Brewer to DOT: Start Looking Into a Bus-Only 14th Street

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wants bus-only lanes on 14th Street. Photo: David Meyer
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wants the city to study making 14th Street car-free so buses can carry the load while the L train is shut down for repairs. Photo: David Meyer

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is calling on DOT to study making 14th Street a bus-only thoroughfare while L train service is disrupted during Sandy-related repairs.

To allow for urgently-needed fixes to the L train tunnel, the MTA is considering either a full shutdown of service between Bedford Avenue and Eighth Avenue for 18 months, or a three-year variation that preserves about 20 percent of current service. At a press event this morning, the Riders Alliance revealed that most L train riders who responded to an online survey prefer to get it over with in 18 months — a position the MTA seems to share.

In either case, said Riders Alliance Deputy Director Nick Sifuentes, the city and the MTA need to take steps to keep people moving: “No matter what the MTA does, a shutdown will profoundly change transportation options for commuters on both sides of the East River.” Sifuentes said survey respondents “called broadly for robust, supplementary bus service in Manhattan and Brooklyn.”

In the survey, respondents suggested bus lanes in both Brooklyn and Manhattan and along the Williamsburg Bridge, as well as a number of other measures, including Citi Bike expansion, more capacity for bicycling on the Williamsburg Bridge, increased service on nearby subway lines, and increased ferry service.

“The shutdown will not be easy, but a robust set of alternatives would reduce the pain,” said Kate Slevin of the Regional Plan Association. “For example, 14th Street could become reserved for buses, pedestrians and bikes, and the Williamsburg Bridge could offer dedicated bike and bus routes. The MTA and DOT need to be bold.”

The RPA’s transit plan for the L train shutdown calls for busways on 14th Street, the Williamsburg Bridge, and the approaches to the bridge. Click to enlarge. Source: RPA

Brewer said the city and MTA need to put all options on the table for the sake of people and businesses on both sides of the East River. “Most importantly, we need a bus-only lane in each direction from the length of the Manhattan L train corridor,” she said.

Brewer did not explicitly endorse further steps but said the city has to consider every possibility. “What they need to do is a study quickly because whether it’s bus lanes, whether it’s a shutdown, obviously the current situation will not work because it’s jammed up, particularly [during] rush hour,” she said.

Officials have said that L train repairs will begin in 2019, which leaves enough time to implement car-free rights of way for buses and bikes in Manhattan and Brooklyn — if DOT and the MTA start making preparations soon.

Making 14th Street car-free to allow for robust surface transit has the support State Senator Brad Hoylman. Last week, the Daily News reported, Council Member Corey Johnson asked DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg about the concept, which he called “a good thing to look at.”

Trottenberg didn’t rule it out. “Everything is going to be on the table,” she said.

  • Jonathan R

    Too bad the FDR blocks any kind of pontoon-bridge solution.

  • Danny G

    Just put a traffic light on the FDR at 14th Street, and tear down Con Ed’s fence at Avenue C.

    Not sure where you’d hook it up in Williamsburg, or how pontoon bridges open up to allow ships through.

  • Vooch

    reallocate 4 of 6 motor lanes to buses on WB bridge

  • But none of the bridges connect to 14th Street directly, so really we’d need more dedicated space/streets from 14th Street down to the Williamsburg Bridge for this plan to really make a dent in the catastrophic nightmare that will become public transit for anyone who has relied on the L train.

  • AnoNYC

    Clinton St/Ave B or Essex St/Ave A.

  • Vooch

    the L Train Plan should offer explicit last mile solutions using Citibikes to Support L rider use of G & M subways

  • JudenChino

    Kills me for all of BdB’s love of Ferries that they don’t do more to address the last mile issue. FiDi isn’t so bad but 39th and West Side Highway and 35th and FDR, are not central locations. Proper balancing of CitiBikes could make these forms of conveyance significantly more attractive to a greater amount of people. Otherwise, WTF ru going to do at 39th and WSH? Walk 6 long avenues to Times Square? Take a x-town cab that moves slower than walking? The M42 is the slowest x-town bus in the City!

  • Vooch

    take matters Into your own Hands and buy 2 $50 beater bikes ; One for each side of the ferry trip

  • BBnet3000

    I’m not sure that the East River actually has to be navigable. The few ships that do need to go up there could presumably go around via the Harlem River. This would mean brief interruptions to Amtrak/1 train service due to opening the Spuytin Duyvil and Broadway Bridges but I suspect we are not talking about a lot of ships that must go through.

  • Vooch

    the question of bridge height on the East River comes up Every generation or so. The current clear height req’d to Hells Gate is just Plain silly.

    A very good argument can be made to reduce the height from WB bridge north to allow Tugs and oil Barges free passage, but not Battleships. East River is heavily trafficed by Oil Barges and similar vessels.

    2 Bridges ( pedestrian and cycling ) at Tugboat height would be Cheap to build. Figure One bridge Connecting Greenpoint to 34th street and One connecting Long Island City to 42nd would be compelling proposition. charge a $1 One way Bike toll If necessary to Pay for the bridges.

    Traffic volumes would Likely be similar to 59th street bridge. 7 months of >5,000 cyclists per Day and 5 Months of >2,500 cyclists per Day. Similar Numbers of ped volumes.

    Might get R/E interests in Greenpoint & LIC very excited about increase in Their property values

    The Logic of a ped & cycling bridge only is:

    1) live loads are trivial compared to motor traffic, so bridge structure can be reduced by orders of magnitude Which equals massive cost savings

    2) Neighborhood texture and fabric remained because Bridges with motor vehicles require massive on/off Ramps blighting acres of valuable R/E. Peds and bikes need tiny ramps easily integrated at a Jane Jacobs scale.

  • MRKing

    combine the RPA’s plan with this.

  • WoodyinNYC

    You got me interested. But watch out for the tourist cruises around Manhattan. I’d want them to fit under all bridges.

  • Vooch

    the RI bridge is 40′

    so 75′ clear should cover the Circle Line 🙂

  • Those aren’t bridges, they’re street routes to bridges, that are all below 14th street, which is where the L runs. My issue with closing 14th Street for this reason (I don’t drive, so it’s not a personal issue) is that it doesn’t actually tackle the logistics of the problems you’d face with replacing subway service with buses. We’re saying that buses will pick people up from along the L train corridor in Brooklyn, then head south a half mile to the Williamsburg Bridge entrance, then cross the river, come up through the Lower East Side and the East Village, and somehow a traffic free 14th St will make up for all of that. It won’t, by a long shot. The traffic on the bridge and the LES will be detrimental to the commute times, unless traffic is controlled along the entire bus route. You can swap out a subway for buses and call it even.

  • AnoNYC

    The bridge would also be converted to prioritize buses, as would connecting streets.


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