MTA and DOT Are Weighing a River-to-River Busway for 14th Street During L Train Shutdown

So far the options for 14th Street don't include bikeways, however.

This concept from BRT Planning International includes both an exclusive busway and bike lanes. So far DOT and the MTA are contemplating a dedicated street for transit, but not including bikeways as well.
This concept from BRT Planning International includes both an exclusive busway and bike lanes. So far DOT and the MTA are contemplating a dedicated street for transit, but not including bikeways as well.

DOT and the MTA may go beyond typical bus lanes in their plan to keep people moving on 14th Street during the L train shutdown, which will suspend service west of Bedford Avenue for 15 months starting in April 2019. The options on the table include a car-free busway on a portion of 14th or the entire street.

Dedicated street space for buses on both sides of the East River is the only way to keep hundreds of thousands of L train riders moving efficiently. Typical New York City bus lanes, which are often obstructed by other vehicles, would get jammed up.

Last night’s presentation to the Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee was the first DOT and the MTA have discussed their thinking about surface street treatments in any detail. The agencies have been coy so far about whether robust busways will be part of their shutdown plan.

Last night, officials presented four potential options for 14th Street:

  • “standard” Select Bus Service (dedicated lanes with no physical separation);
  • “enhanced” Select Bus Service (which includes additional turn and curb restrictions);
  • a car-free busway only in the middle blocks of 14th Street;
  • a full-fledged, river-to-river car-free busway.

The MTA has ordered 200 buses to handle the additional passengers during the L outage. The agency anticipates between 75 and 85 percent of the 275,000 daily L riders will divert to other subway lines, with much of the variation depending on bus service, which could absorb between 5 and 15 percent of displaced trips.

The low end of that spectrum would be highly problematic. With fewer people opting for buses, the subways would become so crowded that access to some trains and stations during the busiest commute times would have to be limited and controlled. Imagine officers managing crowds on J/M/Z and G platforms and keeping people from entering stations until it’s safe. “Attractive” bus service could prevent that outcome, officials said last night.

“The difference for the average user is really dramatic,” said Transportation Alternatives organizer Tom DeVito, who attended the meeting. “They made the point loud and clear that they want those 200 buses to be moving people as efficiently as possible.”

One element conspicuously lacking from the presentation was crosstown bikeways on 14th Street. The agencies anticipate 5 to 7 percent of L train riders biking, taking taxis, or driving personal vehicles. DeVito said officials downplayed the possibility of safe bike lanes on 14th Street, instead suggesting “parallel routes.”

“It was all just like ‘where possible,’ ‘provide protection where possible.’ It’s upsetting because your bike network is only as strong as its weakest link,” said Claire Brennan, who also attended the meeting.

Brennan said people are already biking on 14th Street, and their numbers will only increase when the L train goes dark. “If there’s a cyclist in the bus lane, your buses aren’t going to move as quickly,” she told Streetsblog.

Agency reps also presented a draft bus route plan for service between Brooklyn and Manhattan. There would be three routes, one of which would run from the Grand Street L stop, over the Williamsburg Bridge, up First Avenue to 14th Street, then down Second Avenue. The other two routes would connect to the Broadway-Lafayette station.

The presentation is supposed to be posted online soon. In the meantime, photos of the slides are available via @MaxSholl on Twitter.

  • kevin

    Do center lane boarding or it’ll be a mess.

  • Reader

    All of the destinations anyone from outside the neighborhood wants to go to are on 14th Street. “Parallel routes” reflect an ongoing and problematic mindset at DOT, which is that they see a lot of their bike lanes as needing to be between two separate destinations and not as a means of accessing lots of little points along the way.

    Ideally, you’d have protected bike lanes on all the major two-way crosstown streets AND quietways on the parallel routes.

  • snobum

    I hope those aren’t the actual ends of those bus routes. All of these buses should continue down 14th St to actually replace the L and spread the loads across different subway lines. As it’s shown, anyone taking bus route 2 will need to transfer to another bus to get across 14th St. Having buses 1 and 3 end at Broadway-Lafayette/Bleecker seems awful. The uptown 6 platform already gets congested with normal transfers.

  • NYCdenizen

    People would just need to transfer to the enhanced M14 bus at 14th Street.

  • Andrew

    Imagine officers managing crowds on J/M/Z and G platforms and keeping people from entering stations until it’s safe.

    Why G platforms? G trains will be both longer and more frequent than they are now – I can’t see any G platforms typically becoming problematic. (The transfer underpass from the L to the G, however…)

    Yes, J/M/Z trains and platforms will be very crowded – that’s a reality that we’ll have to get used to. The real challenges, I think, will be in keeping service as regular as possible and in handling incidents smoothly.

