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Buses on 14th St. are moving slightly faster, but MTA says it needs car restrictions to make them zoom

2019-08-20

The M14 bus. (Mark Dye/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Buses on 14th St. are moving slightly faster than they were a year ago, but MTA and city officials said they’d be even speedier if a lawsuit had not prevented them from restricting car traffic on the crosstown corridor.

On the M14A and M14D routes, which run on the street, buses averaged just over 5 mph on weekday mornings in July, Metropolitan Transportation Authority data shows.

That’s a hair faster than the 4.7 mph average pace for the same routes during the morning rush in July 2018.

The speed-up correlates with the MTA’s implementation of Select Bus Service along the routes, which got rid of 16 stops and requires riders to pay their fare at machines placed on sidewalks before they hop on board.

The MTA’s changes to the bus routes went into effect on July 1, and were supposed to be accompanied by new rules from the city Department of Transportation that would have prohibited passenger cars from driving on 14th St. between Third and Ninth Aves. unless they were making a drop-off or heading to a parking garage.

But after a cohort of block associations filed a lawsuit, the city was unable to impose the car ban. The suit was dismissed in Manhattan Supreme Court earlier this month, but the plaintiff’s lawyer and chief advocate Arthur Schwartz filed a last-minute appeal, and was granted a stay that once again kept the city from kicking cars off the street.

“Speed increases on the M14 show that balancing the alignment of stops with need, off-board payment, and all-door boarding work," said MTA spokesman Shams Tarek. "However, there’s still much room for improvement to be achieved by smart street treatments that prioritize movement of buses and mass transit.”

DOT officials have said those restrictions would speed up buses on the routes by 25%, which would require the buses to move at a still-sluggish 6 mph.

The lawsuit has also kept the MTA from rolling out new front-facing cameras on the 14th St. buses to automatically ticket cars that block the street’s new bus lane. Tarek said those devices would also help speed up bus service on the street.

Schwartz, who lives in the West Village and is concerned that the traffic restrictions will lead to more car traffic on his street, said the DOT could improve bus service without the car ban.

“If DOT would separate the cars and institute a true bus lane, they would achieve the 25% increase, which was their goal, without diverting for-hire vehicles and small trucks onto the side street,” he said.