By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The mayor’s office released a report on the 14th Street Busway on Wednesday, finding that ridership and speeds on the M14-SBS have both increased significantly, although car traffic slowed slightly on adjacent side streets.
Since the October implementation of the busway, officially called the Transit & Truck Priority (TTP) Pilot, crosstown commutes for bus riders are now as much as nine minutes faster than they were previously and trips along most of the adjacent side streets are less than a minute slower than before the restrictions were put into place.
Bicycling has also surged since the Department of Transportation created protected bike lanes on 12th and 13th Streets, in addition to an increase in popularity for Citi Bike.
The DOT studied the impact of the pilot on side streets from 12th to 19th, finding that travel times increased by zero to two minutes during weekday peak hours. Travel times increased slightly more on 17th Street between Third and Ninth Avenues, which saw a 3.4-minute increase in travel time. The report also found, however, that the volume of vehicles on 12th Street did not change significantly and actually decreased on 13th Street.
Nearby avenues also saw improvements in travel times or minor increases of less than one minute, although Third Avenue, on the eastern end of the busway, saw a slightly higher increase in travel time at 1.6 minutes.
Members of the 14th Street Coalition, including steering committee member Judy Pesin, attended Community Board 4’s recent transportation committee meeting where the DOT presented the results of the report and Pesin said she has concerns about its methodology.
“There was no explanation of how the data was captured (i.e. how, where, when), and that leaves lots of questions,” Pesin said.
Pesin, who is a resident of Community Board 2, said that she didn’t raise many questions at the recent presentation because CB4 doesn’t cover her neighborhood, but also felt that the report didn’t reflect what she’s heard from neighbors about traffic.
“The summaries were very general and not an accurate picture of what we are seeing,” Pesin said, pointing to the claim in the report about the slight increase in travel times on 13th Street. “Anyone who has been around East 13th between Broadway and Fifth Avenue knows that the significant impacts continue to cause ongoing congestion during the day and at night. […] One neighbor driving east on 13th Street said it took 20 minutes to get from Broadway to Sixth Avenue on a Sunday evening.”
The report also used MTA data on the M14A/D-SBS, which found that travel times along the corridor improved at a rate of 22 to 47%, decreasing travel times by as much as 9.7 minutes end-to-end for riders heading east. The increased speeds are a sharp contrast to only earlier this year in July when the NYPIRG Straphanger’s Campaign and TransitCenter awarded the route with the Pokey, due to its high ridership and excruciatingly slow 4.3 miles per hour speeds.
Ridership has also increased on the M14A/D by 24%, and by up to 30% on weekends, which reverses a five-year trend of declining ridership on the route.
Local elected officials cheered the program’s success at the release of the report.
“The impact of the 14th Street Busway has been clearly visible to everyday riders, and it is encouraging to see that the data supports these observations,” Councilmember Keith Powers said. “From boosting ridership to increasing speeds, if these preliminary results continue, we should implement a permanent busway along 14th Street.”
The pilot program, put in place to help mitigate the effects of the work on the L train, limits crosstown traffic along 14th Street to buses and trucks making deliveries, although drop-offs are allowed as long as drivers make the next available right turn off the thoroughfare. Left-turn restrictions were also put into place on the street prior to the implementation of the pilot, which took effect on October 3, following the launch of Select Bus Service on the M14A/D on July 1.
The analysis of the program was conducted by Sam Schwartz Engineering, comparing data from October 2018 to October 2019 and is the first of several reports that will be put together over the course of the pilot.