L train’s south side entrance opened at Avenue A

The new entrance on the south side of East 14th Street opened on Monday. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A new entrance at Avenue A has opened for the First Avenue L station on the south side of East 14th Street, the MTA announced on Monday. The agency also said that the south entrance at First Avenue will be closed starting on Tuesday, November 11 for structural reconstruction.

The revised timeline for the work at First Avenue was designed to open the new entrances at Avenue A as quickly as possible with temporary finishes and then close the entrances at First Avenue for reconstruction on a phased schedule. Two entrances will be open at all times at the station, with the new entrance on the south side of East 14th at Avenue A open while the south side on First Avenue is closed.

The new entrance for the north side of East 14th Street at Avenue A has not opened yet and the MTA hasn’t announced when that entrance will be available, but the new platform-to-street elevators on either side of East 14th Street at Avenue A are estimated to be open by next summer, ahead of schedule.

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M14 zooming across 14th

The MTA said that ridership has increased and speeds have decreased on the M14A/D-SBS. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

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.

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L train work three months ahead of schedule

Governor Andrew Cuomo toured the L train tunnel on Sunday, viewing the improvements made along the bench wall. (Photo courtesy Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday that the L train project is three months ahead of schedule and will be completed in April 2020, exactly a year after construction began.

The governor’s office said that work on the Manhattan-bound tube is now complete and work on the Brooklyn-bound tube begins this week.

Cuomo and senior MTA leadership toured the completed tube on Sunday, reviewing the new construction methods that were implemented to avoid a complete shutdown of the line while the work was completed, which Cuomo said is also currently on budget.

“Today we saw up close what happens when you abandon the old ways of doing things and think outside the box—you get the work done better, faster and cheaper,” Cuomo said. “And in this case you get a better and safer tunnel than before. This project will ultimately be a case study for how the MTA needs to operate going forward, especially as they implement the upcoming historic capital plan that will completely modernize the entire system and deliver the 21st century transportation service worthy of New York.”

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Busway launches on 14th Street today

The busway launched on 14th Street this morning after getting delayed by a lawsuit filed by neighborhood residents and block associations. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Third time’s the charm for the busway?

A decision from the New York Supreme Court last Friday will allow the Department of Transportation to implement a busway on 14th Street following a court fight instigated by neighboring block associations that previously blocked the plan twice during the summer.

The New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division said in the 3-2 decision that the stay granted by a judge on Monday, August 9 was lifted, allowing the DOT to proceed with the plan, and the agency announced that the busway will go into effect on Thursday, October 3 for an 18-month pilot program.

The decision last Friday said that three of the five justices concurred, with Justices Barbara Kapnick and Troy Webber dissenting, with both noting that they would be willing to continue the interim stay to hear further arguments from Schwartz.

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Street restoration begins on East 14th Street

Construction crews were out on East 14th Street on Tuesday morning removing barricades from an island near the front of the Associated Supermarket adjacent to the L train worksite. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

East Side residents may soon be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the L project—or at least across East 14th Street. The MTA noted in a newsletter sent out on Saturday that street restoration began on the Manhattan side for the L project over the weekend, meaning that construction crews would begin packing up and restoring a section of the street and sidewalk, clearing up some of the above-ground construction at the site in front of the Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town.

The construction management team working on the project said that street restoration means that the crew will reconstruct the street, sidewalk paving and trees back to the way it was before the project began.

“The biggest task is rebuilding the street itself,” the team said in the newsletter. “We’ll be doing that work ourselves, following very specific rules from the city [Department of Transportation].”

The process of street restoration includes multiple steps, beginning with dumping in backfill that is compressed with a heavy vibrating roller and tamping machines, followed by a base of concrete. An asphalt spreader will then move down the street with crews following to rake the asphalt even and to minimize traffic disruptions, this work is done at night.

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Busway halted—again

Select Bus Service launched on the M14A/D at the beginning of July but it is the only SBS route in the city that doesn’t have a dedicated bus lane due to the current litigation. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Within days of a judge giving the 14th Street busway the go-ahead after a lawsuit prevented it from going into effect at the beginning of July, West Village, Union Square and Flatiron residents and community groups have once again held up the pilot program through an appeal.

