Bronx Mass Transit Improvements for the Present

#5 Train at East 180th Street
By Tek Ocean Shores (8/4/09)

The following is a guest article by John Rozankowski, PhD

In January, an article appeared in this blog which encouraged a mass transit enhancement that can be done “NOW.”  It proposed that the #5 train run at night, a change which would spare riders from Manhattan to the Bronx two or more transfers.1 I wholeheartedly support this idea adding that even more can be done for the #5 and other lines to improve Bronx mass transit dramatically.

What the above article does not address is whether the #5 at night be an express or local.  I feel that it should be an express.  There are 36 stations between Bowling Green and Baychester Avenue and 37 stations between Bowling Green and Gun Hill Road (White Plains Road) plus a transfer to the #2.  This makes for a miserable ride especially if an additional transfer to a bus is included.  With both the #4 and #6 running as night-time locals, the #5 should be an express. It would cut the ride by 14 stations.

More can be done for the #5 during the daytime:

—The #5 to East 238th Street/Nereid Avenue should be given its own number and run all day as an express in the direction of heavy travel i.e. to Manhattan AM and from Manhattan PM with a reversal time of 12:30 PM.  This would provide White Plains Road riders a faster one seat ride to the East Side.  This new line could terminate at New Lots Avenue giving those riders direct East Side service as well.

—The #5 express (6:00-9:00 AM & 4:00-7:00 PM) on both branches should be extended until 9 PM.  Likewise, during mid-days, some #5’s from Dyre could run express.  Some should continue to run local so riders between East 180th Street and 3rd Avenue would not be deprived of an existing service.

Enhancements for Other Bronx Lines

—D Bronx Express (6:30-9:00 AM & 3:30-6:30 PM). The PM run should be extended until 9:00 PM.

In addition, there is enough capacity on the D to add a new line which would run, along with the D to 59th Street.  At this point, it would continue via the A line to Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station and downtown Manhattan.  No longer would Bronx riders have to switch to the A or C and the dwelling time of trains at the transfer stations would be reduced.  This line would run directly to Rockaway Park relieving some transfers there.

—#1 Broadway.  There are 16 stops between 242nd Street and 96th Street.  5 stations downtown and 6 stations uptown can be skipped thanks to a middle track while 157th Street and 145th Street (downtown) can be bypassed on the local track to establish an express from 96th St. to the heavily used 168th Street and 181st Street stations.

The MTA recognized the problem and tried to deal with it with the #1/#9 skip-stop service, north of 137th St. (1989-2005).  The time saved was minimal with trains having to slow down almost to a stop at bypassed stations for safety reasons.  The far bigger problem was that the skip/stop destroyed the connectivity between stations.  For example, no one could travel from West 225th Street (#9) to Dyckman Street station (#1) without first diverting to West 242nd Street to switch trains.  The express service outlined above and preferred to the skip-stop by residents would not create connectivity problems, would be faster and more effective.

—#4 Jerome.  This line is jammed at all hours and cries for all-day express service in the direction of heavy travel.  The express should run from Burnside Avenue to 149th St.  Since the #4 is at capacity during peak hours, headways at the bypassed stations can be increased by one minute from four to five minutes.  Three express trains would be created at twenty minute intervals.  The number of expresses could rise after the peak.

This line had two Bronx express pilot programs in 2009.  Absolutely obsessed with demonstrating time-savings, the pilots had express trains by-pass the very busy Kingsbridge Road and Fordham Road stations.  By running express from Burnside Avenue, the train would have more riders and provide emptier locals for those boarding south of Burnside Avenue.

Let’s Not Forget the Buses

A prime mass transit mobility problem in the Bronx is traveling crosstown.  Today only the SBS12 does this in a timely fashion.  On other lines, the ride is agonizingly and unnecessarily slow.  What’s needed is not more SBS (Select Bus Service) which is costly and disrupts traffic but more Limited Bus Service.  The following lines need it desperately (proceeding south to north):

—BX6 (Riverside Drive to Food Center Drive);
—BX36 (George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal to Randall Avenue) Limited Service exists but should be made all-day;
—BX40/BX42 (Sedgwick Avenue to Throg’s Neck) Throg’s Neck is an absolute transit desert.  At just about every MTA Bronx public hearing, someone asked for Limited Bus service on these routes.  It takes over an hour to get from the Concourse to Randall Avenue;
—BX26 (Bedford Park to Co-op City) As noted in my previous article, Co-op City is another  transit desert with around 40,000 inhabitants, who would get a faster connection to any Bronx subway.

All-day Limited Stop service on just these four bus lines plus the 12SBS would go a long way to solve the Bronx crosstown problem.

Only You Can Make It Happen

It is often said, with considerable merit, that the MTA favors Manhattan and wealthy neighborhoods.  One thing must be said about the residents of those wealthy neighborhoods: they tenaciously fight for their interests.  Residents, primarily from the Upper East Side banded together under the C. Virginia Fields Second Avenue Subway Task Force and relentlessly campaigned for the 2nd Avenue subway for almost a decade.

Recently, the people of the Rockaways fought for and won a Ferry Service from Rockaway Park to Downtown Manhattan and are organizing under the Queens Public Transit Committee to campaign for mass transit service improvements in Queens.

In the Bronx, we must do the same thing.  I was very gratified that so many of you voted affirmatively in the poll requesting that Bronx Borough President Diaz call together a Task Force on Bronx Mass Transit.  One major consequence of the Task Force is that it would bring civic activists with an interest in mass transit together from all over the Bronx.   This group would have the authority to speak for the entire borough in advocating mass transit improvements.


1 The article requests a resumption of the #5 train at night.  In fact, the #5 never ran at night from its inception on August 1, 1918, when it was called the Lexington Avenue/White Plains Road Express. (The number system was introduced in 1948).  At night in 2008, the MTA extended it to 149th St. Grand Concourse on cold winter days.  As an intermediate step, this should be done year-round as it would spare #5 riders a transfer at East 180th St.

Originally, the #5 ran to White Plains Road with both express and local services while the #2 ran to East 180th St. and then to Dyre Avenue.  The switch was made on April 18, 1965.  The #5 from East 238th Street/Nereid Avenue is a remnant of this service and does an excellent job in reducing the number of transfers from the #2 to the #5 at East 180th Street.

About John Rozankowski, PhD

Although born in Brooklyn, John Rozankowski, PhD spent most of his life in the Bronx and received his Ph.D. in history from Fordham University at Rose Hill.

After selling his rental property, John became a community activist fighting against the new Yankee Stadium, the term limit extension, the Kingsbridge Armory Shops-in-the-Armory proposal and for Bronx Borough President Reuben Diaz’s living wage campaign.  Last year, he was a volunteer in the Letitia James for Public Advocate campaign and continues to campaign in Queens for the reactivation of the Rockaway line.

John has a very strong interest in mass transit issues especially relating to the subways and buses.  The outer boroughs have always been shafted and it’s high time that Bronxites did something about it.

In addition, he is a writer and blogger on New York City issues.”

Dr Rozankowski has lived in the Bronx for 58 years and currently resides in the Bedford Park neighborhood of the Bronx.


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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.