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MTA mulls ‘car-free busway’ in Union Square during L train shutdown

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The MTA and DOT officials presented four possible options at a recent public presentation

The Department of Transportation and the MTA are still finalizing the ways in which they’ll mitigate the sure-to-be terrible side effects of the fast-approaching 15-month L train shutdown. At a recent meeting for Manhattan Community Board 6, officials from the agencies presented four possible options to convert Union Square into a “car-free busway,” according to Streetsblog NYC.

Those options are:

  • standard Select Bus Service along 14th Street
  • enhanced Select Bus Service that includes additional turn and curb restrictions
  • a car-free busway in the middle lanes along 14th Street
  • closing 14th Street to cars altogether for a busway

The MTA already plans to add 200 diesel buses to its fleet for these additional trips, much to the dismay of eco-conscious lawmakers who are urging the agency to invest in hybrid or electric buses instead.

Officials also outlined potential routes for these shuttle buses during the shutdown, one of which would follow the path of the L train from the Grand Street stop, crossing the Williamsburg Bridge, then traveling up First Avenue to 14th Street and back down Second Avenue (which is quite a change from the straight shot that L riders normally experience). It’s expected that roughly five to 15 percent of displaced L train riders will rely on bus service during the shutdown.

But as Streetsblog points out, if only five percent of L train riders use buses during the shutdown, that could be “highly problematic”; nearby subway stops along the J/M/Z and G lines are anticipating bigger crowds, and if they get unbearably congested, “access to some trains and stations during the busiest commute times would have to be limited and controlled,” per Streetsblog. (And who knows how that will look?)

The city is hoping that by finding an “attractive” method of bus service, they can prevent more problems for the failing subway system.