With a little over 48 hours to go until the L train “slowdown” begins, the city has finally revealed how it plans to deal with surface transit on 14th Street—and, much to the relief of transit advocates and M14 riders, a dedicated bus throughway will be a part of the plan.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that buses, trucks, and emergency vehicles—not private cars—will be given priority on 14th Street from Third to Ninth avenues, the same stretch that had been pitched for a dedicated “busway” under the original L train shutdown mitigation plan.
Here’s how it’ll work: There will be four lanes of traffic (two in each direction), with a new M14 Select Bus Service and trucks given full run of the center lanes. Private cars will still be able to use the street, but only for pick-ups and drop-offs, or if they need to access garages along the thoroughfare. There will be new rules put in place to ensure that cars don’t linger and that they exit 14th Street (via right turns only) as soon as possible. There will also be pedestrian improvements, such as curb extensions and a shared street on University Place.
According to a release from the city, automated cameras will be deployed to help ensure that the new regulations are followed, though enforcement “will not begin until at least 60 days after the new SBS route is established.”
And while this is tied to the larger L train shutdown plans, these new measures won’t be rolled out until the MTA launches that 14th Street SBS route—which isn’t due to happen until June.
The city says this is a pilot program inspired by similar measures undertaken in other municipalities, including King Street in Toronto. There, a transit- and pedestrian-priority pilot has helped increase ridership on transit while shaving time off of commutes, according to Streetsblog.
“We have an opportunity to try something new and really get bus riders moving on one of our busiest streets,” de Blasio said in a statement. “As we continue to address congestion across New York City, this is an experiment that, if successful, could provide us another tool to move buses faster and save people valuable time for the things that matter.”
The plan also has good news for cyclists: The bikes lanes that were added to 12th and 13th streets will remain, and the DOT will also ensure that a protected lane on Grand Street in Brooklyn will be fully implemented. In both areas, the city will work to add loading zones as well.
Transit advocates, who have been sounding the alarm on the lack of clarity over the city’s plans for surface transit on 14th Street, cheered the city’s decision.
”The 14th Street busway is a bold, historic step forward for New York,” Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance said in a statement. “Putting riders first when the L train slows down shows real commitment to transit by City leaders.”
Thomas DeVito, the senior director of advocacy for Transportation Alternatives, called the plan “ambitious” and “cutting edge” in a statement. “By making transit and freight the top priority, tens of thousands of commuters will be able to get to where they’re going, and local businesses will be able to receive deliveries, more efficiently than ever before,” he continued. “Mayor de Blasio deserves applause for listening to the concerns of the transit-riding majority … and for standing up for New Yorkers who have been clamoring for serious alternatives to the L Train.”
“The L train ‘slowdown’ threatens to be a slow-motion crisis for hundreds of thousands of daily L train riders,” Nick Sifuentes, executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said in a statement. “Making 14th Street a bus-priority street closed to non-local traffic will mean buses can play a huge role in picking up the slack when the L train is down.”