Gothamist reported that shortly after the Department of Transportation, the city agency implementing the busway, had previewed the changes last Friday following the temporary restraining order being lifted on Tuesday, a judge granted an appeal to the community groups and stopped the busway from going into effect this past Monday.

Tensions have been high between transit advocates and the residents working to prevent the busway, particularly Arthur Schwartz, an attorney who filed the initial lawsuit and who also lives on West 12th Street, and have only increased since the end of last week.

Transit group Transportation Alternatives announced a press conference in front of Schwartz’s own West Village apartment to pressure Schwartz into dropping the lawsuit, planned for this past Wednesday after T&V’s deadline. Schwartz condemned the move as an intimidation tactic.

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Restraining order on 14th Street busway lifted

The DOT is planning to launch the pilot program on 14th Street by next Monday, August 12. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

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.

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Bike lane coming to FDR service road

The bike lane outside of Waterside Plaza (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Department of Transportation will begin implementing safety improvements on the FDR Service Road that include a two-way bike lane between East 25th and 33rd Street this month. The improvements specifically address the Greenway along Waterside Plaza, the Water Club at East 30th Street and the East 34th Street intersection near the heliport.

The DOT made the announcement about the project on Twitter last Thursday, although the plan was originally presented to Community Board 6 two and a half years ago in November 2016. The DOT had also announced plans last September to start implementation of the project in the fall but later said in November that it would be pushed back to this summer.

A spokesperson told Town & Village that the then-two-year delay was not unusual, given that the project was especially “complex” and the agency was still working out construction scheduling and the final designs. The DOT also attributed some of the delay to changes in the plan to the design around the Water Club.

Manhattan DOT Community Coordinator Colleen Chattergoon told members of Community Board 6 last fall that the Water Club didn’t want bike traffic directly in front of their entrance, so the design was adjusted to include granite planters and a Jersey barrier as buffers. The restaurant also agreed to relocate a large container currently in their parking lot so that the DOT could more easily implement the bike lane changes.

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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.

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Busway delayed by lawsuit while SBS launches on 14th

Stuyvesant Town resident Mary Garvey argued against the lawsuit that prevented the launch of the new busway on 14th Street on Monday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Implementation of the proposed busway for 14th Street has been delayed after a judge issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the plan from going into effect on Monday with the launch of Select Bus Service for the M14A/D.

The MTA said that while SBS on the route was scheduled to launch on July 1 anyway, the lawsuit will make it more difficult to provide faster bus service.

“This ruling will undoubtedly hinder our goal of speeding up buses on one of the busiest and most congested arteries, and make traveling around the city harder for our customers,” MTA spokesperson Shams Tarek said. “Transit prioritization such as the city’s Transit and Truck Priority busway would help speed up Select Bus Service. In the meantime, we’re working with NYCDOT and NYPD to enforce existing rules to ensure our buses won’t be blocked by vehicles double parking and blocking bus stops.”

The New York Post reported on Friday that a Manhattan judge issued the restraining order as part of a lawsuit that attorney and West 12th Street resident Arthur Schwartz filed on behalf of a number of block associations on Wednesday, June 20 that opposed the restrictions on 14th Street.

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DOT implementing busway 2.0

A bus travels west on East 14th Street. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Department of Transportation announced last week that transit and truck priority (TTP) and Select Bus Service on the M14 A/D will begin on 14th Street on July 1. The 18-month pilot project was designed specifically to help commuters traverse 14th Street while the work on the L train is being done and one of the main goals is to improve safety on the corridor.

The new regulations will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., during which time only buses and trucks, defined as any vehicle with more than two axles or six or more wheels, can make through trips between Ninth and Third Avenues. All vehicles except MTA buses at signed locations will be restricted from making left turns off 14th Street at all times.

Unlike the previously proposed “busway” plan for the now-canceled L shutdown, under the new plan, other vehicles will be allowed on the street during the restricted times. However, this is only to access the curb and garages and they must turn at the next available right. Commercial vehicles will be allowed to load and unload in short-term metered loading zones and passenger vehicles can drop off and pick up along the whole corridor.

Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when the regulations are not in effect, all vehicles can make through trips along the corridor. “No Parking” regulations will allow expeditious loading and unloading along 14th Street.

