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14th Street busway lawsuit costs riders a year’s time in traffic delays: advocates

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Transit advocates say bus riders have suffered 52 weeks worth of traffic delays because of the halted pilot program

A maroon painted busway on 14th Street with “Truck Bus Only” in white print over it. A double yellow line separates the two lanes in the street.
Bus and truck priority lanes on 14th Street the DOT painted in anticipation of the pilot program.
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The court-ordered delay on the city’s 14th Street busway pilot has cost commuters thousands of hours in travel time, transit advocates argue in court documents.

Rush-hour riders on crosstown 14th Street buses have spent 8,654 more hours, or 52 weeks, commuting over the last month than they would have if through traffic by private cars was banned from the traffic-clogged road, according to analysis by the nonprofits Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives.

The July 1 rollout for that plan was put on hold after a coalition of Manhattan neighbors sued to block the pilot, claiming it will spur “horrific traffic jams” and that such traffic “will bring with it air pollution and noise pollution.” In response to the suit, Judge Eileen Rakower green-lit a temporary injunction on the car ban that the city is fighting.

“Where petitioners allege irreparable harm sufficient to sustain a temporary restraining order, riders too face irreparable harm from continued slow and unreliable transit service and consequent lost family time, anxiety and frustration,” Danny Pearlstein with the Riders Alliance asserts in court documents filed Monday.

To calculate the time lost to New Yorkers, transit advocates used the MTA’s bus speed improvement projections of two to nine minutes and multiplied that potential time savings by the estimated 5,000 daily rush hour riders and the days since the car ban would have taken effect.

The dedicated bus and truck route was set to launch between Third and Ninth avenues from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily to accommodate the pilot during reconstruction work on the L train’s Canarsie Tunnel. Cars would still be able to make pick-ups and drop-offs, as well as access garages on the street, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT).

But west Manhattan neighbors argue in their suit that the city did not conduct the proper environmental review on how the reconfigured traffic flow will impact area streets. Arthur Schwartz, who represents the block associations and himself is a 12th Street resident, says the pilot will cause a swell of traffic spillover on to side streets with little mitigation.

“These are residential streets and they have to be treated like residential streets,” said Schwartz. The city and Schwartz are due back in court Tuesday morning.