L-pocalpyse No! Plan would add 200 diesel buses

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Just call it the “Gagway.”

The “busway” on the humane-sounding “PeopleWay” proposed for 14th St. during the L train shutdown would feature scores of additional buses — each and every one of them spewing a steady stream of toxic diesel-particulate pollution into the air.

Everyone is talking about the “L-pocalypse” in terms of its disruption of subway riders’ commutes. But state Senator Brad Hoylman is voicing concern over part of the M.T.A.’s mitigation plan that would have an environmental impact on local residents — specifically, dozens of new diesel-exhaust-belching buses that would constantly be plying Downtown Manhattan’s streets.

State Senator Brad Hoylman wants N.Y.C. Transit to use electric buses on 14th St. and other Downtown routes to mitigate the transit disruptions during the L shutdown. But the agency says the entire fleet of new buses earmarked for Downtown during the L shutdown would be diesel-powered.

The authority is planning to add a total of 200 buses spread across 14th St., other Downtown routes, in Brooklyn and running across the Williamsburg Bridge to help offset the transportation disruption of the planned L train shutdown next April. The repairs to the L train’s Canarsie Tunnel are anticipated to take 15 months, though many would expect it would miss that deadline, as large-scale projects typically do.

Hoylman earlier this month wrote a letter to Andy Byford, the new president of New York City Transit, urging an “expedited trial period” for electric buses so that they could “fill service gaps during the impending L train shutdown on 14th St.”

Hoylman also initially wrote to N.Y.C. Transit last May to express his disappointment that the M.T.A., N.Y.C. Transit’s state-run parent agency, had allocated $366,495,966 to purchase more than 600 buses — all but 10 of which were diesel-powered — and, furthermore, that all 200 buses earmarked to mitigate the L train shutdown would be diesel-powered.

Hoylman noted that major forward-thinking cities like London, Los Angeles, Seattle and Philadelphia “are all making larger and more timely investments in electric buses.”

He also pointed out that a report commissioned by N.Y.C. Transit endorsed a pilot program of at least one year “to gain an understanding of electric bus operations, as well as the impacts of seasonality specifically on battery operation.”

Given that N.Y.C. Transit has the largest bus fleet in North America, the well-established, long-term health and cost benefits of electric buses, and the fact that the agency is adding buses to compensate for the loss of L train service in 2019, Hoylman argues that the agency can and should do more to bring electric buses online “in a responsible but timely fashion.”

“While I am pleased the M.T.A. recently announced an electric bus pilot program of up to 70 buses and 110 compressed natural gas buses, it is extremely unfortunate that delays caused by a trial period mean none of these buses will be used on 14th St.,” Hoylman wrote Byford on Feb. 9. “New York will miss a major opportunity to deploy cleaner bus technology during the 15-month Canarsie Tunnel closure.

“New York must speed up the transition to electric buses,” Hoylman stressed to the new Transit chief. “I urge you to reconsider your agency’s investment in diesel buses and expedite the trial period for electric buses to allow their use on 14th St. during the L train shutdown.”

According to a Hoylman spokesperson, the Transit chief had not responded to the state senator’s latest letter as of press time.

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