With the 14th Street Busway apparently “sailing along,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the city should look at closing off car traffic along two other main Manhattan thoroughfares: 34th and 42nd Streets.
During an interview on WNYC’s “Speak to the Speaker” on Monday, Johnson, who was previously skeptical of the measure at 14th Street, touted the success of the new busway, which was implemented on Oct. 3.
He said that the busway has been a “raving success” and “something to build on, and hopefully be a model for other places in New York City.”
On Oct. 17, the MTA said there had already been a 17 percent increase in average weekday M14 ridership — from 26,350 riders to 31,031 — when comparing the first eight weekdays of busway operations to figures September of 2018. The increase can also be attributed to the L train “slowdown” and launch of SBS service, which took effect earlier this year, according to MTA Transit President Andy Byford.
“People are calling it the ‘Miracle on 14th Street,'” Johnson said on WNYC. “When was last time you heard anyone rave about getting on a bus and going across town quickly? You could walk across town and it’d be faster than taking the 14th Street crosstown bus, in the past.”
Johnson said that the city is working with Gridlock Sam Schwartz to get even more data to see how it can be improved further, but added that major thoroughfares like 34th and 42nd streets should be looked at for busways, too.
He added that he was wary of the busway in the beginning because traffic had to be rerouted on 17th Street, between Seventh and Eighth avenues, due to a fire three years ago, and for two months the streets “were like parking lots during that time.”
“I was skeptical, but I was wrong,” Johnson admitted on the show.
The busway was conceived during the now-scrapped full L train shutdown and was slated to launch on July 1, but was delayed by legal challenges from block associations in the wealthy neighborhoods lining 14th Street. Residents filed a last-minute lawsuit before the launch, effectively delaying the project by more than a month until a judge struck down the petition.
Plaintiffs initially failed in arguing the same safety concerns that Johnson voiced and that the project required an environmental review and special consideration for the surrounding historic neighborhoods. But as the city moved to implement the busway, those residents again filed a last-minute appeal to hold up the project further. The appeal is still pending.
But Johnson said the congestion that was expected just isn’t there.
“The future of New York City is how we move people around,” he added. “The number one thing we need to do is we need to invest in and make mass transit reliable and safe for New Yorkers who take the subway. If we get cars off the road in Brooklyn and Manhattan, it will make it easier for people to get into Manhattan if there is less congestion. We need a wholistic way to improve the entire system for all people — to improve your commute time and try to have sensible plan on how we move people around.”
With reporting by Vincent Barone.