EDITORIAL: Figuring out 14th St.

Government credibility and integrity is an enormous issue right now. So it’s puzzling and concerning to see what has been going on with the plans for 14th St.

In short, process matters. So does buy-in by the community and respect for the community.

It’s not even a question of whether we are in favor of the Transit/Truck Priority lanes. Really, it’s this process that has been, frankly, bizarre.

In January 2018, in a meeting at P.S. 41 at which agency officials presented the city’s mitigation plan for a possible L train shutdown, bicycle activists showed their support for both the “PeopleWay” plan for 14th St., which would have turned the street into a “busway,” and a related plan for a new two-way crosstown bike lane on 13th St. Their lead organizer was a member of Transportation Alternatives. (Photo by The Villager)

When the sky was falling and the “L-pocalypse” was coming, and everything was going to be utterly “unprecedented, unprecedented, unprecedented” — did we mention, “unprecedented?” — we were told that a no-cars “busway” was needed on 14th St. because, with the L train out of service, tens of thousands of displaced straphangers would be stranded on the major crosstown boulevard and would have to get across town and/or connect to other transit.

Then, earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo shocked everyone by saying the L-train “shutdown” would only be a “slowdown.” It appeared Andy Byford, head of the New York City Transit Authority, threw in the towel on the busway, as did Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

But recently, the plan was resurrected, though with a few changes. The Truck/Transit Priority lanes would be an 18-month-long pilot plan. Though, as one member of the 14th St. Coalition put it, usually a pilot is maybe three months. Eighteen months sounds like something that is being positioned to be permanent.

The reason for the T.P.P. plan, we’re now told? The buses on 14th St. are just, well, too slow.

Locals suspect there is more to it: that turning 14th St. into a corridor for faster-moving buses (though there will be trucks in their way now in a single lane) is about two things, “tourism and Google.” Tourism meaning getting people to the High Line, to the Whitney Museum, eventually to Pier 55, Barry Diller’s art pier. And Google meaning the tech giant will have offices at Pier 57 and already has a solid line of buildings stretching across 15th and 16th Sts. from Eighth Ave. to the pier. But the L train stops at Eighth Ave.

The implementation of Select Bus Service — and dropping the Abingdon Square loop — is a huge issue for West Village seniors. Cutting the number of stops on the M14A on the Lower East Side is another nightmare for seniors, though a couple of stops have now been restored.

Then there are the bike lanes on 12th and 13th Sts. Honestly, it is much safer biking in them than the narrow ones on 9th and 10th Sts. That said, they take up so much of the side streets. These lanes were put in for the “L-pocalypse,” allegedly temporarily. Now they’re permanent.

In short, the city is throwing a lot at this community. It just all feels very cynical and dishonest, in a certain way. Basically, the city wants to do what it wants to do, and residents be damned.

So the city is determined to make 14th St. an “experiment.” Residents fear, understandably, that their side streets will be flooded with spillover car traffic.

As for why the buses are losing ridership and are so slow on 14th St., let’s be real, we know the reason: the explosion of ride-hail app cars, like Uber, Lyft, Via, etc., which the city let spiral out of control. On a positive note, Citi Bike is also cutting into bus ridership. Let’s cut the dissembling already. Just give it to us straight.

13 Responses to EDITORIAL: Figuring out 14th St.

  1. Great story, Lincoln. Many good points.

  2. Barbara Ruether

    I have lived in the West Village on Bank Street since 1958. I worked in the Department of Community Medicine at St. Vincents Medical and Trauma Center until it closed in 2010. I left work in Corporate America to work in serving people in out then community very idealistically taking a $20,000 pay cut in 1975. HR insisted on interviewing me twice to be assured that I knew I was taking a big risk to work on a grant program called the Chelsea Village Homebound Elderly Program. But I was determined. This little program based on team work, doctor, nurse, social worker was founded to help keep the frail elderly in their homes as long as safely possible where they wanted to be. The CVP served well and later became the NYS model for the Nursing Home Without Walls Program technically known as the LTHHCP (Long Term Home Health Care Program) that can provide all the services in a patient's home including aides, physician care, nursing care, social worker support as well as OT, PT . The patient can remain at home as long as the cost of needed care does not exceed the cost of the local nursing home. State Senator Lombardi helped us find the resources and economies to use Medicaid and it worked. Now, NYS residents can find an array of services for seniors who wish to remain home safelyl by checking out NY CONNECTS. I am proud to have been a founding part of these services in my community and to know it how it grew to serve many more.

