With 34th Street Design Due in Spring, CB 6 Is Ready For Busway to Fail

A rendering of the 34th Street Transitway shows how a design with a loading lane might shift to one without. Image: NYC DOT.
A rendering of the 34th Street Transitway shows how a design with a loading lane might shift to one without. Image: ##http://nyc.gov/html/brt/html/next/34th_transit.shtml##NYC DOT.##

A preliminary design for the proposed 34th Street Transitway is due this spring, DOT said officials at a community board meeting last night.

While up until now the department has been using three different concepts of how the city’s first physically separated bus lanes could be sited on 34th — in a median, along one side of the street, or along both curbs — the design could include elements of all three. “On each block, we’re looking to see which design fits that block the best,” said DOT director of transit development Eric Beaton. That preliminary design will then be plugged into a new traffic model that the department has created to study Midtown Manhattan.

The members of Community Board 6’s transportation committee, which met last night to discuss the traffic study and the project’s environmental review, seemed to have already made up their minds about the project, however. The committee asked DOT officials a series of questions last night, most of which assumed various forms of failure. A formal list of questions from the committee asked whether the environmental assessment would measure the economic loss of the storefronts sure to close if the rapid bus service is implemented, for example, and whether the traffic model would really include the fact that making 34th Street one-way would send drivers circling around the block.

Bob Cohen, a committee member particularly opposed to the project, suggested that rather than add a new pedestrian plaza between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, the city should build a set of underground tunnels for those on foot instead. Beaton noted that pedestrians make up a majority of those using 34th Street. “The goal isn’t to move them out of the way for cars,” he said.

  • I don’t see how the loading lane in the picture can work. Cars can’t get to it by crossing the bus lanes, because there is a barrier. And cars can’t get to it by driving in the loading lane, because that lane is blocked by stopped cars. Does anyone know how this is supposed to work?

  • Charles , Delivery vehicles use the transit lane to move in and out of the delivery lane until they reach the closest intersection at which point they turn on the avenue.

  • Suzanne

    “[R]ather than add a new pedestrian plaza between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, the city should build a set of underground tunnels for those on foot instead”

    Are you kidding? Are you effing kidding??? Not only would a tunnel be an unconscionable expense, you seriously think moving money spending pedestrians underground is a good idea?

    How do you get on these committees? Do you have to pass some sort oftest showing how spectacularly stupid you are to get on?

  • Suzanne

    Ha ha ha! Pardon my dyxlesia. Should have said “moving money spending pedestrians underground.” Yet another reminder one should never comment while fumes of rage are coming off your head.


    Duh, Diktator Kahn, your storm troopers can’t even get the picture of 34th Street right. Where’s the drive-through McDonalds, the Jiffy Lube and the 7-11 parking lot? REAL NEW YORKERS are tired of getting lied to with fancy diagrams and fancy plans. You ram this bus thing down our throats and how the hell are REAL NEW YORKERS like Bob Cohen going to get around?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Not only would a tunnel be an unconscionable expense, you seriously think moving money spending pedestrians underground is a good idea?”

    The idea of pedestrian concourses goes back to the 1969 Plan, but it was proposed for farther up in Midtown across, say, 48th Street. Think underground Montreal, which is wonderful. It could be an express lane for pedestrians, without stoplights.

    But forget it — this is New York where public construction is a gravy train. They’ve been building underground concourses in the vicinity of Ground Zero under Dey Street and West Street, and the cost and time taken are such as to discredit the idea altogether.

  • Suzanne, there’s a great opportunity coming up next week where you can find out how to get on one of these committees (without passing the “stupid” test).

  • I second what Ben said in comment #7. I went to T.A.’s first annual Community Board Jammy Jam a little over two years ago, and it changed my life. I am now a full member of CB8M (including the transportation and parks committees), as well as an officer of T.A.’s East Side Volunteer Committee.

  • Ben: Is there some kind of broader effort to get more transit/ped/bike friendly folks on community boards? I missed this posting, but think it is a great idea.

  • IanM

    Pedestrian concourses often make sense to connect transit stations, underground shopping malls, event spaces, and so on – which is mostly what the Montreal underground does. But to simply replace pedestrian travel along a street? That’s a bit of a different prospect. Particularly if these people are concerned about street-level retail, the idea of sticking the pedestrians underground seems like an atrocious idea for the quality of street life. It’s rather a dismal idea to relegate pedestrians to traversing 34th street in a tunnel while the surface space is handed over to cars. What would sidewalk life be like then?

  • Kristen

    Moving pedestrians underground is a total zombie movie solution.

  • TA has been doing the community board jammy jams for a few years now. I’ll post a full item on the blog about it shortly — deadline to RSVP for this year’s event is January 7. Scott Stringer has also been making several CB appointments with an eye toward getting more 21st century perspectives on the Manhattan boards.

  • AlexB

    I used to think businesses were being very self-centered opposing bus and bike lanes because the vast majority of customers are pedestrians.

    However, the stores have to get the goods that the customers will buy and it’s not going to come on a bike. There are a lot of stores along 34th St between 5th and 6th Aves. How are they supposed to get their merchandise? If there is a way or not, the writers of this blog don’t seem to care – it’s not mentioned at all.

    People don’t need to be able to take cabs to their doorstep. I don’t necessarily think a truck needs to park directly outside a store either, but it has to have somewhere to unload. Is there a way to access a lot of these stores from 33rd or 35th? Is there a place to park on 5th Ave?

    Any clarification on this topic welcome.

