How to Keep Buses Moving on the 14th Street PeopleWay

Passing lanes, spread out stops, off-board fare collection, and at-level boarding could all help keep buses moving on 14th Street. Image: BRT Planning International
This rendering of a potential eastbound BRT stop at 14th Street and Irving Plaza includes a lane for buses to pass each other. Image: BRT Planning International

As the city and MTA consider how to move thousands of L train passengers across Manhattan when the subway line shuts down for Sandy-related repairs, momentum is growing for a 14th Street “PeopleWay” free of private motor vehicles. But with 10,000 passengers during the peak hour in the peak direction, prohibiting cars alone won’t prevent 14th Street from becoming a bus parking lot, according to Annie Weinstock and Walter Hook at BRT Planning International.

Weinstock and Hook say bus stop design will be key to keeping buses moving.  The above image shows their proposed design for a station at 14th Street and Irving Plaza, which they anticipate will be the busiest westbound stop on the corridor. The stop has space for four buses, with a passing lane so buses that have completed their stops don’t get stuck behind those that are still boarding. To make space for passing lanes, the corresponding eastbound stop would be on another block.

A bus with no passengers takes about 18 seconds to pull up to a stop and open and close its doors. With about 85 buses an hour needed to meet the demand created by the L train closure, according to Weinstock and Hook, bus stops will be occupied 25 minutes out of the hour, leading to congestion along the corridor.

Even with passing lanes and effective stop placement, Weinstock and Hook’s analysis shows that buses would be delayed at almost every major intersection. To further improve bus speeds, they suggest at-level boarding and off-board fare collection, ideally with pre-paid fare zones rather than ticket inspectors.

Even with dedicated bus lanes, 14th Street is bound to become a parking lot without station improvements aimed to speed up the boarding process. Image: BRT Planning International
Even with dedicated bus lanes, 14th Street is bound to become a parking lot without station improvements aimed to speed up the boarding process. Image: BRT Planning International

The station design also includes a pedestrian plaza on Irving Place, and six-foot curbside bike lanes in either direction. Alternately, Weinstock said, the bike lane could run in the center of the street or in parking-protected lanes on 12th and 13th streets.

In an email to Streetsblog, Weinstock said bike lanes on 12th and 13th would allow them “to be wider in case the volumes are high enough to warrant.”

Weinstock added that bikeways could serve as “a traffic calming measure on some of the streets that are nervous about through traffic being diverted onto their streets.”

The BRT International web site has photos of design elements that have worked, and haven’t worked, for bus rapid transit projects in other cities.

Editor’s note: This post originally said Weinstock “prefers moving the bike lanes away from 14th Street.” The email we received from Weinstock did not indicate a preference. The copy has been amended. 

  • mfs

    that’s all good, but what does this look like on the Brooklyn side? seems much harder to achieve on anywhere on the closest-in stops that aren’t on Bushwick Ave. And even then, imagine the politics in doing so.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Unfortunately we’ll never have real level boarding in NYC supposedly due to the lug nuts sticking out on the front wheels of the buses (this is the excuse all over the US). The new buses have USB ports but the same shitty wheel design as far as I know.

    I agree with moving the bike lanes away from 14th Street, just as soon as they remove all the apartments and businesses from 14th Street.

  • Geck

    How do they get too and from the Williamsburg Bridge? Do they have dedicated lanes to do so?

  • Vooch

    agreed – dedicated bus lanes are needed on both side of Williamsburg bridge approaches and beyond

  • HankWander

    I think bus frequency would be highest on 14th St and over the Williamsburg Bridge, but that in Brooklyn bus traffic would most likely be split across several feeder routes servicing different subway stations and parts of the neighborhood. That would mean you would not need to plan for the same critical mass of buses on a single street or series of streets in Brooklyn.

  • AnoNYC

    Should make Essex St bus only.

  • redbike

    > Editor’s note: This post originally said Weinstock “prefers moving the
    > bike lanes away from 14th Street.”

    Currently, there’s not an inch of bike lanes on 14th St. Noting the update, if the original quote was accurate, even if it was subsequently amended, that anti-bicycle bias totally disqualifies Weinstock.

  • van_vlissingen

    Should still do it. Political precedent

  • Andrew

    This is misleading and misinformed. The overwhelming majority of L riders who cross the East River will divert to other subway lines. Attempting to accommodate them all on buses would require a massive investment in new buses and new bus depots, which would then largely go to waste 18 months later. And attempting to accommodate them all on buses is pointless, since other subway lines will get most of them to their destinations faster than buses possibly could.

    Buses will play three major roles during the 18 months: to replace the L along 14th Street for intra-borough trips (about 50,000 daily), to bring riders from the Bedford Avenue area to the J/M/Z trains on Broadway (although I expect most will walk), and to supplement the J/M/Z trains over the Williamsburg Bridge. The second and third roles are related, and perhaps a single route should serve both, but the first is entirely unrelated and should not be linked to the others.

  • Andrew

    Bedford Avenue is exceptionally busy, and it’s far enough from Marcy Avenue to warrant buses. But which other stations in Brooklyn do you think need buses? The other stations, which have much lighter volumes in the first place, all have existing buses that connect to the J/M/Z, and backtracking to Myrtle/Wyckoff for the direct M connection becomes less onerous the further east one begins.

  • Vooch

    a simple solution to help erstwhile L train riders convert to other subway lines is

    1) create ‘last mile PBLs’ to the subway stations in question. About 10-20 miles of PBLs would support last mile solution

    2) expand citibike into effected areas. Citibike is already expanding into much of effected area, further expansion is therefore a natural growth of citibike

    3) install dozens of bike storage racks at each subway station.

    this entire program might cost $5-10 million which is a pittance compared to the other solutions

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