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Transportation & Environment

Department of Transportation presentation of proposed bus lane enhancements along entirety of 42nd Street

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, July 11, 2019, the following resolution passed with a vote of 37 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining; and 1 present but not entitled:

WHEREAS, The New York City Department of Transportation ("DOT") seeks approval of a proposal to reconfigure traffic lanes across the length of 42nd Street; and

WHEREAS, 42nd Street is a major commercial and theater corridor of Midtown Manhattan, as well as a popular tourist destination, leading to extremely heavy pedestrian and vehicle congestion; and

WHEREAS, The existing condition includes two bus lanes of substandard width at 9-feet wide, four travel lanes of substandard width at 9-feet wide, and an average speed of 4 mph as compared to the citywide average of 8 mph; and

WHEREAS, The Mayor’s stated goal is to increase bus speeds across the city by 25% by 2020, having identified 24 priority projects across all five boroughs; and

WHEREAS, Eight MTA bus routes originating in three boroughs use 42nd Street, including the M42 Manhattan Route, the X68 Queens Route, and six Staten Island routes; and

WHEREAS, Measurement of 42nd Street usage by DOT reflects that 63% of users of 42nd Street are pedestrians and 29% are bus riders, despite the fact that the current configuration allocates vastly more space for automotive traffic than any other use; and

WHEREAS, According to studies by DOT, bus travel times more than double due to traffic during rush hour relative to during the night, with end-to-end travel times in excess of 30 minutes to get from one end of 42nd Street to the other; and

WHEREAS, DOT proposes a new configuration with characteristics unique to each block, but with a standard midblock configuration of two 11-foot travel lanes, two bus lanes of 11- and 12-feet, and a 9-foot parking and loading lane; and

WHEREAS, DOT proposes hours and curb regulations including offset bus lanes (lanes not against the curb) in effect 24 hours a day and curbside bus lanes in effect 7 AM–7 PM (with night hours allocated to metered commercial/truck loading, to encourage deliveries to take place in off-peak night hours); and

WHEREAS, DOT plans to consolidate some M42 bus stops which are very close together, including two on the same block between Lexington Avenue and 3rd Avenue, but is not planning to move any non-M42 stops; and

WHEREAS, DOT plans new turning restrictions, including no turns southbound onto 7th Avenue, no left turn northbound onto 6th Avenue, and no turn southbound onto Lexington Avenue except buses, with the goal of improving speeds and congestion on the throughway; and

WHEREAS, DOT conducted a similar “6-to-5” lane reconfiguration on both 34th Street and 23rd Street; and

WHEREAS, DOT proposes installation during summer of 2019, with post-implementation data collection and monitoring throughout fall of 2019; and

WHEREAS, DOT anticipates the proposed changes will result in only minor disruptions for private vehicles and taxi/for hire vehicles making certain turns; and

WHEREAS, The implementation of this proposal does not require the installation of any permanent street materials and does not prevent DOT from expanding on the proposed improvements in the future; and

WHEREAS, Current construction between Vanderbilt Avenue and Lexington Avenue, such as the One Vanderbilt construction that is underway, and future construction such as the redevelopment of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, causes and will continue to cause bottlenecks and ad hoc incursions into the street configuration that are not represented in this plan; and

WHEREAS, Members of the public and theater owners and institutions housed on 42nd Street have expressed concerns that this reconfiguration does not alleviate current safety and congestion concerns curbside between 7th and 8th Avenues, including the lack of pre- and post-performance ingress and egress on the block, during which hundreds of pedestrians are forced into the streets, as well as congestion caused by tourists and shopping buses on the block; and

WHEREAS, Community stakeholders from 42nd Street have asked for a delay in implementation of the plan and for immediate consultation on future reconfiguration of the block to attempt to address these safety concerns; and

WHEREAS, While the proposed DOT plan does not alleviate or address these very serious existing problems on the block, it also does not create them, as they are existing problems, and the materials and methods proposed by DOT do not preclude further reconfiguration or action to address these very real concerns; and

WHEREAS, The Times Square Alliance applauds the proposed redesign of 42nd Street to improve the speed of crosstown buses, but also asks that DOT delay implementation of the reconfiguration to respond to ingress and egress concerns on the 7th Avenue-to-8th Avenue block, to conduct a full study of overflow conditions on the block and how to mitigate them, and to develop plans to install bollards to protect crowds from the 11 nearby theatrical institutions; and

WHEREAS, Although Community Board Five continues to request that DOT formulates a comprehensive and complete street plan for the district; and

WHEREAS, Although DOT has not provided the requested comprehensive street plan for midtown Manhattan, Community Board Five recognizes that the execution of this proposal should provide measurable improvements to the district in terms of improved traffic flow on one of the City's most congested thoroughfares; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five supports the majority of the Department of Transportation’s plan to reconfigure traffic lanes across the length of 42nd Street; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five asks that the Department of Transportation consider and include mitigation within the plan for anticipated construction between Vanderbilt Avenue and Lexington Avenue in the context of the Grand Hyatt Hotel redevelopment; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five asks that Department of Transportation reexamine and reconsider short-term treatment within the plan of the block between 7th and 8th Avenues; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five strongly supports the long term consideration of improvements within the wider Times Square District to more holistically resolve long-standing congestion and safety issues on the 42nd Street block between 7th and 8th Avenues.

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