    The other two routes would connect to the Broadway-Lafayette station.

    With intermediate stops at Delancey/Essex and at Spring Street, if I’m reading the map correctly. The 6 is a decent option to get to Union Square, as is the R/W three blocks away – and both are pretty empty heading uptown in the morning at that point. Broadway-Lafayette itself seems less useful – it adds only the B/D, still quite crowded there, although less so than the M and probably F will be. I suppose the buses may have to run to Broadway-Lafayette anyway to turn.

  • Andrew

    I hope those aren’t the actual ends of those bus routes. All of these buses should continue down 14th St to actually replace the L and spread the loads across different subway lines.

    They absolutely should not! If the bus count is fixed at 200, then extending the routes would necessitate a significant cut in frequency, while at the same time pumping too much service across 14th Street for the bus lanes to handle. Leave the 14th Street buses to serve primarily the intra-Manhattan crosstown market, which is quite significant on its own.

    As it’s shown, anyone taking bus route 2 will need to transfer to another bus to get across 14th St.

    The obvious point of bus route 2 is to serve the First Avenue station of the L, which has no nearby subway options on other lines. All other Manhattan L stations are served by north-south lines – if you’re going to Union Square or 6th Avenue or 8th Avenue, take a different subway line (J/M/Z from Williamsburg/Bushwick, A/C/3 from further east) and transfer if necessary, if you can’t fit on the J/M/Z in Brooklyn, use one of the other shuttle buses and transfer to the 6 or F/M in Manhattan.

    Having buses 1 and 3 end at Broadway-Lafayette/Bleecker seems awful. The uptown 6 platform already gets congested with normal transfers.

    The far south end of the platform gets congested. Don’t stand at the far south end and you’ll be fine. Anybody going to Union Square will quickly learn that the platform exits are all from its northern half.

    But if the bus is stopping at Spring before Bleecker, I expect that most people transferring to the 6 will do so at Spring.

  • Andrew

    So maybe you’ll have to walk your bike a block or two to reach your ultimate destination – is that really too much of a burden?

    The emphasis on 14th Street needs to be on getting the frequent buses across town, reliably and quickly. If there’s also room for a bike lane, that’s great; if not, there’s plenty of room for bikes on other streets.

  • Vooch

    solving the last mile challenge for new j/m/z/g riders should include bikes.

    All it takes is 1) installing bike racks at j/m/z/g subway stations 2) creating a few miles of PBLs feeding into key subway stations

    the vast majority of people switching from the L to the j/m/z/g will be going about 1 mile to their new subway stop. 1 mile is cycled in 6-8 minutes.

    If a mere 15% of these people cycle the last mile instead of taking the bus that’s 25,000 or more bike trips.

    that’s a huge reduction in bus overcrowding.

  • Reader

    People don’t hop off their bikes and walk a block. They bike to their destination and hop off. We need to design for human behavior. There’s room for bikes on 14th Street.

  • Vooch

    frequency is solved by exclusive bus lanes

  • Vooch

    can you link a article ?

    not familiar with bébés if center land boarding

  • c2check

    Sure would be nice if CitiBike were expanded to Bushwick (this summer would have been ideal given the looming M train shutdown)

  • Toddster

    For most L riders, 14th is a transfer point, not an end destination. If the MTA continues with their bus plan centered on Broadway-Lafayette, wouldn’t Houston be the better contender for a people way?

  • Guest from Brooklyn

    Whatever the solution MTA decides on, why cannot MTA continue on that solution permanently? As it is, L-train + all other lines are over-crowded… When L-train Sandy renovation completes, why not continue on the additional ground services, so that, over-crowded capacity would be addressed in some manner, at least during rush hours…???

  • Andrew

    Exclusive bus lanes don’t provide for unlimited capacity. There’s already going to be a massive increase in bus service on 14th Street, and bus lanes are being provided to make it work.

  • Andrew

    Contrary to popular belief, not all subway lines are overcrowded. Most are not, in fact: http://www.yimbynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/10/amcrowding.jpg

    All of this bus service will be immensely expensive to operate, and once the L is back in service most of it will be entirely unnecessary. If that sort of operating funding somehow continues to be available once the tube reopens, I can think of much better uses for it than running 200 unnecessary shuttle buses.

  • Vooch

    dude

    like 2 exclusive bus lanes in both directions plus a dedicated drop off lane

    it’s 50,000/hour

    that’s plenty of capacity https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/026ca84ba0a9e382fe225da7532ad59c29840f2eabb7cd296ef64123f85d4226.jpg