By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The MTA and DOT released details on the “Busway” coming to 14th Street during the expected L train shutdown at Community Board 6’s transportation committee meeting on Monday. The agencies also gathered feedback on the plans during an open house at the 14th Street Y last Wednesday.
The new Busway will be on 14th from Third to Eighth Avenues going westbound and from Ninth to Third Avenues going east.
In both directions between Third and First Avenues, there will be a painted bus lane on the street but traffic will not be restricted and cars will be able to head across 14th Street, whereas traffic will not be allowed to cross anywhere along the Busway.
Meeting attendees asked DOT representatives why the Busway was not extended all the way to First Avenue or Avenue C and DOT representative Aaron Sugiura explained that it wasn’t ideal, but that the negatives outweighed the positives.
“The issue is that the NYCTransit route is making the turn (onto 14th Street) and increasing traffic significantly if you’re starting at Avenue C,” he said. “The best avenue to put more traffic on is Third because it’s two ways.”
Sugiura said that Access-a-Ride is included in the allowed vehicles on the Busway, as well as local delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles. The agency is working to restrict general traffic as much as possible, and taxis, as well as for-hire vehicles like Uber and Lyft, will not be allowed. He noted that cars needing access to private garages will be allowed on the street but he added that none of these garages are within the confines of Community Board 6. The initial plan involves enforcing the restrictions only during “peak hours,” but those hours are still being determined.
NYCT also noted that there will be new temporary shuttle buses from Brooklyn into Manhattan, called the L1-L3, going over the Williamsburg Bridge that primarily connect to subway service downtown. The L1 route is expected to go up First Avenue from the bridge and terminate at East 15th Street, then heading down Second Avenue on the return route.
The L2 and L3 routes do not go north of East Houston Street and connect to the F/M/J/Z at Delancey-Essex Street, as well as the 6 at Spring Street and the B/D/F/M and 6 at Bleecker Street/Broadway-Lafayette.
CB6 board member Gene Santoro said that he was concerned about crowding at East 15th Street where the L1 is expected to terminate.
“It’s a very busy corner and there isn’t physically the amount of space that you need,” he said.
Zach Campbell, assistant director for government and community relations at NYCT, said that the agency isn’t expecting crowding to be a problem at that particular location because according to surveys, many commuters have said that they are intending to switch to a subway line rather than use the bus for their entire trip.
“One of the most consistent comments that I’ve seen from people is that they just want to get to another train so they can continue their trip that way,” he said.
NYCTransit representative Sarah Wyss also noted that most riders are expected to transfer off the bus rather than ride it all the way from Brooklyn so the number of people disembarking at the last stop is not expected to be very high.
“We’re expecting that most people will transfer in Brooklyn instead of taking the bus for their entire trip,” she said.
Disability advocate Mike Schweinsburg said at the open house last week that he was concerned about the lack of improvements to stations that would make them ADA accessible.
“It’s great they’re adding it to the station at First Avenue but they’re also making improvements at the Third Avenue and Sixth Avenue stations and they’re not making the changes there,” he said. “New elevators are costly but less so if you add them while there’s already construction going on.”
Board member and Stuyvesant Town resident Larry Scheyer noted that the new temporary bus route isn’t very convenient for Stuy Town-Peter Cooper residents looking to get to Williamsburg. He pointed to the ferry as a viable option only if there is a plan to offer transportation from the dock in Brooklyn to other parts of the neighborhood, but representatives at the meeting said they anticipate most people using the ferry to be Williamsburg residents who are close enough to walk to and from the landing, or to one of the new temporary bus lines not far in the other direction.
“That means we have to go all the way to Prince Street on the L1 bus,” he said. “People in Stuyvesant Town who patronize businesses in Brooklyn are being left out of the equation.”
Stuyvesant Town resident AJ Miller also expressed concerns about the ferry’s involvement in the plan while speaking with DOT and NYCTransit officials at the open house at the 14th Street Y last week.
“Since the bus will be picking people up at the ferry, I’m concerned that it’s going to be too full for people in Stuyvesant Town to get on once it gets to First Avenue,” she said.
Miller added that another concern she had was less to do with the plan itself but how the plan has been represented in renderings in her neighborhood. She noticed that the life-sized photos of the station improvements have people in them, but she noticed that the population shown is relatively homogeneous.
“All of the people in these photos are very young, and there are almost no people of color,” she said. “We have a lot of seniors here, and I feel like this representation is ageist and offensive and it doesn’t represent our community at all.”