Miracles Are for Movies: No World-Class Bus Service for 34th Street

Image: NYCDOT

Three years ago, when Streetsblog first wrote up NYC DOT’s proposal for a transitway and pedestrian plaza on 34th Street, we called it a “transit miracle.” For this story, however, there will be no Hollywood ending.

The city will undoubtedly tout the latest design, expected to be unveiled today, as an improvement for pedestrians and bus riders — and rightly so, in all probability. But the bustling pedestrian plazas that have been such a success on Broadway, most notably in Times Square, won’t be replicated on 34th Street. More important, with physically separated bus lanes also off the table, transit users will continue to jockey for space with taxis, trucks and private cars.

New Yorkers will again be left waiting for world-class bus service. While cities around the globe are prioritizing people over cars by setting aside separated lanes exclusively for bus riders — who far outnumber car drivers on 34th Street — New York’s potential entrée into the world of 21st century bus transit fell victim to a small number of critics whose primary interest is maintaining drive-up access to their front doors. Paris, Bogotá, Johannesburg, and Guangzhou can do it, but so far, not New York.

Adding insult to injury, the media chorus is already spinning the severely stripped-down plan as one that will put the “squeeze” on drivers.

While the new 34th Street will most likely be an improvement, all indications point to a lost opportunity. Auto traffic will continue to dictate how space is allocated on one of New York’s most iconic thoroughfares, a sad statement reflecting the lack of will to enact changes that bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number of New Yorkers.

  • H Taylor

    The Times reporter, Grynbaum, meant to write: “Under the revised plan tens of thousands of bus riders will be squeezed into two lanes, and subject to repeated delays so a dozen neighborhood residents can unload bottled water and their aging parents.”

  • Glenn

    Aside from the stupidity of the overall JSK backlash, I think we all need to consider the Jan Gehl statement about incremental change. He wanted to make people feel that the city was “getting a little better, everyday”. Copenhagen was changed over two generations, not one mayoral term.

  • NattyB

    Yah, this sucks.

    Bus lanes are useless if anyone can just block it. And cars WILL. They always WILL. It’s human nature. “Oh, I’m not parked here, I’m just dropping someone off,” or “I ‘m just picking someone up, I’ll be just 2 minutes” meanwhile, a bus full of seniors is just stopped behind that car.

    We can’t half-@ss this s-hit. You have to really try, like with Times Square. You can’t do halfsies. Anything less, and ya, we’ll have more of these barely moving throughways.

    ***

    With my foot I tapped the bumper of a livery cab parked/napping on a bike lane on rivington on sunday to get his attention. Just to let him know that, “hey dude, it’s not cool to park here.” and yah, he came out screaming motherf—– this and that.

    People will park and stand and stop whereever the F they want to unless they’re physically prevented or unless you have super intense parking enforcement. But, given that on 34th street, we can half expect the police to block the bus lanes, I’m not terribly optimistic.

  • Bolwerk

    I think you’re wrong about the Hollywood ending. What we got was the embodiment of a Hollywood ending! :-\

  • Daphna

    AMNY also has an article: “New 34th Street plan loses plaza, barricades”. The following comes from that article:
    “Councilman Dan Garodnick applauded the new plan. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who opposed the earlier proposal, called the new one “a major step forward”, a spokesman said.”

    So even Scott Stringer, who was more of a livable streets advocate than some other politicians, shows that he is not a dependable supporter in any way.

    Anyone who applauds the watering down of the 34th Street plan is either lacking in education on the subject, does not care, has no vision, has no courage, or has a bias towards the small motoring minority.

    The plaza and the separated bus lanes would have been a huge success once implemented. 1st and 2nd Avenues were supposed to get physically separated bus lanes, but that got watered down. Physically separated lanes need to be tried somewhere! Just like the 9th Avenue separated bike lane – they need to be implemented somewhere to see what the result is.

    I wish the major’s office would empower the DOT to go ahead with what is right for the city in these street designs, instead of caving in to a vocal minority. Changing a plan that is good for the majority into something that benefits a small minority, is not the community collaboration that is supposed to be going on. But since that is what is happening, I would rather the DOT just do what is right, and not engage in so much community collaboration.

  • Westchesterite

    I’m surprised the landlords are the far east side of 34th Street were not more vocal in support of the original plan. Getting anywhere from over there is so difficult and painstakingly slow. Reason alone not to live or work there.

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