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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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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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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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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Opinion: Drop the busway lawsuit

By Sophie Maerowitz

With the planned implementation of the 14th Street Busway on July 1, residents of the East Village were preparing for a major uptick in our quality of life. However, a frivolous last-minute court order has delayed much-needed bus improvements for tens of thousands of our neighbors yet again.

As a resident of East 14th Street and an advocate of the 14th Street busway since 2015, I was incredibly disheartened to see this snap decision. I have spent  years working with my neighbors doing grassroots activism, building widespread community support for a car-free bus corridor on 14th Street, and it is quite frankly perverse to argue that transit improvements are an environmental threat, as the suit alleges.

The truth is, this delay will only serve to keep the M14A and M14D buses moving at an appalling sub-4 mile per hour speed. It’s no surprise that the #BusTurnaround coalition has given these lines an “F” rating.

Whatever else contributed to the decision, I don’t think it helped that the judge in this case, Eileen Rakower, never heard the perspective of those of us in the community that care about quick and reliable bus service on 14th Street, which we know won’t work if buses are caught in car traffic. If only she was there when we raced the M14D on foot; it only beat us by two seconds.

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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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How to get around during the L slowdown

The mayor’s office released this graphic to illustrate how traffic along 14th Street will be managed.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The lesser L train apocalypse is scheduled to begin this Friday and although service will be maintained in Manhattan under the slowdown unlike in the previous full shutdown plan, riders can still expect longer wait times and service changes during nights and weekends until at least next summer when the project is expected to be completed.

The biggest change with the revised L train project is that the L will run normal service during weekday rush hours and service is expected to be available in Manhattan at all times.

According to the MTA’s dedicated page for the plan, available at new.mta.info/L-project, there will be normal L train service between 1:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. throughout the entire line on weekdays, but starting after 8 p.m. this Friday, trains will become less frequent compared to normal service until 10 p.m. during the week.

Service will then be reduced from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. compared to regular service and while trains are expected to run every 20 minutes from 1:30 to 5 a.m. on weeknights and until 6 a.m. on weekend nights, this is the regular overnight frequency for the line.

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Buses, not L train, the top concern at MTA town hall

Bus protesters

Protesters slam the elimination of bus stops at the L train open house at the 14th Street Y. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

East Side straphangers voiced concerns about changes to the M14 route at the latest L train town hall held at the 14th Street Y this past Monday.

The MTA and NYC Transit held the town hall to accept feedback on the L train plan, and while M14 bus service is not directly related to the project, the MTA is planning to make the route SBS to help commuters when L train service is limited during the construction.

The Department of Transportation is also still considering implementing a “busway” along 14th Street that would limit private traffic on the roadway, and DOT Director of Transit Policy Aaron Sugiura said that a decision on the busway will likely be made by early summer around the time that SBS is launched on the M14. The DOT is requesting feedback on the busway and will make a decision after receiving input from the community.

“The volume of people on 14th Street was going to be staggering (with a full shutdown) so it’s slightly less of an issue now,” Sugiura said. “But (a busway is) still a possibility and we’re still working on what exactly it would look like.”

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Stuyvesant Town residents hope for less chaos on 14th St., old layout on 20th St.

Workers remove signs surrounding the L train construction zone on East 14th Street after Governor Cuomo’s announcement for an alternative plan to the shutdown. (Photo by Hermann Reiner)

By Sabina Mollot

With the dreaded L train shutdown no longer in the works, residents along the East 14th Street construction zone are now wondering if this means they can finally get a break from the endless construction, at least on Saturdays, while others are hoping the city will undo the recent reconfiguration of East 20th Street that’s led to a slew of parking tickets and towed cars.

Susan Steinberg, president of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, is among those wondering about both.

“What effect will the change have on the construction on East 14th Street?” she asked. “Did the relevant agencies just spend two years doing work they didn’t have to? Will East 14th Street still be a staging area? Will there be impacts on noise, dust and debris? Does that mean the East 20th Street redesign was not required? Can 20th Street be restored to what it was originally?”

Until those questions are answered, Steinberg said the TA has no position on the new plan.

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Electric bus fleet won’t be ready in time for L shutdown

An electric bus similar to those that will be rolled out during the L train shutdown (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Electric buses for the new M14 SBS route for the L train shutdown won’t be in the fleet until the end of 2019, at least five months after the shutdown begins, NYC Transit officials said at a Community Board 5 meeting last week.

Fifteen of the 40 vehicles on this route will be electric articulated buses. There will be five electric and 10 hybrid diesel-electric buses for the inter-borough routes in use by April 2019, but this fleet is twice that of the M14 at 80 buses.

“Less than half of the M14 buses will be electric but these have a very long lead time to get,” said Rob Thompson of NYC Transit. “We’re throwing them out as fast as we can get them.”

New York City Transit will also be making changes to bus stops around 14th Street prior to the shutdown and Thompson noted that two stops near Union Square would be relocated within the next month to accommodate the work that DOT is doing for the shutdown.

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Officials say traffic enforcement and bus volume should make L train shutdown less hellish

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYC Transit President Andy Byford with Manhattan and Brooklyn elected officials (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday morning, transit officials and local elected officials told reporters they don’t expect the dreaded L train shutdown will be the L-pocalypse of doom everyone else is pretty sure it will be for the 15 months it will take to do repairs.

Reasons for this declaration include plans to run 80 shuttle buses an hour over the Williamsburg Bridge during peak times and “aggressive” enforcement to make sure private vehicles don’t jam traffic along high occupancy vehicle lanes. The soon-to-launch Lower East Side ferry schedule will also be timed to coordinate with bus arrivals.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYC Transit President Andy Byford, along with the politicians, had hopped out of a shiny, new electric bus — one of 25 that will be implemented during the L shutdown – on 14th Street and Union Square, before announcing a few updates to the mitigation plans.

One is that the NYPD is working on a plan for enforcement of traffic in HOV lanes so they don’t get crowded with private vehicles, including mini-bus services that have popped up.

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DOT says 14th St. ‘busway’ will operate 17 hours a day

L train plan

MTA graphic depicting proposed mitigation plans during the L train shutdown

By Sabina Mollot

In response to community concerns about the planned “busway” to be in effect on 14th Street for the duration of the L train shutdown, the Department of Transportation has committed to making the road off limits to private vehicles for 17 hours a day, not full time. The busway will be bus-only from 5 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week, the DOT has proposed.

In addition, a spokesperson for the agency said the modified busway plan will “allow for pick-ups and drop-offs of local residents and visitors on 14th Street while discouraging through traffic.”

The hours proposed for the busway were based on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s service targets and estimated traffic volumes. Proposed HOV hours on the Williamsburg Bridge will also be 5 a.m.-10 p.m.

The Daily News reported on the plan first on Monday, as well as the fact that the agency has scrapped a plan for a two-way bike on 13th Street, which neighbors were staunchly opposed to.

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