Additional reporting by Jonathan Custodio

The head of New York City Transit is concerned that the collapse Friday of plans to speed bus service along a key Bronx corridor could spell trouble for similar efforts across the city.

Richard Davey, president of the MTA division that operates the bus, subway and paratransit systems, told THE CITY on Friday afternoon that the “perplexing” decision by the Adams administration to scrap long-planned upgrades along busy Fordham Road under political pressure is “disappointing.”

“Fordham Road, those 85,000 bus customers — that’s more bus customers than you have in St. Louis or Cleveland,” Davey said. “This is not just some meaningless area, it’s a big deal.”

But City Hall on Friday morning spiked plans to create bus-only lanes along Fordham Road, opting instead to repaint existing bus lanes on the notoriously slow east-west corridor. 

The decision, according to a city Department of Transportation spokesperson, came “in response to feedback from community leaders” and could be revisited next year to see if “additional treatments” are necessary.

“We are repainting curbside bus lanes and continuing automated bus lane enforcement,” said the DOT’s Mona Bruno. “Next summer, we will review the results of those measures and evaluate whether additional treatments are necessary.”

Davey called the situation along Fordham Road “acute,” noting that the busiest bus corridor in The Bronx is home to routes that regularly contend for the Straphangers Campaign’s Pokey and Schleppie Awards, which highlight the slowest and least reliable routes in the city.

“We do have [automated bus lane enforcement] now, which helps obviously,” Davey told THE CITY. “But that’s not the silver bullet.”

Speed Bumps

The work along Fordham Road was among the signature projects by Adams to expand the number of bus lane miles citywide. But the Bronx busway plans ran into opposition from local businesses and institutions such as Fordham University, the New York Botanical Garden, St. Barnabas Hospital Health System and Monroe College, Hellgate reported in July.

The plan also faced resistance from Rep. Adriano Espaillat and City Councilmember Oswald Feliz, Streetsblog reported last month.

Betsy Plum, executive director of Riders Alliance, called out Adams for “letting influential suburbanites dictate policy.”

“Punting on Fordham undermines years of hard work by dedicated public servants to speed up bus service for 85,000 New Yorkers who can’t afford to waste any more time,” she said in a statement Friday.

According to the advocacy’s group’s online Bus Lane Tracker, the city is well off the pace to meet the mayor’s promise to build at least 150 miles by the end of his term in 2025 — with fewer than seven miles completed so far. The city last year failed to install 20 miles of new bus lanes last year, as required by a law the City Council passed in 2019.

A bus headed west on Fordham Road. Aug. 8, 2023. Credit: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Davey told THE CITY he’s concerned about what the change of plans to speed service could mean for other key bus corridors, including along Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.

He noted that without roadway tweaks, additional bus service does little good.

“I don’t want to add more slow service,” he said. “It’s Flatbush, it’s other areas across the boroughs — we need the infrastructure support.”

Bus riders along the Bx12 route said their rides suffer from overcrowding and unreliable service.

Jalaimi Chazuloe told THE CITY last month that the packed Bx12s prevented her from showing up to work on time. 

“The bus was crowded so I had to wait for another bus,” Chazuloe said while waiting for a westbound bus at Fordham Road and Webster Avenue. “I was pissed.”

Plum called the Bronx effort the city’s most important bus project.

“If bus riders can’t trust Mayor Adams to improve miserable service on Fordham, the busiest bus route in New York’s most bus-dependent borough, what good are any of his promises to speed up the slowest buses in the country?” she asked.