    Now the community I served is determined to make me a prisoner in my little Bank Street studio apartment by taking away my Abingdon Square 14A bus. The public affordable vehicle that provides me my critical access to my doctor's office on the East Side. I am unable to climb the subway stairs to get uptown, most everyday things I need begin on the 14th Street corridor..The Senior Center I prefer is off 5th Ave. Basically, the Village has become a barren desert because all the stores are gone as are,the little shops that my neighbors and friends enjoyed visiting. I cannot afford to eat out, most of the affordable little eateries are gone. You know the story, just walk around ……At least the Abingdon Bus gets me to the great 14th Street Corridor. Walking up to 14th and standing around waiting for another bus is exhausting. Even if I do walk up to 14th, there is not a seating shelter to rest at 8th /14th. The Abingdon bus stop on 8th Ave in front of the drugstore at least provides some shelter in case of bad weather. Stormy weather and heat one can take the bus to reach 14th Street and east. Are you aware that it costs about eight dollars( $8.00 )just to step into a yellow cab, before it travels an inch.
    I need the bus, WE need this bus.You are taking away my life line and that of many others who have made the Village a wonderful place to be. Now "the Village" is gone and taken over primarily by pied de terre non-taxpayers who make decisions ignoring the WE, the people who still do live here. Seems you want us gone too?
    This long time Village activist says shame on you.
    Barbara Ruether
    age 83 years

    • Robert W. Smith

      I thoroughly agree with Ms Ruether and her need for the M14A Abingdon Sq. Loop. When I moved to Horatio St. in 1968 I was able to run and walk all over the place. I worked at the Dept. of Health on 28th & 9th Ave. and walked to and from work every day. When I had to go to Bellevue for work I walked to Bellevue. Now I can't do that. COPD has made going to 8th Ave. from Hudson St. difficult and going to 8th Ave. and 14th even more difficult. At least when I come home on the M14A it presently stops at the corner of Horatio St. I didn't really appreciate this bus until I got to be 86.

      • Barbara Ruether

        Mr.Smith- You did good- 86 ! Thanks for writing your story. You are what defines the public in public transport as do I—for so many..

  3. Let's be real about the facts on the ground:

    The bike lanes are unneeded – biking isn't mainstream – only about 1-3% of daily trips are by bike. And other than food delivery, bikes are not used for commerce. Nothing really arrives on our island by bike. It's all by truck. And saying that the streets are safer is nonsense. Safety is about following the law. Yet we get more and more street chaos with illegal and dangerous bicyclists who have no consequences for their reckless ways. Those same elderly (and us) now have to not only walk longer, or transfer buses, but they are assaulted by these rogue bicyclists who ride on the sidewalk, wrong ways, in and out of bike lanes. We don't need more bikes or bike lanes – we need the existing ones to obey the law. And those that don't to have serious consequences.

    Then there's the bus that is the 2nd busiest in NYC. OF COURSE it will be slower, it has more passengers to load. SBS will help, but cutting stops to eliminate the elderly and disabled and those with kids, is a terrible way to do it. DOT/MTA promised 30% greater speeds in its presentation to CB2 in early May. The improvement in "service" will benefit the system, not the riders. Is that what we should want and pay for through our taxes and increasing fares?

    BUT – our politicians will hail the bus lanes and bike lanes and say it's great for safety and speed.

    And meanwhile we can't leave our buildings without fearing for our lives or being asked to give up more and more rights (like walking on the sidewalk without being assaulted by bikes) for the sake of the system improvements.

    These elected officials supporting these disastrous "experimental" plans need to get on OUR bus, and support our needs, or they'll be out of a job the next election.

