DOT tells CB2 that 14 St. busway has improved travel times, but many neighbors voice complaints

The CB2 meeting of the Traffic & Transportation Committee on Thursday, Jan. 9. (Photo by Sofía Cerda Campero)

BY SOFÍA CERDA CAMPERO | Data on the 14th Street busway was presented at a Community Board 2 meeting on Thursday, indicating increased bus travel times and ridership, along with increased bike ridership, as some community members expressed disapproval of the new system.

Members of CB2’s Traffic & Transportation Committee gathered with neighborhood residents to hear the preliminary report (Fall 2019) of the bus and truck priority pilot presented by Sam Schwartz Engineering and the NYC Department Of Transportation.

The 14th Street initiative is designed to improve operations of the M14A/D Select Bus Service. From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., only buses and trucks are permitted on 14th street between 3rd and 9th Avenues, forcing other vehicles to make a turn at the next available right.

Although it was set to come into effect in July, a coalition of neighbors feared negative impacts it could bring to their neighborhoods and filed a lawsuit against the city’s Department of Transportation. The suit was overturned and the project was able to come into effect on October 3rd.

According to data collected in the report by Sam Schwarz Engineering, the M14 A/D has had a 36% improvement in travel times, 5.3 minutes faster during weekdays, and a 24% increase in ridership from November 2018 to November 2019. Additionally, bicycle volumes on weekdays have gone up 26% on 12th street, and 50% on 13th street during peak hours.

A m14 bus makes its way on the new 14th Street busway (Photo by Mark Hallum)

This, however, didn’t seem to be enough, as most neighbors expressed their concern and how their livelihood had been affected by traffic, noise, and lack of access. They found this specifically troublesome for the disabled and elderly.

“I have my mother and in-laws living in my building, what if a car has to pick them up?” said a middle-aged man who has been living in the neighborhood for over 20 years. “Cars must be able to make stops without getting tickets. Otherwise there is no access to many people who need it.”

Additionally, four people argued that they had personally seen ambulances stuck between cars. “I was on Broadway and University and saw how an ambulance ended up with all the traffic without being able to get out,” said a very concerned woman. “What if ambulances can’t get through? There are no divisions for emergencies, it is dangerous and not thoughtful.”

The list of complaints also included business dying, taxis being unable to get in, and a dramatic increase in noise level.

“You are using the neighborhood as a roadway without considering the people who live here,” said a 14th street resident.

Despite an overall sense of discomfort, a few people said they were happy with the project.

“I have been able to walk everywhere without any trouble, it’s so much nicer,” said an elderly man. “I used to run away from this spot but now I love it. Your plan has improved my life immensely.”

Another man said that, as a bike user, he has enjoyed being able to bike places without the fear of getting hit by a car.

They were both confronted by the rest of the neighbors, who said they are determined to continue their opposition towards this project. Sam Schwartz and DOT have agreed to look into their complaints but have not made any promises of change.

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