation is also a justice issue for TRAC, which is a new branch of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a Northern Manhattan community group that proposes sustainable alternatives for transit, land use, and pesticides. TRAC was created last August in response to the latest MTA fare hikes.
“I grew up not too far from 141st,” Julien Terrell, a TRAC member and former employee of WE ACT, said. “For as long as I can remember, a lot of my time spent in Harlem has always been linked to public transportation—watching my mom or older people in my building taking the M18, which was cut, and Access-A-Ride, which was also scaled down a bit.”
Carlson said that the power to make transit better for local residents comes from making sure elected officials hear their concerns.
“We’re trying to put power for Northern Manhattan transit riders,” Carlson said. “We’re educating transit riders about state and federal policy and giving them the tools so that they’re able to be active participants in the political process and really advocate for their needs.”