    • "The bike lanes are unneeded – biking isn't mainstream" — you appear to be assuming that bikes lanes are about biking. I doubt that. They are about making driving in the City more and more difficult. There were few other good ways to force self-centered, single-passenger drivers into mass transit. Uber and Lyft screwed up those plans, but still, driving must be more difficult, not less, or we'll never address carbon in our atmosphere.

    • Ah yes, another unreasoned rant about bike lanes and buses in the comments of this site.

      Statistics prove out that streets with separated bike lanes have fewer crashes and injuries for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. Those are facts. Your observations are just that — observations, clouded by your own biases. The data used to reach the conclusion that these streets are safer is provided by the NYPD, no fan of cyclists or bike lanes. To deny these facts is Trumpian.

      And spare me the overly dramatic pearl-clutching over being "assaulted" by "rogue cyclists." Though you're right — cyclists shouldn't be on the sidewalk. But then you go off and say "we don't need more bike lanes" when adding bike lanes to streets is statisically proven to reduce the amount of sidewalk riding! But, oh right — you don't believe in statistics.

      By the way, your bus is MY bus, too. And I prefer a faster ride over stopping every other block. It gets me to my destination faster. The fact that you think a faster-moving bus doesn't benefit riders shows how little you've talked to other riders. I certainly feel for the elderly and disabled who have longer walks, but it shows the need to a much broader reform of Access-a-Ride to actually serve their needs. We need to strike a balance. Without it, we'll never have better bus service.

      Anyway, I guess you're right — we'll have to wait and see who's out of a job next election. I imagine the tiny, whiny presence here will outvoted by the masses of people who just want easier, simpler, faster ways to get to work, school, and errands.

  4. Maris Schilling

    Thank you for your hard work getting processes in place so elders can remain in their homes. As a “new” senior (age 66) and cancer patient, I always thought I’d retire and live out my golden years here in NYC. But it seems the electeds are only interested in the young and hale. From allowing the deterioration of mom and pop shops to the emphasis on biking to the draconian war on cars, those of us too weak or too immunocompromised for public transportation are feeling the brunt and paying the price in higher fees for “congestion” caused by the bike lanes themselves. You said it well:shame on them. I just fear they feel no shame.

    • I have no shame in believing a city can march on to be better for everyone. Bike lanes are a part of it, helping make our residents more active and reducing the number of cars on our streets.. Cars kill seniors at the highest rate of any age group in this city. Congestion pricing will improve emergency response times and remove asthma-inducing exhaust from our air. And that's just scratching the surface. We're not trying to create a better city for you to suffer in. We need you to work with us instead of standing in the way of progress. The negatives far outweigh the positives and will make this city better for you, for your neighbors, and for generations to come.

      • Barbara Ruether

        Maris is making the contrast between the many provisions made for bicycle traffic while denying the convenience of the M14A Abingdon bus to those who cannot use bicycles. As for Access-a-Ride, you must be kidding about using that service or for thinking it will improve soon. Access-a-Ride is the ride to no where. That's okay if you think seniors should always be expected to consider our time and place.in the community as irrelevant. The 14A is not the cause of slow traffic on 14th Street. Perhaps if the subways had the needed elevators in place, fewer would be taking the busses, so work on elevators as a priority over bicycling which harms the pedestrians on the sidewalks. Thank you.

  5. I'm 75, with heart and lung issues, but living in active retirement at Hudson and 11th St. thanks to the 14A bus loop down to Hudson and Bleecker plus the M11 and M8 lines which help me get to various doctors and other appointments and off and off-off Broadway theaters at night–it's what keeps me going. Ending the 14A loop (the line I use most) will bring my life-preserving active life to a semi halt and will no doubt shorten my life. So this is deadly personal for me. By the way, the notoriously bad M20 bus is so erratic, late and slow I've missed many a curtain time waiting in vane for one to come. Low income seniors can't afford Ubers or taxis and subway stairs are just too much. PLEASE don't abandon us. It is literally a matter of life and death.

    • Barbara Ruether

      You said perfectly what I originally intended to convey. It is literally a matter of life and death as you spell out so clearly. Thank you.
      Barbara

  6. Sounds like someone in the current city administration might be positioning themselves for a job in one of the aforementioned institutions on or near the west side of 14th st. In the words of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff: “When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ’em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.”

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