BY CHRIS SAUER | I live on 15th St., and I have to say that I’m frustrated and a bit embarrassed by the uproar that I’m seeing from some of my neighbors over the idea of a 14th St. devoted to moving buses and freight. I write because I want to make clear that not everyone in the neighborhood is unhappy with the mayor’s announcement. The mayor says he wants to try to get people moving. Is that really objectionable?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the fear that some of these folks are expressing. I don’t want to experience any more traffic than I already do. I’m also sure most New Yorkers feel the same, no matter where they live.
Traffic sucks, but the problem is cars, not better infrastructure for buses. There’s nothing “drastic” about efficiently using our public space. The real threat to our neigborhoods from the L-train upheaval is an increased number of single-occupancy vehicles roaming the streets as more New Yorkers take taxis, Ubers and Lyfts to their destinations.
Reliable, frequent and quick-moving bus service will reduce the number of vehicles on our streets, making them safer, quieter, less polluted — more of a neighborhood and less of a highway. I want fewer cars on our streets not more.
To my eyes, the for-hire vehicle companies were out in force on the first weekend of the L-train slowdown, driving — apparently — thousands of more people into Manhattan by car. Those for-hire vehicles ended up on my block, and the blocks of my neighbors, in huge numbers. I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed a marked uptick in traffic.
New York City is increasingly stratifying along economic lines and that is reflected in the failure of our public transportation system. We’ve allowed our subways and buses to fail, and those with enough expendable income have been able to cushion the blow by resorting to for-hire vehicles. We need to reverse that dynamic, and that requires dramatic improvements to public transit.
In the fairest big city in America, you shouldn’t have to be rich to have a reliable way to get around. The 14th St. bus and freight corridor is a revolution in favor of working New Yorkers who take buses.
This is why we should support the plan for 14th St.: It will make our lives easier going forward, and it marks a serious attempt by the city to keep surface-level transit working, free from the constant competition of double-parkers “just grabbing a cup of coffee.”
Bus priority goes a long way toward solving the immediate crisis of the L-train slowdown, as well as the longer-term crisis of second-rate transit that repels riders and brings unnecessary traffic into our neighborhoods.
Most people know that being progressive in this situation means taking a stand for improving public transportation, for the duration of the slowdown and beyond.