New Busway Launching On Notoriously Congested 181st Street In Washington Heights

A long-awaited new busway will launch in Washington Heights next month on 181st Street, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday, adding to several busways already installed across the city.

The half-mile-long route runs from Broadway to Amsterdam Avenue eastbound on 181st Street and from Amsterdam to Wadsworth Avenue westbound on the street, and is promised to speed up rides for the estimated 66,000 daily bus passengers in Washington Heights where the city estimates buses crawl along at an average speed of less than 4 mph. Much of that congestion is due to bottlenecks caused by drivers heading to the George Washington Bridge during the morning and evening rush hours.

The busway will launch April 26th, more than 10 months after de Blasio first announced the plan in his Better Buses program. Bus lane cameras have been installed and for the first 60 days, the DOT will issue warning letters to violators of the busway restrictions captured on film before transitioning to issuing fines.

Similar to the busways on Jay Street in Brooklyn, 14th Street in Manhattan, 149th Street in the Bronx, and Main Street in Flushing, the 181st Street busway will be available to buses, trucks and emergency vehicles. It will be off-limits to cars, taxis and other private vehicles.

The Main Street busway launched two months ago and the city Department of Transportation announced Friday it’s already providing better bus service for an estimated 155,000 daily passengers. Bus speeds have increased 15% to 24% faster during the day northbound on Main Street, and 13 to 31% faster during the afternoon and evening peaks.

“Washington Heights deserves faster, safer, more reliable bus transit. The 181st Street busway will help this iconic neighborhood come back stronger than ever,” said de Blasio in a press release. “Busways have transformed transportation across the city – most recently in Flushing, where the new busway has dramatically increased speeds in just two months – and I look forward to bringing these changes to even more neighborhoods citywide.”

Among the many officials who hailed the new busway was State Sen. Robert Jackson, who said “181st Street is a beating heart of Northern Manhattan and the Bronx, a destination in itself for our uptown community and a way station for many working-class New Yorkers en route to earn a living to support their families,” and he pledged to “be responsive to the concerns of stakeholders” as the busway is rolled out.