Council Speaker Corey Johnson Still Has No Position on Busways and Bike Lanes During the L Train Shutdown

Other elected officials are speaking up for transit-priority measures. So far, Johnson has had very little to say.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Photo: William Alatriste for NYC Council
Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Photo: William Alatriste for NYC Council

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is uniquely situated to fight for L train riders who’ll need new travel options when the western portion of the line is shut down for repairs next year. He not only has the biggest bully pulpit in the City Council, he also represents the West Village and Chelsea, where his support can break up the knot of NIMBY resistance that threatens plans for transitways and bike lanes to keep people moving during the shutdown.

So far, however, Johnson has had very little to say.

Today, after biking over the Williamsburg Bridge in a 60-person “bike train” convoy, Transportation Alternatives staff delivered nearly 16,000 signatures to Johnson’s office supporting 24/7 bus priority and a two-way protected bike lane on 13th Street when the L is incapacitated. Anything less will lead people to opt for Ubers and taxis, compounding the traffic jams.

Other elected officials are speaking up for transit-priority measures. Council Member Antonio Reynoso spoke at a rally before today’s bike train about the necessity of robust bus service and safe bike routes during the shutdown:

Last month, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, two state senators, four assembly members, and four council members sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio calling for 24/7 bus lanes along the whole corridor where L train replacement service will run, including 14th Street.

Johnson, whose district is the center of the organized opposition to DOT’s busway and bike lane plan, hasn’t publicly expressed an opinion.

Instead, he’s making a show of micromanaging DOT through two pieces of legislation. One bill would require DOT to create a full-time ombudsman responsible for communicating with the public during the L train shutdown. The other would mandate the opening of at least two DOT “information centers,” one in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan.

Good communication is important, but it can’t be guaranteed through legislation. And all the communication in the world won’t make the buses run effectively.

Streetsblog asked Johnson for his position on the busway hours and the 13th Street protected bike lane. He did not provide one.

He sent the following statement, pointing to a City Council transportation committee hearing that will be held in his district next week:

New Yorkers from Manhattan to Brooklyn and beyond are getting more and more anxious about the coming L-pocalypse every day, and I am right there with them. The L train shutdown will be a massive shock to the city’s system and I am worried that the city is not ready for the levels of disruption this will cause. With these bills, I am telling my neighbors from the West Village to Williamsburg that this City Council is prepared to hold the MTA and DOT accountable for the duration of this undertaking, and will do as much as possible to ease the pain of the L train shutdown. I look forward to next week’s hearing in my district, at which my colleagues and I will have the opportunity to hear from the MTA, DOT, commuters and residents directly about the best way forward.

DOT and MTA have already held more than 75 public meetings, many of them in Johnson’s district. With this shutdown less than 10 months away, the speaker is doing transit riders no favors sitting on the fence.

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
  • Armchair analyst

    As with Jimmy Van Bramer on Skillman Ave, it’s almost as if the closer these politicians get to being term-limited out and having to line everything up for their next race, the less courageous they get on these issues. They want to make it seem like they’re doing something – Public forums! Bills demanding info from the MTA! – without actually having to piss anyone off by actually doing something. Or, I should say, the right thing.

  • Scroller

    Exactly. I wouldn’t expect much from Johnson over the next few years in any area – transit, housing, schools. Judging by the fact that he was caught using an emergency siren to get to an early morning TV interview – it’s pretty clear his only priorities are himself.

    And seriously, physical information centers? Are we going back in time? Instead of making accurate information easily accessible online, his solution is to spend money on expensive leases to open information centers. How are those centers going to help many of the low wage workers from far out neighborhoods who work non-traditional hours – some of the people most affected by the shut down?

  • ohhleary

    And still not a peep about expansion of Citibike into Bushwick. This is such an easy fix to offer more options to stranded commuters, and the city refuses to take action. It’s embarrassing.

  • Andrew

    I agree with most of your comment, but…

    How are those centers going to help many of the low wage workers from far out neighborhoo ds who work non-traditional hours – some of the people most affected by the shut down?

    …riders from the Canarsie end of the L will be the least affected, not most affected, by the shutdown, as they’ll have access to the greatest number of transfer opportunities (which many if not most of them already use).

    It’s the Bedford Avenue area that will be hardest hit.

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