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Bronx Residents Eager to Get Back on the Subways

A Transit Authority employee stands guard in front of a subway station. (JIKA GONZALEZ/BronxInk)

Some of New York’s subways and Metro-North Railroad service will be reopened beginning Thursday, Nov. 1, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday.

That’s good news for Bronx commuters trying to get back to work. The announcement was made just 48 hours after Hurricane Sandy barreled through the area, causing an estimated $50 billion in damage, according to the Associated Press.

New York Metropolitan Transit Authority estimates that roughly 462,281 people pass through Bronx subway stations each day.  The borough is served by the 2, 4, 5, 6, B and D lines, along with a handful of Metro-North stations.  At 6 a.m. Thursday, trains operating above 39th Street in Manhattan are expected to have service partially restored. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced in a statement Tuesday that bus service would be free of charge until then, and ordered taxi cabs to pick up multiple passengers.

Although Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan acted quickly, the situation in most of New York on Wednesday was dismal for commuters. Buses running on Saturday schedules were crowded with passengers. Residents returning to their jobs Wednesday morning expressed helplessness at the situation.

“They’re crazy,” said one bus rider, Sonny. “If they really think we’ll put up with this kind of bus service for more than a week, you’re gonna have five million angry commuters.” That number represents weekday ridership, according to the Transportation Authority.

Most of the Bronx is connected by bus routes, particularly when residents go across the borough. Because bridge traffic causes bottlenecks, subway service brings commuters into Manhattan and to other boroughs much more quickly.

Fordham resident Bri Smith is usually one of these commuters, but today she had a different story. “I work all the way in Jamaica,” she said. “How can they expect me to get there without the subway running?”

“Hop on the Q60! It’ll take ya’ straight down Queens Boulevard!” replied a commuter at the bus stop on Fordham Road.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Joseph Lhota initially designated many elevated stations as fit for operation because they didn’t suffer flood damage. Most of the Bronx is served by elevated tracks, and Metro-North rails run above ground.

Cuomo expects service to be restored fully by next week, when water that filled the East River tunnels can be pumped out. Until then, people like Bri Smith must rely on bus service set up by the city and the Transportation Authority to get them beyond 34th Street.

Cuomo’s announcement was met with good feedback from commuters eager to return to normalcy. “People love to complain about the MTA,” says Frank Santinello, who has commuted to Manhattan from the Bronx for over two decades. “But a couple off days and suddenly they can’t live without it!”


Bronx subway service has resumed with limited operation above 34th Street. Map courtesy of the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Transportation0 Comments

For New York City Century Cyclists, the Bronx was Life in the Slow Lane

Buzzing freewheels, clicking gears, and the whirring of tires from roughly 7,000 bicycles echoed through the city in this year’s New York City Century Bike Tour on Sept. 9. Packs of riders sporting colorful spandex wove briskly through Brooklyn and Queens, but lamented that the Bronx portion of the route was poorly planned and clogged with pedestrian traffic.

The 100-mile loop has in some form or another been in use since Transportation Alternatives (TransAlt) started the ride in 1990. Starting in Central Park and weaving south into Brooklyn, the ride meanders down closed-off streets through Queens and into the Bronx, where it circles Van Cortlandt Park before heading back to Manhattan. Many stretches of this year’s route featured elements from the updated 2012 NYC Department of Transportation Bike Map, but also included riding through two simultaneous street fairs in the Fordham and Belmont sections of the Bronx.

When Manhattan resident and Century participant James Lim rode down 187th Street through Belmont, he stopped in confusion. The Ferragosto Street Fair on Arthur Avenue drew crowds that blocked that stretch of the route, so Lim was forced to get off of his bike and walk to get through. “I find if kind of strange that we have to ride through a street fair,” said Lim as he navigated the crowd.

The route continued down a closed 188th Street where cyclists ran into more crowd overflow from the Fordham Road Renaissance Festival. Fordham Heights residents said they were frustrated at the road closures for both the Century and the street fair, a frustration echoed by cyclists having to pass through pedestrian traffic despite police barricades.

On the NYC Century Facebook page, five participants in a feedback comment thread expressed discontent with obstacles in the Bronx leg of the route. One Bronx resident who said his name was Jerry Scheer said on Facebook that he was surprised the greenways in the Bronx were not part of the route.

Bronx resident and longtime cycling activist Rich Gans said in a Sept. 12 TransAlt Bronx Committee meeting that riders “saw what is possible in New York City today and glaringly absent in the Bronx.” Gans has been doing the Century since its first year, and said this year’s route was worse than last year’s.

Sharon De La Cruz, a Fordham resident and Century participant, had a similar take on the shortcomings. “I don’t blame them for not having a perfect way across the borough,” she said. “To be honest there is no perfect way.”

The Bronx boasts several miles of bicycle-only paths that TransAlt organizers did not include this year, although they have in the past. TransAlt volunteer coordinator Alanna Feinsod said most of the route planning is done in cooperation with the city to ensure closed roads and easier policing, and ride logistics often rely on this.

The ride is supposed to encourage more cycling in the city, so a high turnout and positive feedback are important. Elizabeth Hamby, a Bronx resident and co-founder of a weekly group ride through the borough called Boogie Down Rides, said this year’s ride wasn’t all bad. “People are getting out there and riding somewhere they haven’t before,” she said. “That’s all that matters.”

While TransAlt can’t help the less-than-ideal route conditions in the borough, response from riders and local community members could help improve next year’s route through the Bronx. Avoiding street fairs would be a good start.


The 100-mile route passes through several Bronx neighborhoods. including a rest stop at Van Cortlandt Park. Map courtesy of Transportation Alternatives.


Posted in Bronx Blog, Bronx Neighborhoods, North Central Bronx, Sports, The Bronx Beat, Transportation0 Comments