By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The MTA announced last Friday that the newly-implemented 14th Street busway has increased ridership on the M14A/D-SBS by 17% on weekdays and up to 37% on weekends and travel time on the route has decreased significantly.
“Our Fast Forward Plan promised improved service to bus riders and that’s exactly what we are delivering,” MTA NYC Transit President Andy Byford said. “The new bus priority measures and Select Bus Service on 14th Street are producing tangible benefits, and it’s great to see riders flocking back to the route.”
Preliminary data for the period after the busway was implemented found that a trip between Third and Eighth Avenues in either direction between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. took 10.6 minutes, while the same trip on the M14 took an average of 15.1 minutes in September 2018.
Other performance data on the route has also improved, the MTA said, with improvements on how evenly buses are spaced. This measurement, called a “wait assessment,” improved from 71% in September 2018 to 86% in October 2019. On-time performance also increased from 45.6% in September 2018 to 68% after the busway was implemented.
Although there was a delay in the implementation of the busway, Select Bus Service providing off-fare boarding launched in July for the M14A/D and the MTA said that travel times have been decreasing since then as well.
The total increases amount to 31,000 daily customers on the route. Compared to September of last year, ridership has increased 37% on Saturdays and 29% on Sundays this September, with weekday ridership increasing 15% during the same period, from roughly 26,350 to 30,195. These increases were seen before the busway was officially implemented and once the plan, known as Transit & Truck Priority, went into place on October 2, ridership increased again to 31,000.
Increases in ridership has also been attributed to the ongoing L project, during which many straphangers have been using the bus as an alternative for Manhattan crosstown service.
Transportation blog Streetsblog noted that DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said during a talk with New York Times reporter Winnie Hu on October 10 at Columbia University that the busway on 14th Street might be a template for elsewhere in the city, noting that the plan exceeded expectations because buses are moving faster, the streets are calmer and traffic on the side streets has not increased as critics feared.
Later at the same conference, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson admitted that he had been a skeptic of the busway but was already convinced, calling it the “Miracle on 14th Street,” also noting that, as a resident of 15th Street himself, he hasn’t noticed the side streets getting overrun with cars.
The bus-mounted camera enforcement program that launched for the M15-SBS at the beginning of October is also expected to expand to the M14-SBS, as well as the B44-SBS in Brooklyn, by the end of November in order to increase bus speeds further. The Automated Bus Lane Enforcement (ABLE) system will be deployed to a total of 123 buses on the M15-SBS, M14-SBS and B44-SBS.
Automated mobile camera systems on the buses capture real-time bus lane violations and aim to increase bus speeds while keeping traffic moving on congested streets. Drivers who remain in a bus lane for five minutes or longer are considered to be violating traffic laws and will be ticketed. Drivers will also be considered in violation if they are captured blocking the bus lane by two successive buses.