M14 Select Bus Service, busway needed at start of L train reconstruction, Manhattan BP says

Current view of 14th Street: markings for a L shutdown busway that appears to have been mothballed; a taped up SBS fare collector; and new no standing anytime signs that are easily ignored. Canarsie tunnel rehab starts next weekend, but SBS service won't. Photo Credit: Vincent Barone

The MTA is currently planning to roll out M14 Select Bus Service by June.

Current view of 14th Street: markings for a L shutdown busway that appears to have been mothballed; a taped up SBS fare collector; and new no standing anytime signs that are easily ignored. Canarsie tunnel rehab starts next weekend, but SBS service won't.
Current view of 14th Street: markings for a L shutdown busway that appears to have been mothballed; a taped up SBS fare collector; and new no standing anytime signs that are easily ignored. Canarsie tunnel rehab starts next weekend, but SBS service won’t. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The city needs better M14 bus service and 14th Street vehicle restrictions — even for the partial L train shutdown, according to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. 

Brewer penned a letter to MTA and City Department of Transportation officials dated Wednesday, April 17, calling for the agencies to roll out plans for M14 Select Bus Service and institute a “busway” of sorts along the corridor in time for the Canarsie tunnel reconstruction, beginning on the L line April 26.

The work, revised from the long-planned full shutdown of L service, will limit L service to one of two underwater tunnels during nights and weekends, when the MTA will run three trains per hour — a significant reduction in some cases. Brewer says that even though those reductions would take place during the off hours, the bus enhancements are necessary to keep some of the roughly 400,000 daily L riders moving. 

“While the revised ‘Alternate Service Plan’ for the L-train rehabilitation will carry many more riders than the initial version, we still need to plan for what will be an extensive undertaking that will inconvenience riders, especially on nights and weekends,” Brewer wrote, though she requests tweaks to both SBS and original busway plans. 

The MTA is currently planning to roll out M14 SBS by June, but the busway appears to have been mothballed after authority officials said they believed it would likely not be necessary under the new approach. The DOT has not responded to multiple inquiries asking about the status of the bus-only plans for the street with the partial L closure fewer than two weeks away. 

Originally, for the full closure of L service through Manhattan, the city planned to convert much of 14th Street into a bus-only corridor for 17 hours a day. Brewer believes the busway should still come, but with different hours of operation or with fewer vehicle restrictions.

“I took the M14 bus last weekend. It was way too slow — and this was before the L train slowdown has even started!” said Brewer in a statement. “Along with many New Yorkers, I’m so tired of hearing about and experiencing slow bus service. I just want the damn buses to move.”

The borough president also requested the MTA preserve local M14 service to run alongside M14 SBS — to satisfy elderly Lower East Side residents who do not want to see several local stops removed from the M14A route

MTA Transit president Andy Byford said after a board meeting Wednesday that running local and SBS service in tandem wouldn’t work. 

“You’d end up effectively with a bus jam there,” Byford said. “We will be increasing the service of the SBS. it will be very very frequent…what we’re aiming to do is to get people riding the buses more and get people back on to the bus and reinvest that addition revenue to further improve service.”

Maxwell Young, an MTA spokesman, said in a statement responding to the letter that "[the MTA is] moving forward with M14 SBS service as quickly as possible, and consolidating feedback from elected officials and the community with the goal of implementing SBS by June.”

Vincent Barone