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Stuy Town-Peter Cooper residents have been asking for Avenue A entrance to L train since 1947

Rendering of Avenue A entrance to First Avenue subway station, currently under construction

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With the L train slowdown officially underway, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents and others who rely on the train are already enduring service cuts and crowding. However, the bright light at the end of the tunnel, especially for residents living farther east, along with a safe subway system, is the promise of a new entrance at Avenue A and East 14th Street for the First Avenue station.

Town & Village has reported in the last five years that neighborhood residents, transit advocates and local elected officials had been asking the MTA to consider a new entrance at least since 2014 and were denied on more than one occasion, but the request is actually almost as old as Stuyvesant Town itself.

A Stuy Town resident who moved into the complex when it opened in 1947 wrote a letter to the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit Corporation, which operated the L at the time, asking if the transit agency would expand the First Avenue station by building an entrance at Avenue A. Resident Reginald Gilbert of 625 East 14th Street argued that pressure on the station from the influx of new residents made the new entrance a necessity.

“With the increase of tenants in (Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village), the First Avenue station is becoming more and more crowded during the rush hours with passengers jamming up in the first cars going west and the rear cars coming east,” Gilbert wrote in his letter, which T&V also published in the November 27, 1947 issue. “This condition exists with only a small portion of (the complex) occupied and will be aggravated with the influx of new residents during the next few months.”

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Student MetroCard program set to expand

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA Board officially approved a proposal that expands full-fare MetroCard access for students on Wednesday. The proposed resolution expands access to three-trip, full-fare student MetroCards for students who currently have half-fare MetroCards, and would eliminate the half-fare MetroCard program.

Half-fare student MetroCards allow bus-only access for K-12 students who live at least half a mile from their school. Students with half-fare cards are supposed to pay $1.35 in coins for every ride, which the MTA said increases dwell time and can be challenging to collect.

The resolution would give half-fare recipients the same three-trip MetroCard that other students already receive, which gives students three free rides every day and can be used on buses and subways.

There are currently 27,000 daily bus trips using half-fare cards. The MTA issued 200,500 half-fare MetroCards to the Department of Education for distribution for the spring semester of 2018, and data from the DOE shows that 66 percent of the half-fare MetroCards that are shipped to schools and distributed are never used, and of the cards that are used, they are used on only eight percent of school days.

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MTA releases data on L project dust levels

The MTA released its report on L project dust levels last Friday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA released a report last Friday afternoon on the dust levels in L stations affected by the tunnel work during the first weekend of the slowdown, concluding that the amount of dust in the air of was “well below” the accepted standard.

The report measured dust concentrations in the public spaces at the Bedford and First Avenue stations before, during and after the work was being done, from noon on Friday, April 26 to noon on Monday, April 29.

The MTA is using a standard that was established by the American Council of Government Industrial Hygienists for people who are potentially exposed to these levels for eight hours a day over a 45-year career.

The transit agency noted in the report that there isn’t an established standard exposure limit for the (usually short) periods that straphangers would typically pass through subway stations so the agency is using the long-term chronic standard as a health-protective benchmark. Dust levels were found to be below the standard of 3,000 micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3).

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A ferry costly commute? Council debates subsidies

Council Member Keith Powers, pictured at left with Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk on the maiden voyage of the Lower East Side ferry last August (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this month, the news that the city’s ferry system was costing taxpayers nearly $11 in subsidies has raised concerns about the value of the service and if the ferries are serving commuters in an equitable way.

The City Council held a hearing on the subject last Wednesday, although an attending representative for the Economic Development Corporation, which operates the ferries along with Hornblower, offered little in the way of information about demographics of ferry riders and just how much they’re using the system.

Later, Council Member Keith Powers, whose East Side district residents utilize two of the new ferry stops along the Lower East Side route (20th and 34th Street) said there are still many questions that need answering. However, for him, it’s not a question of whether the ferries are worth the investment — he believes they are — but how money can be saved in the future and how the system can be tweaked to better serve commuters with the most need.

The current $10.73 per person subsidy, he noted, is in part due to the cost of buying the fleet of ferries upfront as opposed to having rented them, which over the long term, is estimated to save the city $150 million.

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