Better Transit Service, Space for Peds Top CB4 Goals for 34th Street

Manhattan CB4’s transportation committee passed a resolution last night in favor of speedier transit and improved pedestrian conditions on 34th Street. The vote followed a brief presentation from NYCDOT outlining several options for a second phase of transit enhancements on the crosstown corridor. It’s still very early in the process: The decision whether to pursue BRT, light rail, or streetcars, for instance, is at least a few months away.

The purpose of last night’s meeting was to define goals for the project, so we don’t have dazzling drawings or concept plans to show you. But DOT’s Eric Beaton, a senior project manager in the office of planning and sustainability, did have an answer to the question that many Streetsblog readers may be asking: What happened to the 34th Street transitway concept that DOT and the MTA debuted last spring?

"That plan was a brainstorm, and we were very excited about it," Beaton told the audience. "We realized that the proper way to go about this was to take a
step back and follow a proper process. That doesn’t mean we’ve
forgotten about it."

Thirty-fourth Street has a lot going on: huge numbers of pedestrians (especially near Penn Station), local and express bus service, lots of crosstown car and truck traffic, commercial deliveries, ferry connections, and massive new development about to take shape at the Hudson Yards site on the far West Side.

Along with improved transit speeds and pedestrian conditions, the elimination of conflicts between buses and commercial deliveries was a top goal for the committee. Co-chair Christine Berthet said that a center-median configuration would make the most sense: "Having the [transit] infrastructure in the middle and protected is the one that will work."

DOT will take CB4’s goals into consideration as it evaluates different options — including physically-separated busways, streetcars operating in mixed traffic, and light rail with separate right-of-way. "Thirty-fourth Street is not exceptionally wide, so we’re looking at what the street can reasonably accommodate," Beaton said.

DOT has not yet decided whether to pursue federal funding for the project, but last night’s meeting fits within the process to receive money from
the New Starts program. While Beaton didn’t have a specific timetable for producing a finished design for 34th Street, the process "isn’t years long, it’s months long," he said.

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