Madison Avenue Bus Lanes

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In New York City, the two right-hand lanes of Madison Avenue between 42nd Street and 59th Street are reserved primarily for the use of buses between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays.

Regulations

During the times of day that the bus lane regulations are in effect, the following types of vehicles are permitted to use the Madison Avenue Bus Lanes.
  • Buses
  • Bicycles
  • Between 44th and 46th Streets, taxis carrying at least one passenger are permitted to use the lanes to make a right turn onto 46th Street.
  • Authorized emergency vehicles
  • Traffic / parking control vehicles
  • Snow plows, sand spreaders, sweepers and refuse trucks
  • Highway workers
  • Highway Inspection and Quality Assurance vehicles, compliance inspection unit and street assessment unit vehicles
Note that private automobiles or taxis without passengers are not allowed in the bus lanes during these hours, even if they intend to turn right at one of the eastbound cross-streets that intersect with Madison Avenue.

The language regarding right-hand turns from the New York City Traffic Rules is as follows:

[N]o person shall drive a vehicle other than a bus in the bus lane on Madison Avenue for the purpose of making a right hand turn during the restricted hours specified by sign between 42nd Street and 59th Street. During such restricted hours, the first permissible right hand turn for vehicles other than buses is at 60th Street, except that a taxicab carrying a passenger may use the bus lane to make a right hand turn at 46th Street.

(Note that 60th Street and 61st Street are presently one-way westbound, so in reality the first opportunity to turn right is at 62nd Street.)

History

The plan to create the Madison Avenue Bus Lanes was announced by Mayor Edward I. Koch and Transportation Commissioner Anthony R. Ameruso on July 22, 1980, and the lanes opened on May 26, 1981. The lanes proved to be the enduring contribution of Koch's July 1980 congestion reduction plan, which also included a ban on single-occupancy vehicles traveling across the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro Bridges between 6 and 10 a.m., and a network of bicycle lanes between Central Park and Washington Square that would have been separated from automobile traffic by concrete barriers.

Construction of the lanes was funded with a federal grant of $788,000. After the first two months of operation, the New York City Department of Transportation determined that the lanes dramatically improved the speed of buses, decreasing their travel time through the area by 44% during the height of rush hour. Whereas buses had taken 18 minutes to travel the 17 blocks prior to the installation of the lanes, they made the trip in 10 minutes after installation.

Initial Reaction to the Lanes

After the announcement of the plan to create the lanes, the Fifth Avenue Association opposed the lanes, saying that express buses created a nuisance and should be moved away from the area rather than encouraged. The Clean Air Campaign applauded the creation of the lanes, but voiced concerns that promoting express buses might take riders away from the even more environmentally friendly subway system. The Automobile Club of New York did not oppose the lanes.

Two years later, when the city opened similar bus lanes on Fifth Avenue in Midtown, the Fifth Avenue Association praised them as a way to reduce traffic congestion and improve the business climate.

Enforcement

The bus lanes are separated from regular traffic lanes by a two-foot-wide solid white painted line. Metal traffic signs alert motorists to the traffic regulations. Signs prohibiting right turns between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays are posted at eastbound cross-streets.

Opportunity for Electronic Signage

Electronic signs that vary by time of day could mor e prominently alert motorists in real time to the regulations in effect at a particular moment.

Use

In addition to charter buses, tour buses and long-distance buses, the lanes are used by the following regularly scheduled public transportation buses.

Local Buses

Five local bus routes operated by MTA New York City Transit use the Madison Avenue Bus Lanes, namely the M1, M2, M3, M4, M30 (north of 57th St.) and Q32.

Express Buses

More than 25 express bus routes use the Madison Avenue Bus Lanes, as follows:

To the Bronx: BxM3, BxM4A, BxM4B, BxM6, BxM7, BxM7A, BxM7B, BxM9, BxM10, BxM11 and BxM18.
From Brooklyn: BM1, BM2, BM3, BM4, BM5, X27 and X28.

To or from Queens: QM21, X63, X64 and X68.
From Staten Island: X10 and X17C.

To White Plains: BxM4C.
To Spring Valley, N.Y.: Monsey Trails routes.

The route designations starting with an "X" are operated by MTA New York City Transit. The route to White Plains is operated by Westchester County's Bee-Line System. The remainder of the routes except for Monsey Trails routes are operated by the MTA Bus Company. There are other express bus routes that use this stretch of Madison Avenue only during the morning, when the bus lane regulations are not in effect.

Bus Stops

Given the large number of bus routes using Madison Avenue, there are bus stops at nearly every corner and often at mid-block locations. The existence of two bus lanes allows buses not stopping to continue forward past a bus that is receiving and discharging passengers.

References