Government credibility and integrity is an enormous issue right now. So it’s puzzling and concerning to see what has been going on with the plans for 14th St.
In short, process matters. So does buy-in by the community and respect for the community.
It’s not even a question of whether we are in favor of the Transit/Truck Priority lanes. Really, it’s this process that has been, frankly, bizarre.
When the sky was falling and the “L-pocalypse” was coming, and everything was going to be utterly “unprecedented, unprecedented, unprecedented” — did we mention, “unprecedented?” — we were told that a no-cars “busway” was needed on 14th St. because, with the L train out of service, tens of thousands of displaced straphangers would be stranded on the major crosstown boulevard and would have to get across town and/or connect to other transit.
Then, earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo shocked everyone by saying the L-train “shutdown” would only be a “slowdown.” It appeared Andy Byford, head of the New York City Transit Authority, threw in the towel on the busway, as did Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
But recently, the plan was resurrected, though with a few changes. The Truck/Transit Priority lanes would be an 18-month-long pilot plan. Though, as one member of the 14th St. Coalition put it, usually a pilot is maybe three months. Eighteen months sounds like something that is being positioned to be permanent.
The reason for the T.P.P. plan, we’re now told? The buses on 14th St. are just, well, too slow.
Locals suspect there is more to it: that turning 14th St. into a corridor for faster-moving buses (though there will be trucks in their way now in a single lane) is about two things, “tourism and Google.” Tourism meaning getting people to the High Line, to the Whitney Museum, eventually to Pier 55, Barry Diller’s art pier. And Google meaning the tech giant will have offices at Pier 57 and already has a solid line of buildings stretching across 15th and 16th Sts. from Eighth Ave. to the pier. But the L train stops at Eighth Ave.
The implementation of Select Bus Service — and dropping the Abingdon Square loop — is a huge issue for West Village seniors. Cutting the number of stops on the M14A on the Lower East Side is another nightmare for seniors, though a couple of stops have now been restored.
Then there are the bike lanes on 12th and 13th Sts. Honestly, it is much safer biking in them than the narrow ones on 9th and 10th Sts. That said, they take up so much of the side streets. These lanes were put in for the “L-pocalypse,” allegedly temporarily. Now they’re permanent.
In short, the city is throwing a lot at this community. It just all feels very cynical and dishonest, in a certain way. Basically, the city wants to do what it wants to do, and residents be damned.
So the city is determined to make 14th St. an “experiment.” Residents fear, understandably, that their side streets will be flooded with spillover car traffic.
As for why the buses are losing ridership and are so slow on 14th St., let’s be real, we know the reason: the explosion of ride-hail app cars, like Uber, Lyft, Via, etc., which the city let spiral out of control. On a positive note, Citi Bike is also cutting into bus ridership. Let’s cut the dissembling already. Just give it to us straight.