D.O.T. still pushing ‘busway’ for 14th St.


BY RICO BURNEY | The first of four “open houses” on the impending L-train “slowdown” was held in the Village last Thursday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Department of Transportation jointly sponsored the March 7 event, held at the Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Bernard Church, on 14th St. between Eighth and Ninth Aves.

The evening covered most aspects of what the M.T.A. dubs the “L Project.” But the unveiling of D.O.T.’s proposals for 14th St. bus service during the slowdown was what most attendees were focused on.

Before the March 7 open house about the impending L train “slowdown” and plans for 14th St., supporters of the new crosstown bike lanes on 12th and 13th Sts. rode across 13th St. from the East Village to Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Bernard, on W. 14th St. (Photo by Rico Burney)

D.O.T. is currently weighing two options regarding the design of 14th St. The first is to go forward with the original “busway” plan, which would effectively ban most non-bus traffic on 14th St. The second would be to install dedicated bus lanes similar to those on 23rd St. and leave one lane in each direction for private vehicles.

D.O.T. representatives argue that the busway has the potential to move more buses along the street more quickly than the other plan; would preserve a limited amount of parking; and would benefit pedestrians due to the extra space provided by curb extensions and bus-boarding areas.

Outside the open house on W. 14th St., “busway” advocates accused Mayor de Blasio of turning a blind eye to the issue of slow buses on the crosstown thoroughfare. De Blasio recently come out saying he no longer supports a no-cars busway for 14th St. (Photo by Rico Burney)

The second option’s benefits, according to D.O.T., include allowing private vehicles to continue to use the street and decreasing the risk of side streets becoming congested. But they also point out that there would be fewer parking and loading spaces under this design.

D.O.T.’s continued pitch of its busway proposal contradicts earlier reports that the plan was “dead” as a result of the scuttling of the full L-train shutdown, plus dwindling support for it from local politicians. But D.O.T.’s assertion that the busway would introduce a “complicated traffic pattern that may divert through traffic to other crosstown streets” is notable because D.O.T. officials previously maintained that a busway scenario would result in less congestion over all.

Other proposals for 14th St. include plans to increase M14A service on weekends and eliminate the regular M14 once M14 Select Bus Service begins operation. This would potentially eliminate roughly every other stop in the East Village and Lower East Side, plus move the M14A’s western layover area from Abingdon Square to west of 10th Ave. The M.T.A. and D.O.T. plan to aim to have SBS buses running by June.

At the open house, attendees were invited to fill out comment cards to share their views on the future of 14th St., plus their thoughts on the L-train slowdown and its impacts. (Photo by Rico Burney)

Attendees were divided on the busway and other aspects of the L project.

Many of those advocating for the busway and other aspects of the plan, such as keeping the new crosstown bike lanes on 12th and 13th Sts., participated in a “bike train” prior to the open house. Organized by Transportation Alternatives, around 60 people biked in a convoy from First Ave. and E. 13th St. to the church, on the edge of the Meatpacking District.

“The buses are so slow, they are almost useless,” said East Villager Sean Adair, who participated in the “train.” “My main reason for being here is to push for safer streets and practical, effective transit options for today’s urban environment.”

A large poster board on an easel laid out the differences between using the “busway” markings that were added to the street in anticipation of the now-aborted L-train shutdown versus dedicated bus lanes. (Photo by Rico Burney)

Other residents, on the contrary, argue that both plans are just more of what they see as D.O.T. not adequately addressing many of the concerns of local residents and businesses.

“Their agenda was to use the shutdown as a subterfuge to make major changes,” said David Marcus, a founder of the 14th St. Coalition, which opposes much of the original plan, as well as the current proposals. “The shutdown is no longer happening, and the commuters’ need for alternative service is eliminated. These plans should be withdrawn,” he declared.

Some politicians have called on D.O.T. to consider alternatives, such as a protected bus lane.

“I support getting protected SBS lanes, which would be more effective and revolutionary,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told WNYC on Mon., March 11. “The key here is protection,” he added. “Cones would be replaced by flexible bollards during the entire day. Also, having a dedicated lane for deliveries would prevent deliveries in the bus lane.”

Another Manhattan open house will is scheduled for Mon., April 8, at the 14th St. Y, at 344 E. 14th St., from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.