Straphangers who are used to coping with a crowded morning commute on the M60 are about to get a lot more space.
The city is adding larger buses to the route as more people take the M60, which runs from 106th Street up Broadway and past Columbia, across Harlem on 125th Street, and finally to LaGuardia Airport in Queens.
The new buses—which are known as articulated buses—are 62 feet long, compared to the standard buses’ 40 feet. Articulated buses have about 60 seats, compared to about 40 seats in standard buses, Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesperson Deirdre Parker said in a statement. The larger buses are already being phased into the route, and all M60 buses will be articulated by January.
While the new buses will save the city money, they will also increase waiting times for commuters. “Articulated buses move more people at a lower cost because they were running four buses an hour, and now they’re running three buses an hour,” said Gene Russianoff, president of the Straphangers Campaign, a public transportation advocacy group. “They’re controversial with riders because the waits sometimes are longer as they run fewer buses.”
Buses will be scheduled to run every 10 minutes—a slightly longer wait than the current eight- to nine-minute interval, Parker said.
M60 ridership is up—according to the latest available data, it increased by 5.5 percent between April 2011 and April 2012. Meanwhile, bus ridership across the city has gone down, Russianoff said.
The M60 has “been competitive in the long term,” he said. “More people are discovering it and finding it’s a better way of getting to LaGuardia.”
Many M60 riders on Wednesday evening said they were in favor of the change.
Frank Leroy, 45, who lives in Astoria and takes the M60 to LaGuardia about once a month, said that larger buses would be an improvement.
"The bus is dependable, but crowded,” Leroy said. “A lot of people have their entire luggage for the airport. I am all for larger buses … I definitely think overcrowding is a safety issue, when people put bags in the aisle.”
Anthony Wind, 24, a Teachers College student who rides the M60 four times a week, said that the buses get crowded at rush hour.
“I think a lot of the kids at the school live off campus, and they would really benefit from having a larger bus,” Wind said.
“The train takes a long time, and it can be good when I have to read, but normally, I just want to get home because I’m hungry. “Even if the M60 comes less frequently, I’ll still ride the bus because it will get me where I need to go faster than anything else,” he added.
Ashley Lewis, 20, who rides the M60 once a week, has seen arguments start on crowded buses.
“Having larger buses will make everyone happier,” she said.
But Salam Uddin, 15, a high school student who takes the bus to a tutoring program at Columbia’s Double Discovery Center, said he didn’t like the idea of longer waits.
“The bus is always crowded,” Uddin said. “Normally, I only wait 10 minutes for the bus, but if it takes too long, I take the train. If it takes longer for the bus to come, I probably won’t take the M60 anymore.”
And while the larger buses will hold more riders, they will also create new traffic for residents of a West End Avenue block. Because the current layover terminal on 106th Street between West End and Broadway—where the buses go when they finish their route—is only big enough for one articulated bus, an additional terminal will be built on West End Avenue between 107th and 108th streets.
A Community Board 7 committee voted to approve a pilot period for the new terminal earlier this month. Parker, the MTA spokesperson, said that the transit authority “will monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed.”