TA Calls for Grand Street to Serve People, Not Cars, During L Shutdown

Transportation Alternatives Queens and Brooklyn activists rallied yesterday for a Grand Street "PeopleWay" during the L train shutdown dedicated to buses, bikes, and pedestrians. Photo: David Meyer
Transportation Alternatives volunteers rallied yesterday for a Grand Street “PeopleWay” to prioritize buses, biking, and walking. Photo: David Meyer

Volunteers from Transportation Alternatives rallied on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge last night to call on the city to prioritize Grand Street for buses, bicycling, and walking when the MTA shuts down the western portion of the L train for 18 months to make Sandy-related repairs.

Every day, New Yorkers make hundreds of thousands of trips on the portions of the L that will be affected. While some of these passengers can shift to other subways, there’s no way to accommodate all that travel without also repurposing street space for spatially efficient modes.

In Manhattan, TA has called for a car-free 14th Street “PeopleWay” exclusively for buses, bikes, and pedestrians, a concept that has the support of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

On the Brooklyn side, Borough President Eric Adams has called for dedicated bus lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge, but otherwise little attention has been paid to L train riders who’ll need better surface transportation options.

The Williamsburg Bridge also serves as the main link in the bike network between North Brooklyn and Manhattan, and is likely to experience increased bike traffic during the shutdown.

“[Grand Street’s] a street that thousands of cyclists are already using,” said TA organizer Luke Ohlson. “But we’re also seeing a large number of commuters that are very close to L train stops that could benefit from solutions with bus travel.”

While Grand Street doesn’t precisely parallel the L train, it connects to the Williamsburg Bridge, making it the most direct route for buses to carry people across the East River. Currently, 13,000 people travel on the corridor each hour, Ohlson said. The PeopleWay proposal for busways and bikeways would nearly triple that number.

Since the July hit-and-run driver killing of 35-year-old Matthew von Ohlen, who was riding in a painted bike lane on Grand, advocates have called on DOT to put a protected bike lane on Grand Street. They have the support of Council Member Antonio Reynoso. Brooklyn Community Board 1 has asked DOT to study the concept.

Peter Beadle, a Rego Park resident and TA volunteer, said that even without the L train closure, safer bike conditions on Grand Street are imperative for the “thousands of riders” from Brooklyn and Queens who use the street to get to Manhattan. “We cannot suffer any more deaths,” he said. “We know exactly how to stop this from happening.”

  • AnoNYC

    When are people going to start talking about closing a north/south street in the East Village? Buses on 14th St are going to need a connection to the bridge. I nominate Essex St/Ave A.

  • Kevin Love

    I agree, but please do not use the word “closing.” By making it car-free, we are opening up the street to people.

  • AnoNYC

    You are correct.

  • HamTech87

    Sorry for the late comment, but it is really “expanding” if you consider the increase of the number of people.

  • Miles Bader

    “liberating”?

  • Andrew

    The vast majority of L riders between Brooklyn and Manhattan will use other subway lines to make their trips. The need for increased bus capacity across 14th Street is primarily to accommodate crosstown riders within Manhattan who currently use the L. There are already five north-south subway trunk lines with direct connections to the Williamsburg Bridge services.

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