For all the attention given to the myriad problems in the city’s subway system, not enough attention is paid to the equally woeful bus network citywide.
Notoriously slow and off schedule, the buses nonetheless serve as a vital transit link for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers each day. The MTA and city Transportation Department realize the problems facing the bus network and are doing things to try and speed them up.
Unfortunately, in certain instances, these efforts are facing backlash from community merchants and residents who say the prescribed cures for slow buses and street congestion are worse than the ailments.
With the MTA attempting to close 14th Street in Manhattan to all vehicular traffic except buses, and creating a bus lane along Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood, local groups have even taken the extreme measure of going to court to try and stop such plans.
A judge dismissed the case against the Ridgewood bus lane on Sept. 23, which was based by the litigants on the perception that removing parking and traffic lanes from Fresh Pond Road to better accommodate buses would harm business. It’s the same argument made for opponents of the 14th Street busway in Manhattan, whose case is currently pending.
Arthur Schwartz, who represents the 14th Street busway opponents, similarly represented the bus lane opponents in Queens. Knowing he and other opponents won’t back down, they might want to heed the words of Judge Joseph Esposito’s decision in the Queens case, in which he said that the detractors’ motive was primarily a fear of change.
With the L train undergoing serious reconstruction, and the streets of Manhattan filled with more cars and people than ever, more must be done to protect the street. In our view, during weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., 14th Street should be limited to bus traffic, emergency vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.
Business deliveries ought to be encouraged during late night and early morning hours when the street is least active.
The transportation situation in the city, especially with regard to buses, is untenable. To their credit, the de Blasio Administration is working with the MTA to figure out ways to speed the buses up to serve more people, and reverse the troubling downward trend in ridership as frustrated commuters turn to ride-sharing as a faster alternative.
Whether it’s the creation of restricted bus lanes, rerouting entire bus lines or expanding limited and Select Bus services, change needs to happen.
We’re choking on our own traffic, and if we can’t get to where we need to go, we will harm way more businesses and families than those living on a single street in any given neighborhood.
The city and MTA should always work with communities when implementing bus changes to make the transition process smooth. However, the time to just say “no” to every proposal needs to come to an end.
The city is at a transit breaking point. We need to work together to keep moving.