The Untenable Selfishness of the 14th Street Busway NIMBYs

An analysis from DOT and the MTA shows that a busway and bikeway along the 14th Street corridor during the L shutdown will save time for everyone, including people in cars.

A busway would reduce "person delay" for both transit riders and motorists. Image: MTA/DOT
A busway would reduce "person delay" for both transit riders and motorists. Image: MTA/DOT

Last week, West Village Democratic district leader Arthur Schwartz threatened to sue DOT into watering down its plan for a busway on the core blocks of 14th Street during the L train shutdown. A new analysis released by DOT and the MTA highlights what’s at stake if Schwartz and his NIMBY cohort get their way: Everyone who needs to get across town in the vicinity of 14th Street would lose time, whether they’re in a bus or a car [PDF].

The agencies’ plan calls for converting 14th Street between Eighth and Third Avenues into a bus-only street while maintaining local access for deliveries, adding a two-way bike lane on 13th Street, and increasing pedestrian space to accommodate the thousands of people who’ll be walking above ground instead of in subway stations.

The proposal’s weakness is that it doesn’t prioritize transit enough: Advocates warn that the busway should extend at least to Avenue A and that it should be in effect 24-7 to work effectively.

Schwartz and his contingent, meanwhile, are so selfishly obsessed with the potential traffic spillover on their residential streets that they deny the very need to keep tens of thousands of people moving without the L train.

The travel projections from the agencies lay out why the NIMBY position is untenable: Doing anything less than what DOT and the MTA have proposed will bog everyone down in traffic, and any traffic spillover would likely be even worse.

The MTA’s ridership model estimates that 84,000 people will rely on the buses on 14th Street — the 30,000 who already ride the M14 bus, plus 57 percent of intra-Manhattan L riders and 11 percent of riders coming from Brooklyn. That would make 14th Street the most intensely used bus route per mile in America, according to the agencies.

The 13th Street bike lane, meanwhile, is expected to absorb an increase of 5,000 daily crosstown bike trips, all in the space consumed by a single lane of motor vehicle parking.

The plan for 14th Street calls for a transit- and deliver-only design on the busiest blocks. A two-way protected bike lane is slated for 13th Street. Image: NYC DOT
The plan for 14th Street calls for a transit- and deliver-only design on the busiest blocks. A two-way protected bike lane is slated for 13th Street. Image: NYC DOT

For their travel analysis, MTA and DOT considered four scenarios: doing nothing, implementing standard Select Bus Service on 14th Street, a “short busway” between Third and Sixth Avenues, and the city’s preferred “full busway” option between Third and Eighth.

The SBS option, which maintains general traffic lanes on 14th Street, was ruled out because it precludes the addition of pedestrian space. There will be such an increase in foot traffic once 14th Street’s only crosstown transit is running on the surface that DOT considers the sidewalk extensions to be an essential part of the plan.

In its models of the three remaining options, DOT found the full busway would reduce “person delay” — a measure of travel efficiency for everyone in a bus, car, or van — on 14th Street and surrounding streets by 51 percent compared to the “do nothing” scenario (top chart). Even looking only at the delay for car occupants, the full busway is preferable since it draws more people to the bus and reduces street-clogging car trips.

Here’s what the model shows for bus travel times on 14th Street between Avenue C and Eighth Avenue:

14th street bus travel time

In terms of traffic, the forecast says DOT’s preferred busway will cause somewhat more spillover than doing nothing. But the agencies did not model the traffic impacts of bus riders abandoning slow transit and opting for Uber instead. They do note that if just 5 percent of bus riders get frustrated and opt for taxis, spillover traffic during the “Do Nothing” scenario would be greater than with the busway.

Notably, the “short busway” is projected to cause worse spillover on side streets than other options, since large numbers of drivers would accumulate on 14th Street, then make a series of turning movements to get across town in a snake of gridlock.

Advocates made a similar argument in pressing for the busway to extend east at least to Avenue A — the longer busway speeds up buses and helps disperse crosstown car traffic. DOT and the MTA did not release an analysis for a longer busway, however.

