By Maria Rocha-Buschel
A new temporary bus terminal may be headed for under the FDR Drive across from Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, the MTA and the city have announced. The terminal will act as a transfer point for ferry riders during the 15-month L train shutdown, with more than 60 buses per hour going through the space under the FDR.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Department of Transportation both discussed the plan while testifying at a City Council Transportation Committee hearing last Thursday. During the hearing, they provided information on the proposed terminal and other mitigation plans for the shutdown, including a new, also-temporary ferry route that will end at the planned Stuyvesant Cove ferry stop at East 20th Street and connect with the M14 Select Bus Service (SBS), which is expected to launch in time for the shutdown.
MTA Chief of Operations Planning Peter Cafiero said that the MTA would be working with the city to adapt space underneath the FDR, currently occupied by parking for the Economic Development Corporation and property used by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, to create a convenient boarding area for commuters getting off the ferry.
“We’re fortunate that there is infrastructure that provides a little bit of shelter, being underneath the FDR,” Cafiero said. “The goal was to make sure that customers could get to buses easily without having to interact with traffic and if possible, to have a place for buses to recover before their next trip.”
The new SBS route that is planned will run between 10th Avenue and the new terminal, making stops at all current L train stations. The route will be operating 34 trips per hour in each direction for a total of 68 trips, in addition to eight trips per hour for the M14A and 12 trips per hour for the M14D.
Another major announcement regarding the shutdown included the closure of 14th Street to car traffic during rush hour, although the new “busway” will not apply river to river.
The restriction includes Third to Ninth Avenues eastbound and Third to Eighth Avenues westbound, with the new Select Bus Service for 14th Street to launch sometime next year along with temporary bus bulbs (expanded sidewalk space at bus stops) and additional pedestrian space along the street. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at the hearing that those additions for 14th Street will start getting installed by next fall and SBS should be operating on 14th Street by late 2018 or early 2019.
MTA managing director Veronique Hakim added that the language MTA uses could be confusing, as “terminal” brings to mind an imposing structure with a significant number of idle buses at all times.
“We use ‘terminal’ to designate the start and the end of a line,” she clarified. “This will be a moving line (of buses).”
City Councilmember Dan Garodnick, however, expressed doubt at the hearing that buses would be able to pull in and out of the space under the FDR easily, noting that trucks used by ST/PCV management that are smaller than city buses haven’t been able to navigate the space.
“It seems like the physical changes will be more significant than anticipated,” he said.
Hakim noted that the MTA is working with the assumption that the spot is feasible for a terminal and Cafiero added that the agency doesn’t have a contingency plan if a terminal is ultimately not feasible in the designated location.
“If it turns out it isn’t, we’ll have to have more (buses terminating curbside), which isn’t great,” Hakim conceded.
The ferry landing at Stuyvesant Cove is expected to open next summer. The landing was primarily meant to be a stop on the Lower East Side ferry route but in light of the shutdown, the MTA has started talking with the Economic Development Corporation, the city agency that controls the ferry system, to create a temporary route from North 6th Street in Williamsburg to Stuyvesant Cove.
After the MTA originally awarded the contract for the L train/Canarsie tube repair project to Judlau Contracting and TC Electric earlier this year, the company was able to reduce the outage time from 18 months to 15 months. The MTA previously worked with this contractor for repairs on the Montague Tube, which was completed two weeks earlier than anticipated. The contract for the L train repairs is $477 million, with a $15 million incentive if the project finishes two months ahead of schedule. If the project is completed in the allotted time, the tube will re-open by July 2020.
MTA officials said that the costs for the temporary terminal are not included in the contract for the shutdown and have not yet been evaluated.