  • Suzanne

    Scapegoating bike lanes isn’t the answer. Even before they were installed it was impossible for delivery trucks to find parking, thanks to the aritifically low “rent” charged for parking in NYC (ie. free parking). Bike lanes makes it harder for the trucks to double park is all (not that it seems to be stopping them, but that’s another issue.)

    The real answer is charging a reasonable amount for drivers to store their cars on our public streets. One suggestion is charging high enough rates that 15% of spaces are free at any time.

    There you go, answer to your loading problem.

  • Joe R.

    Maybe they should consider putting the cars in tunnels instead of the pedestrians. Come to think of it, that isn’t a bad idea. I’ve already suggested something similar on other sites-namely put the expressways which cut so many city neighborhoods in two underground. The real estate taxes which the city would get from the housing built above these tunnels would more than pay for the cost of burying them. And while you’re at it put a subway tunnel, perhaps also a bicycle tunnel, next to the buried expressway as well ( but physically isolated via a wall to keep car fumes out ). This way everyone wins-cyclists, transit users, motorists. It’s a shame it wasn’t done this way from the get go. I’ll guess Robert Moses would have had a less opposition to his expressways had he built them underground.

  • J:Lai

    Suzanne, you have successfully dodged the question. Maybe you have a future in politics after all.
    Your response qualifies as wishful thinking. It also might work if you forced deliveries to be made by hand truck, or knocked down some buildings to create alleys. None of that is relevant.

    Alex B was asking about what provisions are in the 34th street redesign plan for deliveries, not for a conjecture about something that is neither in the plan, nor specifically targeted to 34th street.

    It appears there is a parking lane between the bus stations, which could be used by trucks or delivery vehicles.

  • AlexB

    Thanks you J:Lai. I am an avid cyclist and I am very much for more dedicated bike and bus lanes. I don’t appreciate someone telling me I am scapegoating cyclists, i.e. myself.

    I asked a simple logistical question. In the plan I saw, there will be no legal way to bike, drive, park or deliver on 34th St between 5th and 6th Avenues. There are lots of retail businesses on that block. I am curious how the DOT will allow for deliveries to be made to these locations. Particular hours? A special lane (as J:Lai mentioned)? Will they have to cart them from 5th or 6th Aves?

    I understand the details are up in the air, so I imagine something will be figured out.

  • AlexB,

    I suspect the specific plan for deliveries is still getting hashed out. Dan Biederman, president of the 34th Street BID, expressed confidence that DOT would arrive at a solution when Streetsblog spoke to him last year:

    One important local stakeholder group, however, doesn’t want to lose the pedestrian plaza. “In general, we think that the DOT’s initiative of adding more public space to roadbeds is very much the right answer,” said Dan Biederman, the executive director of the 34th Street Partnership. “We are supportive of some added space for pedestrians between Fifth and Sixth,” he specified.

    Biederman reiterated that plans for 34th Street remain very fluid and noted that a few conditions need to be met to lock in support from his members: Tourist buses need to be able to pass through on the busway, DOT needs to develop a plan to ensure businesses can receive deliveries, and cars on West 34th Street should be able to turn around and head east on other side streets without an excessively difficult detour.

    Biederman suggested he wasn’t too worried about those conditions.

    “The past history on Broadway is that DOT finds ways to deal with that,” he said. “I’m hearing absolutely no screaming or yelling about how the Broadway boulevard is killing this or killing that,” he continued. If bike lanes and pedestrian space can be made to work along Broadway, he reasoned, bus lanes and pedestrian space can work on 34th Street.

  • Glenn

    Americans seem to be having failure of imagination and ambition of trying new things on a grand scale. I say we put all our resources into a time machine and send anyone back to whenever their “perfect” vision of NYC, America, World took place. Not so fast taking that iPod nano through the time machine to PPW circa 1960 granny.

  • Suzanne

    JLai and Alex,

    Apologies if I misunderstood the question… and the situation. You hear the canard of “bike lanes = no deliveries and how are you going to get your arugula from Whole Foods without giant semi’s roaming the city” so often that my hackles immediately rose.

    My impression of the streets of NYC, including major thorougfares like 34th, is that there are private cars parked everywhere, blocking access for delivery vehicles. Ergo, free up some of that space and you can deliver stuff. And why couldn’t smaller, human powered things like bike trucks and, maybe not hand trucks but hand carts move things from further down the block, rather than right in front of the store? How do they manage to deliver things in pedestrian plazas like those in Bogota?

    Quite honestly, I can’t make heads or tails of the above picture. The whole zigzagging bus line doesn’t seem conducive to moving buses rapidly.

  • Fred Arcaro

    With 34th Street Design Due in Spring, CB 6 Is Not Ready For Busway to Fail

    I take acceptation to Mr. Kazis’s misleading characterization of “CB 6 is ready for Busway to Fail”. The fact of the matter is that CB 6 did not take a position on the proposed 34th Street Transitway project. However, CB 6 did ask for an Environmental Impact Statement analysis to determine if the benefits outweigh any adverse impact to our community. DOT determined that an EIS was not necessary, but would conduct an Environmental Assessment, which is less extensive. Questions, posed by my Committee, to DOT on its Environmental Assessment Analysis’ work plan was intended to make the study as complete as possible in addressing all the community’s concerns of the proposed project.

    I also do not appreciate your tone of reporting the workings of a community board sub community. Your reporting only indicates to me total lack of understanding as how we work as a community board.

    Fred Arcaro
    Chairman of Public Safety, Environment and Transportation Committee
    Of Community Board Six, Manhattan

  • Robert

    Eh? I can’t think of any drive thrus in NYC. Hope you are being sarcastic.


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