Department of Transportation fighting busway lawsuit

Select Bus Service launched for the M14A/D at the beginning of this month, despite the lack of a busway. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Department of Transportation was once again unsuccessful last week in convincing a judge to lift a court order preventing the start of a new busway on 14th Street. West Village resident and attorney Arthur Schwartz filed a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the plan to prioritize trucks and transit on the corridor, arguing that banning private traffic would cause overwhelming congestion on the nearby side streets, and a judge blocked implementation of the plan just three days before it was supposed to go into effect.

The DOT was scheduled to appear in court on August 6 but the agency instead went back before a judge on July 2, asking that the court vacate the TRO. Schwartz said that the judge reviewing the application last week wouldn’t take the argument because approving the plan “opened up the possibility of a ping pong effect at great expense to the city and confusion to the public” in the event that the TRO was reinstated and vacated repeatedly, or if the injunction was reinstated at the August 6 appearance.

Schwartz said that Judge Gishe, the Appellate Division judge who wouldn’t vacate the TRO last week, read the papers over but argued that since DOT had identified 14th Street as a street needing SBS in 2011, the situation wasn’t an emergency.

Despite this argument, the DOT explained during the announcement of the redesigned busway that although the original plans for the work on the L train changed, the treatments to improve bus service and limit traffic on 14th Street were intended to provide an alternative for the high number of riders normally relying on the L train while the work on the line is being completed.

Select Bus Service did ultimately start on the M14A/D last Monday with off-fare boarding and fewer stops, although DOT officials noted at the time that the lawsuit prevented the route from having a dedicated bus lane, making it the only SBS route in the city without such a benefit.

The New York Post, meanwhile, reported this Tuesday that the sudden halt on the busway was causing confusion among commuters. The MTA filed testimony in court on Monday that the temporary restraining order preventing the busway has impacted service on new SBS route. Transit advocates said that the lack of priority space negates any potential benefits of Select Bus Service.

“There has been, as far as I can tell, no improvement in service at all,” Riders Alliance policy and communications director Danny Pearlstein told the Post.

The DOT intends to continue fighting the lawsuit.

“We look forward to ultimately prevailing in court and to implementing Transit & Truck Priority, which will improve mobility and increase travel speeds for thousands of bus riders each day along the critical 14th Street corridor,” a DOT spokesperson said in an official statement. “Select Bus Service is designed to operate with dedicated lanes to make it most effective and that is why the full project needs to be implemented as soon as possible.”

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