what can a complete concourse look like?

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:

NYCDOT's proposed Grand Concourse redesign.

[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:

Complete Concourse concept, which is described below.

[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:

Complete Concourse concept with bus bypasses and curbside bikeshare.

[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?

Complete Concourse concept illustrating 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.

2 thoughts on “what can a complete concourse look like?

  1. Cool idea at seriously taking the cars out. Putting the buses on the main road is great, and so are 10-foot travel lanes.

    Unfortunately, cyclist access to the buildings is remarkably poor. If a bicycle user lived in any of those buildings or were visiting someone, well, they can’t, because the trees are in the way — and the blocks are long. It’s gonna lead to sidewalk riding or riding on the service road, because cyclists like direct lines from A to B.

    I would switch the parking and the bike lane, so the bike lane is against the curb. The bike lane would be wide (8-9′) so that faster cyclists can overtake slower cyclists. That’s the worldwide golden standard: wide, one-way bikeways against the curb. I’d also implement a 15 MPH speed limit on the service road so the faster cyclists and e-bike users can use that as well. (10 MPH, if you want.) Then we’d have cycling infrastructure for all ages and abilities that prioritizes cycling ahead of cars — for the front doors of all buildings along the way.

    • Hey Sam:
      That’s a valid point. I didn’t think of that; I envisioned widened crossings and possibly mid-block crossings, but that may still be less than ideal. Exchanging the service bike lanes and the parking lanes is definitely a good alternative; it’d make docked bikeshare and corrals more accessible, and further improves sight lines at crossings for peds.

      I might explore this idea in a future update.

discuss respectfully!