The report doesn’t clarify what hours bus priority rules will be in effect, but it does include a chart of Williamsburg Bridge travel speeds that indicates why it’s important to set aside space for buses beyond rush hour. Traffic congestion slows vehicles on the bridge all day long, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Bus priority rules should be in effect at least for those times, and once you have a bus lane in effect for 13 hours, you might as well keep the rules in place overnight too.

willy-b_hourbyhour

  • 50 year village resident

    Whine and vituperate all you want. Schwarz has had stellar legal success with these kinds of lawsuits against overbearing government agencies. Smart money will bet on Schwarz, not DOT’s inept staff.

    What do you have to fear from a SECRA//EIS review? The truth?

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    The delay is the fear. The L train is shutting down and having more time to prepare will be beneficial for everyone.

    If you think there will be any more truth out there from an EIS than there is now is a clear sign you have never read through an EIS. They are a useful tool to delay certain projects you disagree with. I fully embrace using them to delay dumb projects like highways. In this instance delay will only cause more chaos, not less.

  • “whine and vituperate” lol

  • The truth is right in front of your eyes, you just refuse to see it.

  • Larry Littlefield

    He has zero chance of winning the lawsuit, and will not bother to try.

    The goal in these kinds of suits is to get an injunction, and stall. Something the NY courts seem to allow if the only people who will be harmed are serfs.

  • Adrian Horczak

    An EIS does not stop an engineering project. It is part of the process of implementing it. It shows why an alternative had been selected. Do nothing was not selected, so a busway is to be implemented.

  • Joe R.

    You never explained exactly what you will “win” if the lawsuit is successful. From the vantage point of an outsider who won’t be affected by the L train shutdown at all, it seems to me all you will gain is massive traffic jams. To me that’s not a win. It’s a shame Schwartz and his ilk think they’re entitled to a suburban car lifestyle in the most densely populated city in the United States. NYC needs to start making things a lot less convenient for private car owners if it wants to survive. I can see first hand how catering to car owners makes things worse for everyone. Just yesterday I had to take a rare trip into Manhattan. Unfortunately, it was around 8 AM. The bus ride to the subway took 35 minutes instead of the usual 15 just to go a lousy 2.7 miles. The reason was the streets were clogged with private cars. And this is in eastern Queens. The problem is exponentially worse in Manhattan. It’s time people are both encouraged and coerced to stop using their cars. The convenience of the few comes at the expense of the many.

    Before you bother calling me a transplant who should go back to whatever town I came from, I’m a 55-year old lifetime resident of NYC. I can see what a utopia this city could become if we got rid of the hordes of private cars clogging the streets on a daily basis. Apparently, you and your “hero” Schwartz are blind to this. And you’re just as wrong thinking local neighborhoods should have veto power on what gets done on public thoroughfares in their neighborhood. The key word here is “public”. It’s not your street, it belongs to NYC. You have no right to park on it, or even drive on it, unless NYC gives you the say so. NYC, and NYC only, has final veto power of how it apportions street space. If you or Schwartz don’t like it, then don’t let the door hit you on your fat asses on the way out. The city will do just fine if all these irate car owners decided to move to the suburbs where they should live if they want a car-dependent lifestyle. Most of those who live in NYC are here precisely because we *don’t* want such a lifestyle.

  • 50 year Village resident

    Ah, Joe, you said it yourself. You rarely visit Manhattan. So what do you care what we want for OUR neighborhood? I and my neighbors would never have the gall to dictate what traffic patterns belong on YOUR block.
    We are not a bunch of busybodies.

    But that is not your first gaff. This lawsuit is not about helping cars. I nor Arthur own a car. This is about standing up to an unresponsive bureaucracy that caters to fanatics from T.A.

    And to foolishly say that we, who chose to live in one of the densest neighborhoods in the world, want a “suburban” lifestyle coming from someone who lives in the ‘burbs of eastern Queens is, frankly, laughable.

    But not as laughable as someone who uses “(NY) city” and “Utopia” in the same sentence.

