Community Board 6 mulling bike parking amidst recent thefts

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With residents on high alert about bicycle security, members of the Community Board 6 transportation committee discussed the possibility of allocating bike parking somewhere in the district at a recent meeting on Monday, January 6.

One committee member suggested that the community board encourage the development of bike parking that repurposes old bus shelters to be used as bike parking, similar to a structure currently in place at West 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue.

Committee member Brian Van Nieuwenhoven noted that while the city has installed this kind of bike parking in other parts of the city, including one in Union Square, it didn’t seem like an initiative they were expanding, and he said that he’s more concerned about bike security, citing the Peter Cooper Village resident whose $3,000 cargo bike was stolen just after Christmas.

“Whatever has gone on with bicycle theft, it has not abated in the city,” he said, adding that if the community board wants funding for this, it’s better to get the request in sooner rather than later.

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MTA, DOT share results of busway report with Community Board 6

CB6 transportation committee chair Sandra McKee and NYC Transit transportation planner Patrick Dougherty at the meeting on Monday (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Representatives from the Department of Transportation and MTA presented results from a recent report on the 14th Street busway during Community Board 6’s most recent transportation committee on Monday. The report was conducted by Sam Schwartz Engineering, and Dan Schack, a senior associate at SSE, said that normally the agency would wait at least a year to draw any conclusions but the city committed to regular reports on the pilot program.

Schack emphasized that these are only preliminary results, with data only available from November and December, and the final report is expected to be delivered in Spring 2021, with regular reports until then as the city tracks the program’s progress.

Patrick Dougherty, a transportation planner for long-range bus planning at MTA New York City Transit, said that the agency is encouraged by the results so far, especially given how poorly the bus on 14th Street has performed in the past.

“From our perspective, which is operating safe and efficient bus service across 14th Street, the numbers have proven that this has been very successful so far,” he said. “I just want to remind everyone that [the M14] was the second slowest route in the entire city. It was losing ridership year after year, and almost immediately travel times have improved. It’s getting riders back on the bus. Gaining 6,000 riders within a month is incredible. We really support the pilot and hope it continues after the first 18 months.”

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Locals to get their say on controversial 14th Street Busway

By Linda O’Flanagan

Businesses and residents on and around the controversial new 14th Street busway will get a chance to have their say at a series of public meetings this month.

Local Community Boards will be hosting meetings to provide information about preliminary data on what’s officially known as 14th Street Transit/Truck Priority pilot.

NYC DOT and their consultant team from Sam Schwartz Engineering will provide an update about the pilot. A presentation will describe the independent monitoring for the project and the DOT will share results from the preliminary report.

Despite a report from the city in December hailing the busway as a big hit, many residents and business owners have bemoaned the transit program that limits traffic to buses, trucks, emergency vehicles and drop-offs.

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Busway report finds decreased transit times

The busway on 14th Street officially launched last October. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

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.

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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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