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YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS UP: DOT Towed Cars Into Its Own Bus Lane on 14th Street!

6:40 PM EDT on June 14, 2021

On 14th Street and Avenue C, DOT towed cars to block the bus lane that DOT itself created. Photo: Sophie Maerowitz

Of all the people...

The Department of Transportation temporarily stashed cars that needed to be moved from an East Village construction site in the red-painted dedicated bus lane on 14th Street near Avenue C.

The move, which cleared 14th Street for some ConEd electrical work, started Sunday night and flummoxed local residents because the towing came without any prior notice. But other locals said they were upset that the DOT tow trucks moved the cars into the bus lane as if the vital transit infrastructure was some kind of tow pound.

Or parking lot; other motorists quickly took advantage of the ersatz "parking lane" by storing their own cars around those left there by the DOT.

"I don’t like this. It sets a dangerous precedent that spaces dedicated for public transportation (#busways) are somehow ‘backup’ storage for cars," tweeted local activist Sophie Maerowitz.

Maerowitz noted on Monday that NYPD traffic enforcement had not ticketed any of the unauthorized cars. On Monday when Streetsblog also observed the scene, yet another car and a large truck pulled into the bus lane and parked there — again with no enforcement by NYPD.

"I think it represents a lack of coordination between agencies (DOT and ConEd) and sends the message to drivers that the east side of the Busway isn’t seriously being enforced," Maerowitz told Streetsblog on Monday afternoon. "I have high hopes that it’s just a fluke but wouldn’t be surprised to see copycat moves from free parking-thirsty drivers after days of parked cars. Three are still here."

Cars parked in the bus lane render the dedicated stretch useless. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk
Cars parked in the bus lane render the dedicated stretch useless. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

The 14th dedicated bus lane, which runs between First Avenue and Avenue C, is the eastern spur of the more elaborate 14th Street Busway between Ninth and Third avenue. Every day between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m, only buses, trucks and emergency vehicles may travel its length; cars must turn at the first available cross street. The car-free busway, begun as a pilot in 2019, emerged as one of the DOT's most successful projects in recent years — and has been replicated since on similar arteries in several other boroughs. Even so, it was vociferously opposed by a cadre of local NIMBYs who claimed, without evidence, that it would cause traffic jams on surrounding streets — and (unsuccessfully) sued to stop it.

The DOT proudly proclaims on its website that the 14th Street Busway "has received international attention" and that it has "successfully increased bus speeds by as much as 24percent and ridership by as much as 30 percent." That's why it's both mystifying and sad to see the department disregard the 14th Street dedicated bus lane by towing parked cars into it.

Streetsblog reached out to the DOT for comment on this story. We will update if we hear back.

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