Redesigned Broadway “bus bulbs” approved

Bus bulb in SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District. Photo: CityLand.

Existing bus bulbs, installed in 2007, impeded pedestrian and handicapped access. On September 8, 2009, Landmarks heard testimony on the Department of Transportation’s proposal to redesign two bus stop curb extensions, referred to as “bus bulbs,” along Broadway in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District. DOT installed the bus bulbs in 2007 to facilitate the movement of transit buses by eliminating the need for buses to pull in and out of the moving lane of traffic to pick up passengers. The concrete bulbs are separated from the sidewalk by a drainage channel, with iron fencing along the bulb’s edge to prevent people from tripping on the uncovered channel.

At the hearing, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan stated that certain aspects of the original design have become an “eyesore” and characterized the proposal as a remediation project. She pointed out that the fencing had proven to be an impediment to pedestrian access, noting that it is difficult for handicapped passengers to navigate the bulbs and that there have also been drainage problems related to the uncovered channels.

Simon Kristak, from Billings Jackson Design, testified that the new design included covering the drainage channels with grates and replacing the fencing with cast aluminum, perforated benches. The drainage grates would be designed to flip open, allowing access for cleaning, and could be securely bolted down at other times. Kristak said the design changes would permit seamless pedestrian access.

Commissioners generally responded positively to the proposal. Commissioner Pablo Vengoechea asked if DOT considered designing more site-specific benches, and Sadik-Khan said the current priority was to “correct poor design,” and that DOT would possibly consider different benches at a later time. She also said that it was cost-prohibitive to use non-standardized designs. Commissioner Libby Ryan declared the new design a “utilitarian solution to a utilitarian problem.”

Chair Robert B. Tierney found the revised design appropriate and led the Commission in unanimously approving the advisory report.

LPC: Broadway, Manhattan (Advisory Report #10-1727) (Sept. 8, 2009).

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