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The Jay Street bus lane will remain permanently on the busy thoroughfare in Downtown Brooklyn after a year-long trial, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday.
“Downtown Brooklyn deserves better bus service, and the Jay Street bus lane has already improved commuting for thousands of residents, workers and students who rely on it every day,” de Blasio said in a Nov. 19 statement. “It’s time to make it permanent – and build on these advances to make public transport faster, safer and more reliable for riders in every municipality.”
The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) launched the Jay Street busway in August 2020, banning through traffic of private cars on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the 0.4-mile stretch from Tillary to Livingston Streets.
Bus speeds rose by a staggering 47% in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, but are starting to slow again compared to a peak in 2020 as more drivers returned to the business district, according to one October presentation by DOT to local neighborhood and business representatives known as the Community Advisory Board.
Bus speeds have fallen to slow average of 7.9 miles per hour over the Five Boroughs in October, detailed recent statistics from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The bus lane serves some 47,000 straphangers across seven bus routes operated by the state-controlled MTA, including the B26, B54, B57, B61, B62, B65 and B67.
“We are transforming Downtown Brooklyn, taking cars out of the picture and focusing on our future with sustainable transportation, transit and cycling,” DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman said in a statement.
Jay Street is also an important link to the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges for cyclists pedaling the East River, which became even more important when the DOT opened the new Brooklyn Bridge bicycle lane in September.
According to the DOT presentation, the amount of car traffic that has spilled over to the surrounding streets is “minimal” as a result of the bus lane.
Local cars are still allowed, but drivers must enter Jay Street from side streets and there are cameras at both ends of the bus lane to catch spotters.
DOT imposed an average of 60 fines per day in August, according to the agency, but the area remains hotspot of illegal parking, including employees of many government headquarters and courts who misuse their official placards to park, DOT acknowledged in its presentation last month and said “enforcement challenges remain.”
In fact, the NYPD has illegally parked at least one police car on the north side of the red-painted bus lane outside MetroTech Center, so regularly that it’s featured in DOT’s own images released as part of the announcement.
Jay Street was the first new bus lane pilot the city installed as part of five Mayor Bill de Blasio promised in summer 2020 after the success of the 14th Street busway in Manhattan a year earlier.
The city’s original bus lane – even if it doesn’t carry that label – is just around the corner from the Fulton Mall, where traffic has been restricted in favor of buses since the 1980s, when city officials changed the bus-only corridor to breathe new life into the neighborhood and give the shopping street a boost.
Four of the pilots Hizzoner promised during the pandemic have materialized, including on 181st Street in Washington Heights; Main Street in Flushing, Queens; and most recently, Jamaica and Archer Avenues in downtown Jamaica, Queens.
The proposed Fifth Avenue bus lane hit roadblocks several times over the past year, with DOT . first to water down one’s own proposal in the face of opposition from luxury corporate interests along the iconic street, then punting it until after the holidays and after de Blasio leaves his office, Streetsblog reported.