Editorial: Post-‘L-pocalypse’

State Senator Brad Hoylman with Transportation Alternatives members at a press conference in the East Village last week, at which he and others discussed ongoing transportation needs in the wake of the scrapping of the full L-train shutdown plan. Photo courtesy State Senator Hoylman’s Office

Updated Thurs., Feb. 14, 4 p.m.: State Senator Brad Hoylman last week stated that he was concerned about ensuring that there is better bus service for 14th St. during what he dubbed the upcoming “L-train slowdown.”

Speaking to The Villager this week, Hoylman said he also wants a review on whether to keep the new crosstown bike lanes that have been installed on 12th and 13th Sts., which was also part of the plan to address the L stoppage.

HOV lanes that were slated for traffic across the Williamsburg Bridge have been dropped. It wasn’t immediately clear where things stand on the plan to extend the pedestrian area along 14th St.

The repairs of the L-train tubes under the East River will now be done only on weeknights and weekends, and one of the tubes will remain open at all time. At least this is according to the plan Governor Andrew Cuomo announced earlier this year, and as far as we know, this is what is going to happen.

We support Cuomo’s plan — but, above all, it must be safe, in terms of the tunnel structure’s integrity and also in not exposing commuters to toxic silica dust from the jackhammering of some of the concrete “bench walls” in the tunnel during the repairs.

The L plan as previously presented always did seem like overkill. It felt like a huge experiment being foisted on residents, commuters, drivers, cyclists, businesses…everyone. It was essentially a Transportation Alternatives plan plopped on the L-tunnel repairs.

There was no convincing reason why all the tunnel-repair work had to be done in one 15-month fell swoop. And the notion of an “L-pocalpyse” — though a catchy sound bite — always seemed wildly exaggerated. Let’s face it, straphangers would have just taken other trains. It’s New York. People adapt, deal with it and get on with their lives.

Plus, this part of Manhattan — the Village and Chelsea — has some of the densest transit infrastructure around. Fourteenth St. has a central transit hub right smack in its middle, at Union Square. The distance between the subway lines is walkable, generally speaking, for most.

That said, better bus service is always needed. Should that be Select Bus Service? SBS hasn’t exactly been a success on 23rd St. It’s a question that should be put up for discussion, just like all the rest.

Advocates for the full-shutdown plan always said how exemplary the “outreach” process was. But, seriously, the Metropolitan Transportation and Department of Transportation were just going to do what they wanted to do anyway.

All that said, the unprotected bike lanes that were already out there on Ninth and 10th Sts. aren’t the safest. But the opposition to the new 12th and 13th St. lanes in the Village is intense.

In short, we need to ensure there is a real discussion about the entire alternative-service plan, as it was previously known — and we mean a REAL discussion this time around. Clearly, a no-cars busway from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. if there is full L-train service on weekdays is no longer justified, so it’s not surprising that we now hear the M.T.A. has dropped that idea.

More to the point, cars displaced by the 14th St. busway would just have wound up going down nearby narrow side streets, creating congestion there.

And while wider sidewalks are great, we have to say that 14th St.’s sidewalks already are pretty wide. And again, if the street is to be narrowed and the pedestrian space increased, where would the displaced traffic go? We’re not sure we buy transit advocates’ claims that those cars would all just “disappear.” Even with the city’s horrific congestion, people still insist on taking app-hail for-hire cars. It’s counterintuitive, of course, and they should take the subway or a bike if they want to move — but, well, they just seem to prefer sitting in traffic.

The goal of reducing vehicle traffic is laudable. And the more ferries — another part of the alternative-service plan — the better. But the M.T.A.’s plan was too draconian and too much of an imposition. It would be too much all at once. The plan came from the top down, rather than from the bottom up.

Now, we have an opportunity to restart this whole process — and do it right this time, in a way that really includes the community.


Clarification: This editorial initially stated that state Senator Hoylman supports the idea of keeping the busway plan for 14th St. But that information was based on an apparent miscommunication. Hoylman subsequently clarified that is actually not his position. He told The Villager that he feels 14th St. needs improved bus service, and that he likes the idea of SBS buses. “I want to make sure that the busway is replaced with more buses,” he said. “We don’t need a busway — we need more buses. SBS would be the way to go, in my opinion.”

7 Responses to Editorial: Post-‘L-pocalypse’

  1. Big YES to wider sidewalks, added green bike paths, designated bus lanes, and more narrow streets! We already give too much of our sidewalks to cafes, signage, tourist lines, and garbage bags. If the City is not going to enforce sidewalk laws, then give us more sidewalk!

    Also, making driving harder, slower, and more frustrating is the only thing that will get people out of cars. Anything less than "draconian" will not have the desired effect. Bloomberg tried that, to split the baby, and the effect was, like Bloomberg, …wimpy!

    Until it takes more time to get there by car than it would on the subway, people will just keep app-hailing. That's no solution. More congestion is the only best answer.

    Apologies to drivers, but come on guys, ya gotta get out from behind the wheel of polluters. The Green New Deal is coming, so get on-board now.

  2. If the bike lanes on 12th and 13th were originally installed in a less “wasteful of space” way, there would be less pushback. I’ as a daily bicyclist, don’t need that much space. BTW, I see more bicyclists riding on 14th st than 12th+13th streets. And I’m comfortable riding with the kinds of bike lanes available on 9th+10th streets. I think a mandatory fine of $500-$1000, if a motorist hits a pedestrian or bicyclist, will do much more to keep down the accidents, than wider protected bike lanes. More over, the aforementioned “too wide” lanes impede (regular AND EMERGENCY) traffic. Please scale down these bike lanes to 9th or 10st variety.

    • Glad that you're comfortable with unprotected lanes! Feel free to use them! But you're not why the city makes protected lanes. You can't encourage cycling if people feel like they're going to get hit by a car. It's already illegal to for a driver to hit a pedestrian or cyclist, yet drivers still do it. A lack of safe routes is the biggest impedement to getting people onto bikes in New York. Families with kids want to ride. Older cyclists want to ride. That's why the city builds lanes like these.

  3. Brad Holman stood on 14 St and 1st last Wednesday and stated correctly that the M14A and M14D busses are moving at a squirrel pace Right now, today and a change is needed. The change that was designed and planned by NYC Department of Transportation is to create dedicated space for buses to move freely on 14 st. The reason the buses are moving very slow is because they are stuck behind private vehicles and For Hire Vehicles ("users"). How will the buses move faster then a squirrel's pace without limiting the amount of private vehicles on 14 st ?

  4. Hoylman is doing his constituents, including myself, a major disservice by standing with the upper echelon car drivers of the city. I've noticed lots of cyclists flocking to the 12th and 13th St. lanes; there are more of them now because they feel—and are—safer. We have way too few safe cross-town lanes to give these up.

    Gridlock in east Manhattan is really bad on weekends and nights that the L is shut down; while Hoylman has called for more buses, removing the dedicated bus lanes will only mean those extra buses are stuck behind an increasing amount of car traffic.

  5. Haven’t noticed the cyclists you say are “flocking” to 12th and 13th streets, only bike delivery people delivering on the block. What about the elderly or disabled who might want to enter or leave a taxi or Accessaride in front of their own buildings?

    • Are Bike Delivery people not cyclists ?
      You do remember that before there were bike lanes installed, parked cars were lining the block, blocking curb access to the elderly and the disabled. You are aware that today Taxi drivers and access a ride driver pull to the curb in order to drop off and pick up passengers. They are not ticketed if they are providing the service and then clearing the bike lane. What kind of curb access right now the elderly and the disabled have on the north curb of 13 st and on the south side of 12 st ?

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