    “your fat asses” Sir, I just hiked up a mountain 8.9 miles last week. If you want to talk about fat asses, let’s talk about yours, which is too lazy to walk you through 2.7 miles to the nearest subway.

  • 50 year Village resident

    Correct. “do nothing” was not selected, but neither was a SECRA;
    The lawsuit seeks a SECRA.
    What do you fear from a SECRA that should have been done a year ago by DOT were they a functional agency?

  • 50 year Village resident

    “zero chance of winning the lawsuit,”
    You had zero chance of winning a seat in Albany, but that didn’t hinder you from making a fool of yourself when you got trounced and handily rejected by your peers when you ran with the other lunatics on the Independence Party line, did it?

  • 50 year Village resident

    The courts will decide the truth, not you.

  • 50 year Village resident

    I dare say I know as much, if not more, about EISs than you.

    It was Village community activists involved in the EIS that stopped Westway.
    Arthur and I also were involved more directly in replacing that Westway project with the current Hudson River Park.

    You know the Hudson River Park? The one with the bike lane we got for you ingrates.

  • 50 year Village resident

    I chose those words for you, bubeleh. I know folk like you who take themselves ever so seriously need a good chuckle now and then.

  • Joe R.

    I care because the problem of unmitigated car use does in fact affect me where I live even if I rarely go into Manhattan. And people like yourself are one reason why we have unmitigated car use in this city.

    I and my neighbors would never have the gall to dictate what traffic patterns belong on YOUR block.
    We are not a bunch of busybodies.

    Guess what? Even I wouldn’t have the gall to dictate traffic patterns on my block. That’s NYC’s call, not mine. And strictly speaking it’s not MY block anyway. My ownership ends at the sidewalk line. The sidewalk and the street are public property. I have no say whatsoever on what happens on public property, and you don’t either. How about you and your neighbors BUY 14th Street from NYC for whatever the going rate is per acre (assuming NYC is even willing to sell it to you) and make it a private road? At that point you can do whatever you want since 14th Street would be private property. Good luck with that however given that it would cost at least 8 figures, probably 9, to buy the street and everything under it.

    This is about standing up to an unresponsive bureaucracy that caters to fanatics from T.A.

    Right. This bureaucracy does in fact have a history of catering to car fanatics. As a result, important street safety projects have been watered down or not done at all just to save parking spots. The people you call “fanatics” are just seeking to have DOT treat all modes in proportion to their use. If a street has 100 times as many people walking, cycling, or taking buses as driving, then the street should devote most of its space to walkers, cyclists, and buses, not private automobiles.

    And to foolishly say that we, who chose to live in one of the densest neighborhoods in the world, want a “suburban” lifestyle coming from someone who lives in the ‘burbs of eastern Queens is, frankly, laughable.

    Maybe you personally don’t own a car, which gains you points in my book, but a lot of your neighbors, and those in other similarly densely populated areas, cry havoc if a they’re going to lose parking spots. As for me living in the “‘burbs of eastern Queens”, consider I never owned a car nor even had a driver’s license. I made that decision 35 years ago despite living in a place where it’s arguably much harder to go car-free than Manhattan. If I can survive without a car, so can your neighbors who have a plethora of other options, some of which aren’t available to me, like a subway within walking distance.

    But not as laughable as someone who uses “(NY) city” and “Utopia” in the same sentence.

    Reimagine this city without private cars. I like most other things about the city, but I hate the relentless road congestion caused primarily by single-occupant motor vehicles. Eliminating most of them means cleaner air, no need for most traffic signals (which are a bane for pedestrians and cyclists), and faster travel times for buses. It also means a lot fewer deaths/injuries at the hands of incompetent drivers. Sure sounds like utopia compared to what we have today.

    Sir, I just hiked up a mountain 8.9 miles last week. If you want to talk about fat asses, let’s talk about yours, which is too lazy to walk you through 2.7 miles to the nearest subway.

    Back when this was a 2 fare zone, I walked both ways to the subway many times when I was going to school or work. I also walk 3 miles each way to downtown Flushing as it’s often no slower than waiting for the bus. I didn’t walk yesterday because it wouldn’t have saved me money, and if the buses ran normally, it would have cost me 20 minutes extra time. In retrospect if I had known the buses take 35 minutes to do the trip that time of day, I may well have chosen to walk.

