Fulton Street runs the east-west length of Brooklyn, from the Queens frontier where it begins as modest 91st Avenue until it hits a kink in Brooklyn Heights and becomes Joralemon Street a few blocks before it empties in Brooklyn Bridge Park. You can’t get from one to the other without switching from the B25 bus to the J/Z subway on Alabama Avenue; the whole length is about seven miles end to end.
In 2004 the New York City Department of Transportation installed bus lanes on Fulton Street between South Oxford Street and Flatbush Avenue in order to facilitate faster travel times for the bus routes that operate in the corridor. Then-commissioner Iris Weinshall (wife of Senator Charles Schumer) prioritized traffic flow during her tenure and saw the installation of “peak direction” bus lanes as the most effective route to harmonizing movement on congested routes. The logic behind the more flexible iteration of bus routes doesn’t take a doctorate in transportation planning to understand: more people are going towards the city in the morning and away in the afternoon, so dedicated transit lanes should reflect those preferences. Travel times decreased by 12% along the affected corridors, leading to extensions past Flatbush avenue in 2010 and the creation of the Fulton Mall transit center. There may be gripes among drivers but transit ridership in the on the rise, and NYC DOT has completely rehabilitated its image from corrupt bureaucracy to administrative talisman. Polls show that most New Yorkers think the DOT is uncannily attuned to their needs, from bike lanes to safety programs. Transportation planning has become improbably trendy.
If I were writing a 5,000 word essay on the genesis of the modern bus lane and how it’s propelled transportation planning into an era of incremental pragmatism, that’s exactly how it would begin. But even with an audience of dedicated transit and planning enthusiasts I’m not sure how much the topic would actually stick. Invention is only interesting in its novelty or re-purposing, and painting a white line down a busy stretch of asphalt doesn’t satisfy either test. Surveying violations is only marginally more interesting, mostly because it gives you an idea of what drivers do when they think no one of consequence is watching.
It’s pretty fucking terrifying.