By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Council Member Carlina Rivera is hoping to limit the hours of the planned busway on 14th Street during the L train shutdown that is beginning next year.
The Council Member sent a letter to NYC Transit President Andy Byford earlier this month, arguing that the busway should only operate between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Instead of banning private vehicles throughout the whole shutdown, Rivera said they should just be off the road for the aforementioned hours.
Rivera said she agreed with transit advocates who’ve said that a busway operating only during rush hours would not be sufficient but she argued that the busway didn’t need to be in effect overnight because vehicular traffic along the corridor is significantly lower on weeknights anyway.
John Blasco, a community liaison for Rivera, gave an overview of the letter at the June meeting of the Community Board 6 transportation committee, which supports both extending the busway to Avenue C and giving buses priority at all times instead of limiting the hours.
“I want to ask that (Rivera) keep an open mind,” said committee member Brian Van Nieuwenhoven in response to the letter. “Transit advocates are saying that what’s in place is not going to be enough because of the volume at hours that aren’t peak hours.”
Rivera has also proposed that the DOT create a westbound protected bike lane on 13th Street and an eastbound protected bike lane on 12th Street instead of the proposed two-way protected lane on 13th.
“Thirteenth Street features a mental health clinic, firehouse and various construction projects that may require additional access to space that a two-way bike lane would eliminate,” she argued.
Committee member Gene Santoro, who is a member of the task force formed by the MTA to get input from the community, said that the group is worried about the proposed L1 bus that will be shuttling commuters from Brooklyn, which Rivera addressed in her letter as well.
Both Rivera and Santoro specifically expressed concern about the route regarding the proposed bus stop at First Avenue and East 15th Street, since that area already accommodates multiple bus stops and is often congested with people.
Rivera asked the agencies to consider having a bus stop between 15th and 16th Streets, which would allow the bus to turn left on 17th Street as it heads to its southbound route on Second Avenue.
The Council Member also addressed accessibility for commuters with mobility challenges, requesting that the NYCT and the Department of Transportation work together to create additional Access-A-Ride zones along the busway so the vehicles have a dedicated space to pick up passengers. Since not all disabled riders use Access-A-Ride, though, Rivera also requested that the agencies work with the Taxi and Limousine Commission to allow ADA-compliant taxis to access 14th Street even during specific busway hours, and possibly create a dedicated taxi stand.
Regarding the buses, Rivera is recommending that the city run a pilot of double-decker buses on the replacement routes that will operate on the busway, since this type of vehicle would take up the less space on the road than the traditional articulated buses but would use the space more efficiently and would carry about the same number of people.
The MTA has said that the agency will be adding electric buses to the fleet for the shutdown but Rivera also pushed the agency to commit to using only electric buses for the proposed L1, L2 and L3 routes, traveling between Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“Residents in Brooklyn and Manhattan that live along the new bus routes will be facing a significant increase in pollutants near their homes,” she said. “It is critical that all buses used for these routes are powered by clean, electric motors instead of diesel engines.”