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    Has an EIS ever changed your mind or the mind of someone you know? If so you have better friends than I do.

    Very rarely, their mitigation ideas get something done like storm water management as part of a new development

    They are most useful to delay projects where the controlling agency didn’t think they needed one (either correctly or incorrectly). Often times projects need to be delayed. People hate rapid change and a lot of the things we have institutionalized are to just bring change more slowly. First we had civil union, now we have gay marriage.

    In this instance, change needs to happen reasonably quickly. It would be better for everyone.

    As to being an ingrate, I don’t know who you are. you are anonymous on the internet. Maybe I am very grateful. You don’t know who I am. I am anonymous on the internet. Maybe I thanked you today. Maybe you held the door for me, maybe I held the door for you. We are neighbors.

  • If you’re so confident in your position and the truth, why are you posting anonymously?

  • Driver

    Joe, I’m pretty sure these people protesting the bus way are not doing so because they want to drive on 14th St. It’s because they do not want the 14th St traffic (particularly the truck traffic) on their own blocks, ie 13th and 12th St. It’s a quality of life issue for them, not a getting around by car issue.

  • Maggie

    That’s inappropriate. Must you be such an asshole?

  • Maggie

    I wonder if 50 year village residents have an inside track to get lead paint back in use too, or asbestos insulation, or lead in their gasoline, or if it really is just an old Studebaker they can drive around in to their hearts’ content. What a bunch of creeps.

  • Guest

    You’re not reading the article. All the models indicate that traffic on side streets will be just as bad, if not worse, without the busway. Ergo, they are NOT protesting traffic on side streets.

    They are protesting the shutdown of the tunnel, which is a dumb thing to protest since it NEEDS to happen. This group may as well protest the sun rising.

    The only result of their entitled whinging is NOT them being happy with the result, it’s other people being hurt. It’s toxic.

  • 50 year Village resident

    Know thyself.

  • Adrian Horczak

    What is a SECRA? I know that SEQRA codifies the environmental review process that involves an EIS, but I never heard of SECRA.

    It seems that for you to believe DOT is a functional agency it should just do nothing.

  • 50 year Village resident

    ” I have no say whatsoever on what happens on public property,”
    Of course you do, silly person. We all do.
    I take it you have never been to a community board or city council hearing. Try it; you’ll like it. It’s called ‘participatory democracy”.

    “That’s NYC’s call, not mine. “
    Oy! What more can I say to someone who begins with ” That’s NYC’s call, not mine. “
    No, sir, We. The People. are the government, not the DOT.

    Anyway, I see your sycophantic and submissive attitude towards the bureaucrats is engrained in you. so there is no use trying to reason with you further.

  • 50 year Village resident

    It’s nice to see someone got it right, Driver.

  • 50 year Village resident

    ROTFL
    I relate history and you scold “inappropriate”, followed by calling me an “asshole”. It would be funny were it not so sad.

    Keep it classy, Maggie baby.keep it classy.

  • 50 year Village resident

    An EIS stopped Westway!! Killed it cold in the water!

    Perhaps you are not familiar with the multi-decade battle Village residents and activists fought to kill that massive transportation boondoggle?
    In return, we get vilified by so-called transportation activists here, few – if any – of whom were there to lend support when it was crucial.
    Now they just hide behind their screens and vilify us.
    How quickly they forget.

  • 50 year Village resident

    Thanks for correcting my spelling, As we know, it is pronounced “secra”.

    “DOT is a functional agency it should just do nothing.”
    No, it should have met first with reps from the many block associations in GV, with reps from CB2, and with local electeds.

    Instead, it consulted primarily with T.A. operatives first in drafting this controversial plan. And that is not a one-off with DOT. It seems to be their m.o. This time they will reap what they sowed.

