The Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to remove a lane from Fourth Avenue in order to build a long-awaited elevator to the 86th Street subway station, but members of Community Board 10 say it will cause mayhem, because buses will have to swing out into oncoming traffic to make right-hand turns as a result.
“Taking away a lane on 86th Street is a whole big nightmare,” said community board member Nick Nikolopoulous. “The buses turning there is a big issue, and now the turn is going to get even wider. It’s going to increase accidents, it’s going to increase pedestrians struck, and it’s going to cause a nightmare for local residents.”
Transit officials presented the plan at Community Board 10’s Jan. 12 transportation committee meeting, saying the elevator would go in on the southeast corner of Fourth avenue and 86th Street (next to the S79 bus stop and Greek restaurant) and would require the city to bump out the sidewalk there into one lane of Fourth Avenue to accommodate the lift.
But Fourth Avenue bus drivers turning right onto 86th Street already have to swing out into oncoming traffic so they can make the turn without running over the curb — and narrowing the street will force drivers to cheat out even further into opposing traffic, potentially endangering drivers and pedestrians alike, according to Community Board 10’s district manager.
“When you have a bump-out, it requires a bus to make a larger swing around, and we’ve seen buses that have to cross the double yellow and have trouble with the turn now,” said Josephine Beckmann. “It is difficult. So the thought of taking away a parking lane — we’re just really concerned about the impact on pedestrian and vehicular safety. And yeah, you may be able to make a turn, but do they understand there is upwards of six buses converging to make a turn? It’s a really dangerous spot.”
In the last five years, there have been 21 car crashes at the intersection, six pedestrians were struck, and one was killed, according to city data. The crossing is a transportation hub, and the S79 and B1 use that corner to turn from Fourth Avenue onto 86th Street.
Transit officials were sympathetic to locals concerns, but said that eliminating the bump-out could also mean bumping the lift altogether.
“We’ll go back and find out what the options are, but saying that, it could have an impact on us getting an elevator at that station,” said authority rep Melissa Farley. “It’s not really an option for us to expand to other platforms or go to other corners. We took a lot of time with this, and to get the elevator in, this is what we need to do. We can certainly go back and talk to [the Department of Transportation] but trying to not have this bump-out could seriously impact getting an elevator at that station.”
The station has an entrance at 85th Street at Fourth Avenue, but the authority cannot put the elevators there because it is using space in that end of the station to house recently installed wifi equipment, according to a design manager with the authority’s transit division.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials will further discuss the plan with their bus division and the city’s Department of Transportation before coming back to the community board, reps said.
The authority is installing a non-controversial elevator on the other side of Fourth Avenue, as well. Construction will take 26 months, with the west-side elevator coming online at the end of the year and the controversial, east-side lift finished in the middle of 2018.