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Advocates: L Train Replacement Bus Service Better Move Faster Than Walking Speed

Members of Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives outside last night’s L train shutdown open house. Photo: David Meyer

Transit riders came out in force yesterday for a rally on 14th Street calling on the MTA and DOT to raise the bar in their L train shutdown plan.

They want more bus lanes for the new services that will substitute for the L, and more attention to the specifics of bus stop design and fare collection. Getting the details right could spell the difference between minor inconvenience and intolerably slow buses stuck in traffic, according to a new report from TransAlt and BRT Planning International [PDF].

“The fact is, with bus speeds as slow as two miles an hour, people can practically get on their hands and knees and crawl across 14th Street faster than the MTA and DOT are proposing to take us across, and that’s totally unacceptable," said Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance. "We need to do much better than the plan proposes. We’re glad the MTA and DOT are taking it seriously, but... we can make a bus move 12 miles an hour across 14th Street and, frankly, we need to do it."

In Manhattan, the agencies' preliminary plan calls for reserving the central section of 14th Street for buses and deliveries only, as well as bus lanes on Delancey Street and Allen Street. But the 14th Street busway won't cover the blocks east of Third Avenue despite very high ridership, and transit-priority will only be in place during as-yet-undefined "peak hours," even though L train ridership remains high on nights and weekends.

"If you look at the data on how L train commuters are using the train, it’s all hours of the day, all hours of the week. We need these prioritization measures to be on 24/7," said TransAlt Executive Director Paul Steely White.

Inside the DOT/MTA L train shutdown open house that followed the rally, the agencies did not get more specific than the plans they've already released.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the agencies are attempting to balance everything they're hearing from the public.

"We’re also hearing from residents and businesses on 14th Street worried about how will they get their pick-ups, their drop-offs, their deliveries, so we’re going to try to do our best to balance what we’re hearing from everybody," she said. "There’s no question great expertise went into that report, and they have identified the key challenge that both agencies know we face, which is, we want to make [the] bus an attractive alternative, we have to make sure the buses can travel at a speed that’s fast enough that it attracts riders."

Speaking to NY1, new NYC Transit President Andy Byford didn't rule out free fares to keep the new bus services moving, but he said eliminating the fare entirely might draw more riders than the buses can handle.

While the presentation at the open house didn't include new info, we do have a few more graphics to share that haven't been posted before. The open house slide deck is available on the MTA's website.

Image: DOT
Shuttle service would use new bus lanes on Allen Street connecting to First and Second avenues. Image: DOT
Image: DOT
delancey street l train
On Delancey Street, DOT is planning to install a median bikeway this year. The bus lanes are specifically for L train replacement shuttles. The section indicates that DOT is planning for the bus lane on the south side of Delancey to revert to car parking off-peak.
university pl l train
The plan calls for turning three blocks of Union Square West and University Place into car-free public spaces.

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