Restore the stops! Lawsuit filed over M14 bus changes

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | The attorney responsible for the, at least, temporary stalling of the 14th St. busway plan, Arthur Schwartz, has also filed a lawsuit to restore bus stops removed from the M14 bus route. 

The lawsuit, which is being brought by the 504 Democratic Club and Disabled in Action, argues that the removal of the 12 stops causes an excessive burden for residents with disabilities.

Michael Schweinsburg, president of the 504 Democratic Club, left, stood in support with attorney Arthur Schwartz, right, who filed a lawsuit this week for the reinstatement of one dozen recently removed M14 bus stops. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

During a press conference on Wed., Aug. 14, at the corner of 14th St. and Fifth Ave., near a former M14 bus stop, Schwartz called the stops “critical” and added that “under the city’s Human Rights Law,” the city should accommodate the needs of people with disabilities. 

“In their request for speed, the M.T.A. and New York City Transit, in its usual manner, has once again forgotten about the needs of people with disabilities and the elderly,” Schwartz said.

Michael Schweinsburg, the president of the 504 Democratic Club — a political club whose members are disabled — called the plan a “disaster” for people with with disabilities, seniors and low-income residents.

Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced its plan to remove 14 stops on the M14A and D bus routes and switch all the buses to Select Bus Service, in order to boost the route’s notoriously slow speed. According to an M.T.A. study, the M14A/D is the city’s second-slowest bus route and the second most heavily used, with an average of 27,000 riders daily. 

A map of the M14A / D bus routes. (Courtesy M.T.A.)

But after outcry from residents with disabilities and the elderly, two stops, at Grand St. and Pitt St., were restored. 

The M.T.A is standing its ground on the bus-stop removals, arguing that the S.B.S system helps all riders.

“We will defend against this lawsuit vigorously on behalf of bus riders, who deserve a modern and reliable service that moves people efficiently,” said Tim Minton, M.T.A. communications director. “Rider advocates observe that it can be faster to walk than take the bus — we’re fixing that. The bus system is fully accessible and far better for the environment than driving in private cars and taxis.”

According to an M.T.A. spokesperson, the city’s bus stops are, on average, 750 feet apart, a shorter distance than in most other cities, with nearly half being closer together than 750 feet.

But many of the press conference’s attendees stated that the distance between the bus stops is too great, whether for those on foot or in wheelchairs.

Schwartz is also currently representing Village and Chelsea block associations in a separate lawsuit calling for the 14th St. busway project to be scrapped.

Last Fri., Aug 9, the Village attorney filed an appeal that successfully stalled the busway. Under the busway, only buses, three-axle trucks and emergency vehicles would be allowed to use 14th St. between Third and Ninth Aves. as a through street between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Opponents fear that closing the street to cars, vans and small trucks would force vehicles onto neighborhood side streets, causing congestion, noise, air pollution and vibrations from excessive traffic, among other problems.

More from around NYC