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May 25, 2019

City drags feet on plan to move riders on 14th St. during L train slowdown

April 23, 2019
Commuters board a bus along 14th Street. (Bryan Smith/ for New York Daily News)

The L train “slowdown” is just days away, but the city has still not released its full plan to speed up bus service and handle a surge of traffic along 14th St. during construction.

Mayor de Blasio last week said the city will disclose its plans for the 14th St. corridor sometime this week. But it remains unclear exactly when the information will be released.

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The mayor and the city Department of Transportation initially planned a “busway” to restrict the majority of 14th St. to buses and local traffic during the L train closure, but backed off the idea when Gov. Cuomo “cancelled” the shutdown on Jan. 3.

Now, as Manhattan riders gear up for 20-minute headways on L trains during nights and weekends for at least 15 months starting Friday evening, some residents remain worried about their transit options.

Manhattan Community Board 3 district manager Susan Stetzger accused the DOT and MTA of a lack of transparency. She said Monday neither agency had informed her of a final plan.

The crux of her concerns is the MTA’s plan to put Select Bus Service in place of the local M14A and M14D routes, which run along 14th St. and down into the Lower East Side. The MTA announced the plan in February.

Crews have already begun installing ticketing machines along the route, and plan to have it up and running in June. The MTA is still working with community groups to finalize the locations of its stops.

Select buses speed up service by spreading out stops and requiring riders to swipe their MetroCards before they board. The proposed stops on the M14-SBS route are closer than others across the city, and MTA officials say there isn’t enough space to run the service alongside a local route.

Stetzger and other community members feel that closing some stops would hurt elderly and disabled riders who cannot walk long distances.

“The more stops you have, the slower the routes will be,” NYC Transit President Andy Byford said at an MTA board meeting Wednesday. “You’d end up effectively with a bus jam.”

The M14 select bus will be one of three in the city with camera technology that automatically tickets cars obstructing bus lanes.

Transit advocates remain concerned the city will not do enough to enforce bus lanes along 14th St. — a collection of groups sent a letter to the mayor and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on March 14 demanding the city implement the busway as well as a carpool lane on the WIlliamsburg Bridge.

“It’s critical that the city provides buses a dedicated right of way,” said Transportation Alternatives spokesman Joe Cutrufo. “SBS is a step in the right direction, but if you look at the situation on 34th and 23rd Sts., those painted bus lanes haven’t kept cars and trucks from blocking the path of the buses.”

Judy Pesin of the 14th Street Coalition supported the select bus option, but is worried a last-minute addition of a busway would lead to unnecessary traffic on side streets.

“I would like to think they’re taking a little longer because they’re hearing community input,” said Pesin. “They had been working on mitigation plans for three years. Some agencies don’t turn on a dime.”

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DOT spokesman Scott Gastel repeated the mayor’s line, saying more information on the city’s plan for 14th St. would be coming out this week.

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