By Maria Rocha-Buschel
A judge has lifted the temporary restraining order and denied the petition filed that put a halt to the busway on 14th Street this week. The judge felt the city had thoroughly examined the impact that the busway would have on traffic and they have the authority to implement the project, amNewYork reporter Vincent Barone noted on Twitter this past Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation told Town & Village on Tuesday that the agency has started work to implement the busway on Monday, August 12.
Attorney and West Village resident Arthur Schwartz, who originally filed the lawsuit, said that he felt the judge made a number of errors when deciding the case.
“The first is that she allowed the DOT to assert that they took sufficient consideration of environmental factors, without any proof,” he said. “Second, she did not make them explain why they need the restrictions to stretch from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. when the bus speed problems the DOT described were only between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.”
He also noted that the judge didn’t seem to consider the bike lanes on 12th and 13th Street, arguing that they are an “invitation” to injuries for bicyclists.
“Overall, I am horrified that my block, 12th Street, will now have 350 cars an hour going down it,” Schwartz said, citing a previous study from the DOT on the busway. “That’s one car every 10 seconds on a residential street. I am also disappointed in the elected officials, particularly Mayor de Blasio, who wants to be president, and Corey Johnson, who wants to mayor, because of their utter lack of consideration or concern about the people living in the affected communities. Not a great qualification for higher office.”
Nathan Taylor, an attorney for the city, argued that the project is routine because 14th Street is not being physically reconstructed and even if there is a traffic impact, that doesn’t mean a project necessarily requires an environmental review. Taylor said that based on Schwartz’s argument, the city would need to conduct an environmental review every time it repaved a long street.
Councilmember Keith Powers, who criticized the lawsuit that halted the busway when it was initially filed, cheered the recent court decision.
“The decision to implement the 14th Street busway is a victory for my constituents and all New Yorkers trying to travel across 14th Street more efficiently,” he said. “I’m looking forward to joining my neighbors in moving across town faster than ever on Monday. I also want to thank the Department of Transportation for being innovative with this plan.”
Transit group Riders Alliance had also filed an amicus brief on Monday, which claimed that straphangers had lost a year’s worth of time because of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that a judge placed on the proposed busway, preventing a dedicated bus lane for the M14A/D SBS and blocking restrictions that would have prevented a partial ban on 14th Street for private vehicles.
The brief filed by Riders Alliance argued that the court should weigh the impact of lost time that transit riders have endured as a result of the TRO against speculation about what will happen to traffic in the neighborhood if the busway is implemented.
Riders Alliance and other transit advocates held a rally on Monday regarding the brief and argued that the lawsuit was a classist attack on low income New Yorkers. The brief noted that according to census data, employed bus riders earn an annual average of $28,455, while the per capita income in the surrounding neighborhoods of Chelsea and the West Village is more than $100,000 for each.
The brief also claimed that riders lost 8,654 hours during rush hour, calculating the time by using projections from DOT on how much time per trip that riders would have saved if the busway were implemented.
The busway was scheduled to begin on July 1 but Schwartz filed the lawsuit that halted the plan on behalf of a number of neighborhood block associations, arguing that the city hadn’t considered the environmental impacts of the busway and claiming that banning cars on 14th would ultimately push the traffic to other streets in the neighborhood.
The lawsuit argued that DOT’s own data on the busway that was proposed when the L train was expected to fully shutdown in Manhattan found that traffic would increase on neighboring streets to the north and south. DOT, however, has not conducted further analysis on the current plan, which differs from a total ban on non-public transit vehicles, in that trucks are allowed on the thoroughfare and private cars are allowed on the street as long as they make the next available right turn off the road.
The busway, a pilot program officially called Transit & Truck Priority, will ban private traffic between Third and Ninth Avenues from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Trucks will still be allowed on the street for deliveries and cars will still be able to make pick-ups and drop-offs, as well as access garages on the street while the busway is in effect.