No way for 14th St. ‘busway,’ but yes for SBS

BY RICO BURNEY | Fourteenth St. won’t be getting a no-cars “busway” — but apparently will be getting Select Bus Service.

On Wed., Feb. 20, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority presented its preliminary proposal for permanent M14 Select Bus Service a.k.a. SBS on 14th St.

According to people present at the meeting, the M.T.A. pitch was light on specifics, but appears much less dramatic than the plans for the busway, which would have barred most private vehicles from using the street during most hours of the day.

The busway was part of the city’s so-called “alternative service plan” to help mitigate the impact of a full shutdown of the L train for needed repairs to its East River tubes. Following Governor Cuomo’s intervention earlier this year, however, the full-shutdown scheme has been replaced by a less-intensive “slowdown,” under which the L tunnel will be repaired on weeknights and weekends, with one tube always remaining open for service.

A map showing the route of the proposed Select Bus Service for the 14th St. crosstown that was recently put out by the M.T.A. on an e-mail blast. The routes have legs through the East Village and Lower East Side.

Currently, the new planned SBS route calls for fewer stops by the M14, particularly in the East Village and Lower East Side, as well as off-board ticketing. The M.T.A. has not decided yet whether it will eliminate current M14A and M14D service following SBS implementation. But, officials at the meeting said the authority was “open” to that idea.

Many seem to welcome the idea of creating SBS for the 14th St. crosstown route. But residents and transportation advocates remain divided on the street-design question, which went mostly unaddressed due to it being a presentation by the M.T.A., not the Department of Transportation.

Supporters of either a busway or dedicated bus lanes on 14th St. note that the Riders Alliance ranked the M14, which reportedly travels at an average speed of 4 mph, as one of the slowest buses in the city.

“I support a dedicated SBS lane on 14th St., with physical barriers that would exclude other vehicles except emergency vehicles,” state Senator Brad Hoylman told this paper on Fri., Feb. 22. Hoylman argued this is needed because, “between the L train and buses, 80,000 people travel across 14th St. each day. To put that in perspective, that’s more people than the entire population served by mass transit in some major American cities.”

The same day as the M.T.A. meeting, activists with Transportation Alternatives and other advocacy groups held a “race” against the M14: They walked alongside the bus to demonstrate that walking is sometimes quicker than the bus, and show the need for restricting other traffic along 14th St. The activists lost by a mere five seconds in the race from Avenue A to Union Square.

On the other hand, residents like Judy Pesin, of the 14th St. Coalition, which has been the busway’s most vocal opponent, argue that restricting traffic in any way along 14th St. would negatively impact residents throughout the surrounding area.

“As long as the street maintains its original four lanes — which continues to be a priority for us — we support improved service across 14th St. and will welcome the SBS service with its off-board ticketing,” Pesin said of the M.T.A.’s presentation. “Access to transportation for residents and business is critical.”

D.O.T. has yet to say whether it will install a dedicated bus lane for the new service. However, street markings that were already added for the anticipated busway are still out there.

One thing that does appear clear, though, is that the busway proposal has run out of gas.

4 Responses to No way for 14th St. ‘busway,’ but yes for SBS

  1. We have select buses in Brooklyn. Result? Two (generally 2) pass by nearly empty of riders. We still wait and wait for "locals" to come by. My belief is that this is a public relations stunt perpetuated by the MTA to shut us up.

  2. I think the designated bus lanes is a good idea provided there are STRONG Barriers that actually prevent cars and trucks from parking in them illegally (like they have in most cities in Europe Especially Paris and Switzerland and not just writing on roadway like we have now.

    Heres another Idea how about assigning traffic cops at 14 Street who Actually write tickets instead of standing around on the sidewalk with coffee chatting with their colleagues watching people park in bus stops and and when you ask why they are not writing tickets they say "Because we don't feel like it" laugh and high five their colleagues.

    Or traffic cameras( that actually work and take photos of the illegally parked cars and mail them the tickets.not the ones that are there now just for show

    Or create an app for bus patrons that allows them to report illegally parked cars by simply typing the license plates of the drivers into the app that will send it to the DOT so that they can send the driver a ticket, The way to get people to use the app is to give them a small monetary reward around $5.00 for each license plate they report.

    Also , I am not sure if this is true but I want to mention it anyway I was told by a bus driver that cars cabs and truck pay fixed free of $50.00 per month to the DOTa deal by the DOT that they can pay $50.00 a month fee so no matter how many tickets they get they don't have to pay them because they pay that fee,

    • I hope I don't live anywhere near you.
      Seriously? Paying people for texting license plates to the city?
      Have you read 1984?
      And challenging the cops to write more tickets?
      Where did you get that nonsense about paying $50 a month to avoid tickets?
      And please spare me the Paris comparisons! I lived there. People don't pay tickets. They park on sidewalks.
      The cops don't bother, they just boot.
      And when was the last time you rode a bus on the RATP? If it was on a garbage pick up day, you got a nice slow tour of the neighborhoods behind the garbage truck!

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