Transit advocates gathered Monday night in Manhattan outside the 14th Street Y for a rally in advance of the final MTA Revised L Project Open House. Representatives from Transportation Alternatives, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the New York League of Conservation Voters, StreetsPAC and TransitCenter called on Mayor de Blasio to ensure that bus riders have a dedicated right-of-way on 14th Street, which is critical to making buses more reliable during Canarsie Tunnel construction and beyond.
Some of the activists who participated in the rally dressed in lab coats and medical scrubs and held signs which read, "The M14 Bus is in critical condition: Mayor de Blasio, end delays for bus riders!"
The MTA and New York City Department of Transportation plan to roll out Select Bus Service (SBS) enhancements for the bus routes which run on 14th Street, the M14A and M14D this June. While some of the changes SBS would bring, like off-board fare payment and all-door boarding, could help reduce the time buses dwell at stops, they are not enough to create a significant increase in average bus speed. After the crosstown M23 bus route was converted to an SBS route, bus speeds improved by only 9 percent, from 4 mph to 4.3 mph. Last February, advocates were able to walk as fast as the M14 bus from Avenue A to Union Square.
New Yorkers who rely on the M14 buses deserve a faster, more reliable route across town, not simply when Manhattan L Train service is disrupted due to closures of the Canarsie Tunnels, but every day. New York City is in the midst of a transportation crisis, and the M14A and M14D are two of the city's busiest and slowest bus routes. In order to make sure they keep moving, there must be a dedicated space for them on 14th Street.
"The M14 bus travels at walking speed, and that's simply not going to cut it, especially on nights and weekends when L Train service is reduced or non-existent in Manhattan," said Transportation Alternatives Senior Director of Advocacy TomDeVito. "14th Street is a critical crosstown corridor, and prioritizing cars is far from the most efficient way to move people across Manhattan. Bus riders need a dedicated right-of-way."
"When the L train slows dramatically down less than three weeks from now, the City and the MTA need to do everything they can to keep transit riders riding transit," said Riders Alliance Senior Organizer Stephanie Burgos-Veras. "Putting buses first on 14th Street and the Williamsburg Bridge and maintaining a direct, reliable, fast, and frequent replacement for the L is the best way to deliver for riders and residents alike. Without top priority for bus riders during L construction, New Yorkers will be left stranded and neighborhoods gridlocked with cars in a recurring, mini-L-pocalypse that could last for years."
“During the L Train shutdown, bus service must be fast, frequent, and reliable. For this to be successful, buses can’t be stuck in traffic congestion, which underscores the need for the City to implement a busway on 14th Street. If the city prioritizes buses on the street, then people will prioritize taking the bus,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Advocacy & Policy Manager Liam Blank.
"Nobody knows better about the sharp decline of New York City’s bus system better than M14 riders themselves, who for years have been subjected to some of the slowest buses in the city. With major changes to L-train service coming underground, now is the time for our city to give transit riders above ground priority on 14th Street," said Jaqi Cohen, Campaign Coordinator for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign.
“Other cities are showing New York how to put transit riders first. Toronto has dramatically improved transit service on King Street by getting cars out of the way," said TransitCenter Communications Director Ben Fried. "With a dedicated transitway, signal priority at intersections, and bus stop consolidation, NYCDOT and the MTA can do the same for riders on the M14.”
"The plan to implement bus priority along 14th Street should continue in order to accommodate the nights and weekend service changes on the L-train that begin this month. New Yorkers need dependable public transportation options for L-train riders that will decrease reliance on cars, improve air quality, and reduce emissions. Especially in conjunction with the Mayor’s State of the City announcement to increase bus speeds, it is essential the City follow through with solutions that will make our streets more livable and pedestrian-friendly. NYLCV urges the City to implement bus priority on 14th Street," said New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe.