Manhattan Lawmakers are calling it a victory, as Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier today announced that the city plans to prioritize bus riders during the highly anticipated L train shutdown set to begin in two days.
The city announced that it will try an experimental new transit improvement plan on 14th Street that includes piloting Transit/Truck Priority (TTP) lanes on the busy corridor as a means to keep traffic and public transit riders moving between Manhattan and Brooklyn during the Canarsie Tunnel reconstruction project.
The pilot lanes will disallow through traffic from 3rd Avenue to 9th Avenue, to coincide with the launch of the M14 SBS service in June. Construction is expected to start this Spring and last for 18 months.
“We have an opportunity to try something new and really get bus riders moving on one of our busiest streets,” said Mayor de Blasio. “As we continue to address congestion across New York City, this is an experiment that, if successful, could provide us another tool to move buses faster and save people valuable time for the things that matter.”
Under the TTP changes:
- Only buses, trucks and emergency vehicles will be able to use 14th Street between 3rd and 9th Avenues as a through route.
- Local traffic will still be permitted to make pickups and drop-offs along the corridor and access garages, but cars will always need to turn right at the next possible location. Left turns will not be allowed.
- New curbside regulations will prioritize short-term loading and passenger pickup activity.
- Intersections along 14th Street will be designed with new turn lanes where appropriate to ensure that bus lanes will remain clear. Intersections will also receive Vision Zero treatments, including painted curb extensions that enhance pedestrian safety.
Additionally, the MTA has announced that in the period this spring prior to the implementation of Select Bus Service, L riders will benefit from increased M14 service on nights and weekends.
DOT expects to enforce the new TTP lanes through automated cameras along 14th Street. The agency will publicly announce the commencement of camera enforcement, which will not begin until at least 60 days after the new SBS route is established.
This is just one part of a larger new transit plan by de Blasio, the MTA and DOT during the L Train shutdown that also includes making permanent the bike lane improvements made on Grand Street in Brooklyn and 12th /13th Streets in Manhattan; and pursuing the retention of pedestrian-friendly changes along both University Place (between West 13th and 14th Streets) and Union Square West (between West 14th and 15th Streets and between West 16th and 17th Streets).
The news comes as a welcome relief to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council members Carlina Rivera (D-East Village, Gramercy Park, Kips Bay, Lower East Side, Murray Hill, Rose Hill) and Keith Powers (D-Upper East Side, Carnegie Hill, Yorkville, Central Park South, Midtown East, Times Square, Koreatown, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza, Tudor City, Turtle Bay, Murray Hill, Sutton Place), who in recent weeks have been calling for increased bus service and bike lanes as alternatives for straphangers trying to commute between Manhattan and Brooklyn during the reconstruction of the Canarsie tunnel.
Brewer penned a letter to MTA and DOT officials earlier this month calling for the agencies to roll out plans for M14 Select Bus Service and institute a “busway” of sorts along the corridor in time for the reconstruction project.
“I am pleased that there will be bus priority on 14 Street, as well as deliveries, and that the nearly 30,000 riders who use the M14 route will move quickly to and from their destinations. I am also in favor of local stops on the Lower East Side where the M14A/D is essentially the only transportation available to many residents who are older and low-income, but I congratulate DOT and MTA on the overall proposal,” said Brewer.
“The L Train repairs and ever-increasing congestion are going to present an unprecedented challenge for quickly moving New Yorkers on our streets. The Transit-Truck Priority pilot program on 14th Street shows New York City is ready to face this crisis with innovative ideas that could reinvent how we use our streets. I want to thank DOT for listening to our community’s concerns and addressing many of them in this plan while maintaining the core goal of dramatically improving bus speeds along 14th Street,” Rivera.
“Today’s announcement is a victory for those who spent hours advocating for better public transportation in my district and along 14th Street. The 14th Street corridor has long-needed better service and will certainly need more with the disruption to the L Train. From the beginning of my time in the Council, I have advocated for this solution. I look forward to riding a faster M14 in the near future,” said Powers.
In January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the L train shutdown would start in April and require an unspecified amount of weekend and nighttime shutdowns of one of the two tunnels, allowing the L train to run while repairs are made, for a period of 15 to 20 months. Evening and weekend frequency of L trains will be reduced to just three per hour.