Over the years, I’ve given much though to what The Bronx’s historic Grand Concourse would look like after getting the Complete Streets treatment. As NYC DOT’s plans (PDF) don’t go nearly far enough, I decided to flesh out some ideas using Streetmix!
The Grand Concourse has several issues – one, its buses (Bx1 and Bx2) bunch and gap often due to traffic and rampant double-parking (the Bx1 and Bx2 are also the 6th-busiest in all of NYC as of 2017, with well over 10 million rides). Second, its bike lanes (including the newly shifted, protected-but-not-really lanes below 171st St) are often encroached by drivers and double-parked cars – see a trend? Third, rampant speeding and other dangerous driving behaviors plague the Concourse day and night.
First, here’s a snapshot of DOT’s plan for the Concourse:
[Fig. 1] DOT’s plan to upgrade the Concourse’s infrastructure. As you can see, the plan does nothing for buses, and still preserves six lanes of general traffic.
How can we transform the Concourse from a car-oriented arterial to a people-oriented street? Here’s an idea:
[Fig. 2] A truly complete Concourse.
This concept retains curbside parking (with limitations, explained later) and one travel lane on the service road. To discourage speeding, all travel lanes will be 10 feet wide. Buses will no longer mix with general traffic; instead, they’ll run on their own lanes on the main road (ideally with automated enforcement). There will be bus stations on the median of the main road – ideally 125 feet long to fit two articulated buses (though dedicated bus lanes should mitigate the bunching and gapping issues on the Bx1 and Bx2). The BxM4 will also use the bus lanes, improving reliability.
For bikes, the concept retains DOT’s median lanes, but upgrades them to prevent automotive incursions on either side (note the tree-lined medians). In addition, the main road will host a second pair of bike lanes (ideally wider than the “service” bike lanes, where possible, to segregate higher-speed cyclists and e-bike riders from slower-speed cyclists on the “service” lanes). These lanes would include a tree-lined divider for shade. Scooters can make use of the bike lanes so that they can also be protected from general traffic.
The buffer between the bus lanes and the bike lanes on the main road are not continuous. This space – intentionally narrow enough to prevent automotive incursions – has several potential uses, including added pedestrian refuges, walking areas, and a bus bypass:
[Fig. 3] Illustration of the bus bypass, a short stretch of road allowing buses (e.g. Bx1 Select Bus Service or BxM4 express) to go around stopped buses. Illustration also includes curbside bikeshare.
Bikeshare stations, along with intersection daylighting, will replace some of the curbside parking; additional parking meters and a residential parking permit program should ensure greater overall parking availability (even with fewer spots).
Now, what about turns?
[Fig. 4] Typical turning section.
With general traffic now restricted to the service road, there must still be a way for vehicles to make their turns. In this concept, the travel lane shifts to the right, giving way to a left turn bay. At intersections allowing only right turns, parking gives way to a right turn bay and the travel lane continues without shifting. The shifts at intersections with left turns are intentional and designed to further calm traffic.
Other elements not shown in the figures above include hard bollards/medians between the main road bike lanes at intersections, and wider pedestrian crossings and islands – all of which would further improve the Grand Concourse.
Now, while the ideas above aren’t the only way to realize a complete Grand Concourse, it’s clear we must think bigger if we want to make the Grand Concourse beneficial for all, not just those who drive.