How to Keep Buses Moving on the 14th Street PeopleWay

Passing lanes, spread out stops, off-board fare collection, and at-level boarding could all help keep buses moving on 14th Street. Image: BRT Planning International
This rendering of a potential eastbound BRT stop at 14th Street and Irving Plaza includes a lane for buses to pass each other. Image: BRT Planning International

As the city and MTA consider how to move thousands of L train passengers across Manhattan when the subway line shuts down for Sandy-related repairs, momentum is growing for a 14th Street “PeopleWay” free of private motor vehicles. But with 10,000 passengers during the peak hour in the peak direction, prohibiting cars alone won’t prevent 14th Street from becoming a bus parking lot, according to Annie Weinstock and Walter Hook at BRT Planning International.

Weinstock and Hook say bus stop design will be key to keeping buses moving.  The above image shows their proposed design for a station at 14th Street and Irving Plaza, which they anticipate will be the busiest westbound stop on the corridor. The stop has space for four buses, with a passing lane so buses that have completed their stops don’t get stuck behind those that are still boarding. To make space for passing lanes, the corresponding eastbound stop would be on another block.

A bus with no passengers takes about 18 seconds to pull up to a stop and open and close its doors. With about 85 buses an hour needed to meet the demand created by the L train closure, according to Weinstock and Hook, bus stops will be occupied 25 minutes out of the hour, leading to congestion along the corridor.

Even with passing lanes and effective stop placement, Weinstock and Hook’s analysis shows that buses would be delayed at almost every major intersection. To further improve bus speeds, they suggest at-level boarding and off-board fare collection, ideally with pre-paid fare zones rather than ticket inspectors.

Even with dedicated bus lanes, 14th Street is bound to become a parking lot without station improvements aimed to speed up the boarding process. Image: BRT Planning International
Even with dedicated bus lanes, 14th Street is bound to become a parking lot without station improvements aimed to speed up the boarding process. Image: BRT Planning International

The station design also includes a pedestrian plaza on Irving Place, and six-foot curbside bike lanes in either direction. Alternately, Weinstock said, the bike lane could run in the center of the street or in parking-protected lanes on 12th and 13th streets.

In an email to Streetsblog, Weinstock said bike lanes on 12th and 13th would allow them “to be wider in case the volumes are high enough to warrant.”

Weinstock added that bikeways could serve as “a traffic calming measure on some of the streets that are nervous about through traffic being diverted onto their streets.”

The BRT International web site has photos of design elements that have worked, and haven’t worked, for bus rapid transit projects in other cities.

Editor’s note: This post originally said Weinstock “prefers moving the bike lanes away from 14th Street.” The email we received from Weinstock did not indicate a preference. The copy has been amended. 

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