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Judge rules 14th Street busway can roll out on August 12

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A judge has lifted a temporary order blocking the pilot program

Two white and blue M14D buses on 14th Street. Shutterstock

A state Supreme Court judge has lifted a temporary order blocking the city from rolling out its bedeviled 14th Street busway pilot.

Justice Eileen Rakoff ruled that the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) complied with state law that mandates the agency study the impact of banning private cars on the surrounding residential streets.

After reviewing documents from the city and the coalition of Manhattan residents petitioning the busway, Rankoff lifted the temporary restraining order that blocked the pilot’s July launch on Tuesday. DOT spokesperson Alana Morales says the agency is beginning work “immediately” and will launch the busway on Monday, August 12.

Transit advocates who have long called for the pilot program, which was originally timed to launch with work on the L train’s Canarsie Tunnel, praised the ruling as a “huge victory.”

“When riders organize, the whole city wins,” says Danny Pearlstein with the Riders Alliance. “The 14th Street busway will provide faster and more reliable bus trips, saving precious time for tens of thousands of people who badly need it.”

Others charge that the ruling sets a key precedent for other streets where residents seek to use the courts to “circumvent the democratic process in order to preserve the car-dominant status quo”— such as Central Park West where members of an Upper West Side condo board are suing to block a bike lane, says Marco Conner, the deputy director of Transportation Alternatives.

“[The ruling makes] clear that any argument that invokes environmental review standards to oppose treatments aimed at improving safety and mobility for transit riders and people on bikes is not only arbitrary and capricious, but also frivolous and regressive,” says Conner.

The decision is the result of a lawsuit filed by a coalition of Chelsea and Greenwich Village neighborhood block associations who argue that the city violated state environmental law by not conducting a proper review of how the busway will effect traffic on neighboring streets.

Tuesday’s ruling is undoubtably a win for the city, but Rakoff did not rule on the merits of the plaintiff’s case put forward by attorney and 12th Street resident Arthur Schwartz, who says the the bus and truck priority will push a tidal wave of cars onto sleepy side streets and clog the air with pollution.

The dedicated bus and truck route is planned for Third to Ninth avenues from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Cars will still be able to make pick-ups and drop-offs, as well as access garages on the street, says DOT.