  • Driver

    “The threat doesn’t have to stand up in court, though. As long as it

    gets DOT to water down the plan, Schwartz’s ultimatum will serve its
    purpose. He told the Villager
    that he’ll withdraw the lawsuit if DOT opts to “compromise and reach an
    agreement” with people he deems to be “community leaders.”

    Schwartz doesn’t care if there’s an environmental review or not. He
    just wants to stop the city from implementing much-needed street design
    changes that will help L train riders continue to get around car-free.”

  • Vooch

    Joe,

    He is just a cranky gadfly.

  • Joe R.

    I don’t have desire or time to go to community board meetings. Posting on discussion boards is also a form of participatory democracy. When those who have a say realize a lot of people want something, then they may have more incentive to get that something done.

    “We the people” also means sometimes going along with decisions which may not be good for you personally if such things are good for the majority. In this case many more people will benefit from the planned changes to 14th Street than will be negatively affected. While I sympathize with those who may see more traffic on their blocks (and studies suggest this worry may be unfounded), the hard fact is it will only last for 12 to 18 months, not forever.

    One big reason we get nothing done in this country any more is people stopping anything which results in even minor inconvenience for them, regardless of the overall benefit. The good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one. That’s what living in society means.

  • Joe R.

    Consider that this project has an important time element to it. Even in a perfect world with no such constraints, doing what you suggest, which is basically trying to please everyone, delays projects to the point of ridiculousness. It also often keeps new projects from even being considered when those who want them realize the arduous uphill battle they must fight.

    Now remember that the L train shutdown can’t be delayed any longer. Indeed, the tunnels should have already been shut down for work. Any further delay could mean they fail while still in service, and then you’re stuck fixing them with no advance planning. Basically, there just isn’t the time to do what you want. I hope you know what the word “emergency” means. This is one. If you succeed in delaying the changes to 14th Street then all you’re doing is helping create chaos when the inevitable tunnel shutdown happens. If you try to delay the shutdown so you have more time to negotiate with DOT, you may well be stuck with the tunnels failing of their own accord.

    Bottom line is given the state of infrastructure in this country, those who seek to delay important projects for their own petty reasons are about to find out the hard way that nature won’t cooperate. At this point we have to ram through important projects because our infrastructure is literally crumbling around us due to decades of delays, courtesy of having every project please anyone who is even remotely affected by it. Those days are over. When my generation and those younger finally get in charge, you’re going to see lots of eminent domain and ramming through projects yesterday, regardless of local complaints, simply because it’s an emergency. We can’t wait any longer to shut down the L train. We can’t wait any longer to do lots of other projects critical to society continuing to function. If it causes temporary inconvenience to you I’m very sorry, but it’s for the good of society.

  • Adrian Horczak

    DOT did a lot of public outreach before coming up with the plans. That is better than meeting with representatives, since anyone could easily have been a part of the conversation. You don’t have to be a T.A. operative to give them your input. And if you think T.A. operatives get to consult a lot with DOT, why don’t you become one?

  • BortLicensePlatez

    the best part about this is that a labor and union advocate – clearly “for the people”, historically – is following the lead of the Koch Brothers in denying rapid, guaranteed and reliable transit to people who need it the most, people who may live in your rich fucking neighborhood, but many who don’t – but who clean your toilets, cook your food and deliver your deliveries. But because you don’t like the idea of buses or bike lanes, you have sued to prevent this. It shows just how much the putative “left” has become just like the right wing in its attempts to own the public sphere.

    For shame on you and on Shwarz.

  • BortLicensePlatez

    jesus you’re a piece of shit. But par for the course for NIMBY assholes who think their shit doesnt stink, and who Giuliani was the peak of NYC living.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Just one of a series of ad hominems. You find this all the time, on every forum, so I don’t take offense.

    “Must you be such an asshole?”

    It is generationally characteristic. That’s the reality. You should see them go at each other while making absolutely no substantive points.

    https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/generation-greed-they-arent-using-those-words-but-some-folks-are-starting-to-connect-the-dots/

  • ANDREA O’BRIEN

    COOL

  • dk

    you may live in the West Village but you do not own the neighborhood, so any Ny’er can have an opinion on it, as it is OUR city.

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