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City works to refine plans for bus-truck priority on 14th Street

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Transit officials are fine-tuning the plan set to roll out in June

Buses on 14th Street
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A week after the city announced it is moving ahead with a bus and truck throughway on 14th Street, finer points of the plan are trickling in, but the Department of Transportation (DOT) is still grappling with crucial components of the restricted corridor.

In April, the de Blasio administration finally revealed its plans to deal with 14th Street during the L train slowdown, opting to ban private cars on 14th Street between Third and Ninth avenues as part of an 18-month pilot program to speed up buses. Under the new plan, two lanes in each direction will be dedicated to bus and truck traffic while the curbside lanes will be for truck loading, pedestrian pick-up and drop-offs, and for garage access. DOT expects to roll out the changes in June.

But at a Thursday Manhattan Community Board 2 transportation committee meeting, DOT reps told locals that they’re still hashing out exactly how long the restrictions will last each day—the original proposal planned for 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week—where all the designated pick up and drop off areas will be, and exactly how much loading time commercial vehicles will be given.

The proposed reconfiguration for 14th Street.
Department of Transportation

DOT is working to “align as best we can [pick up and drop off areas] with the residential buildings” and says time for commercial loading may range from a half hour to an hour, according to transportation reps at Thursday’s committee meeting. And the hours in which those restrictions are in place may be shorter than originally proposed.

“There has not been a decision yet on the hours,” said Ed Pincar, DOT’s Manhattan borough commissioner. “It’s entirely possible that we’re going to shorten those hours.”

Private cars on 14th Street, for an allowable reason like making a drop off, must turn right off the street at the next available turn. Left turns will be restricted. Turning bays will also be added at certain intersections to get those private cars off the road as quickly as possible.

“To accommodate these right turning vehicles, to make sure they are moving out of the way of the buses and the through trucks can get through in a highly efficient fashion, we are adding turn bays where we’ve seen potential for congestion at busy turns either from high vehicle volumes making the turn or just high pedestrians crossings at the intersection,” said Jeff Peel, a project manager with the Department of Transportation.

Turn restrictions on 14th Street.
Department of Transportation

Cameras will be deployed and violations issued against vehicles that do not turn, after a 60 day warning period. The NYPD will also maintain a presence on 14th Street to enforce the new rules.

While pedestrian improvements and curb extensions will still take place, new pedestrian spaces that were planned for the original busway were nixed to allow for greater curb access for those pick-ups and drop-offs.

“Should the curb be full and a taxi need to pick you up, an access a ride need to pull over and drop off a passenger going to a doctors appointment, they can do that without blocking the one remaining throughway,” said Peel.

DOT is in the midst of developing a plan to monitor 14th Street and relay that information back to the community. Tweaks will be made if needed. One aspect transit reps are curious to see how it unfolds, is if the truck priority will actually work to induce demand and lure more vehicles.

“That is probably the biggest question I have about what we’re doing and one of things I want to monitor and look at throughout this pilot,” said Peel.