Oct
20

The one simple trick to fix NYC bus service

By · Published in 2019

A 14th Street for buses offers a vision for NYC’s future streetscape. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

The past few weeks have been transformational for New York City’s streets. Whether New Yorkers realize it or not, the launch of the 14th St. Busway, after months of delays due to spurious lawsuits, and the lack of a traffic apocalypse on adjacent side streets should usher in a new era of re-envisioned city streets as buses are prioritized on key arteries at the expense of cars, ensuring that the city’s suffering bus network gets the boost it needs to run buses faster and more reliably than ever before. All it took was one simple trick advocates for years have been clamoring for: Get the cars out of the way.

The Busway brings faster buses and more riders

The history of the 14th Street project is one well known about these parts. In its current form, it grew out of the need to repair the L train tunnels following Superstorm Sandy, and we heard whisperings of a car-free busway as early as 2016. As 2017 unfolded, both the RPA and Transportation Alternatives issued calls for redesigning 14th Street to prioritize buses during the L train shutdown, and a year later, Arthur Schwartz, the pro-car villain in this story, filed the first of many lawsuits he would lob toward the city, state, DOT and MTA. Earlier this year, the Governor torpedoed a full-time L train shutdown, but the city rightly forged forward with the busway plans.

In late September, Schwartz finally lost an appeal that allowed DOT and the MTA to implement the vehicle restrictions, and for the past few weeks, the M14 and New York City bus riders have been enjoying the glories of the 14th St. Busway, the first of its kind in the borough of Manhattan. The early going has been a tremendous success for the MTA and DOT, as numbers released by the MTA have made clear. Since the lane restrictions went into effect, the average weekday ridership on the M14 has gone up by around 17% from approximately 26,000 riders per day to over 31,000. Note that this early period includes both Yom Kippur and Columbus Day, and the non-holiday average appears to be closer to 32,000. The M14 has lost nearly 25% of its weekday ridership since 2013, and this reversal, if it holds, would represent the line’s best performance since 2015. Weekend ridership went up by around 33% with only the introduction of the Select Bus Service treatment, and we’re still awaiting enough data on weekend trips since the lane restrictions were implemented.

Travel times are down too. Trips between 3rd and 8th Avenues now take an average of 10.6 minutes, down 30 percent from 15.1 minutes last year, and on-time performance has jumped to 68 percent from 45.6 percent in the weeks since the busway was implemented. I’ve heard many tales from riders noting too that buses have had to wait at stations because drivers have been too far ahead of schedule due to the lack of traffic. For the corridor’s 31,000 bus riders each day, this is an unqualified success and offers a clear path forward for the city and MTA to combat a decade of declining bus ridership.

As predicted, traffic apocalypse fails to materialize

And what of the doom and gloom Arthur Schwartz and his West Village neighbors swore up and down would arrive? It hasn’t materialized yet, according to INRIX, an urban analytics firm brought in to assess the impact of the busway. According to the early numbers, as INRIX notes, the 14th Street Busway “had no discernible performance changes to neighboring roads. As you can see from the table below, travel speeds have generally declined by a few tenths of a mile per hour with the largest decrease coming on 16th St. during the 4 p.m. hour.

INRIX data shows the minimal impacts the busway has had on side street traffic.

INRIX offered some commentary:

It’s remarkable that initial analysis showed little change immediately following this massive road network change. In most instances, a radical change road configuration causes havoc until a new ‘normal’ is established, but in this case it did not. In effect, the driving experience has not changed as a result of the busway’s opening.

The 14th St busway illustrates the common fear associated with removing car lanes for other modes (e.g. bus, bike). According to the data, the displacement of personal vehicles to neighboring roads was negligible, but the time savings for the tens of thousands of daily bus riders was massive. The impact, or lack-there-of, may seem surprising but similar projects around the world have had similar results. The reallocation of space from vehicles to buses represents a far more efficient use of a limited public resource…As a result of this project, more people are getting where they need to be faster and more reliably.

So the traffic apocalypse hasn’t arrived, and the business owners, such as Salvatore Vitale of Joe’s Pizza, who were complaining to Winnie Hu about the traffic restrictions seem to be doing A-OK. In short, everything the project’s proponents knew would happen – faster bus speeds, a reduction in driving, no traffic on side streets – has come to pass, as we seen in countless other cities around the world, and the worst predicted by opponents hasn’t materialized.

A victory lap for advocates and a glimpse at a better future for NYC’s buses

While the immediate history of the 14th St. project dates back only a few years, the first Manhattan busway nearly came to fruition along 34th St. in 2011. That time, then-Mayor Bloomberg gave up in the face of sustained public outcry from NIMBYs along 34th St., and I mourned the missed opportunity. It took nearly a decade for the city to make another attempt, and that is a fate hopefully we can avoid this time around. The advocates are pushing hard for an immediate commitment to more bus lanes and soon.

Thomas DeVito, Transportation Alternatives’ Director of Advocacy, penned a piece in the Daily News urging the rollout of a citywide busway plan. “If we’re smart, we’ll learn from the experience, and see this as just the beginning of a much bigger revolution on streets throughout the five boroughs. Most of New York City’s 2.4 million daily bus riders live in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island. It’s in those boroughs and those neighborhoods where commutes are the longest and bus-priority streets are needed the most,” DeVito wrote. “We should not have to wait three years and gear up for a sustained battle to win every project.”

Over at Curbed New York, representatives from all of the city’s transit advocacy organizations offered their thoughts on ways to expand a bus lane prioritization program throughout the city. Aaron Gordon and I joined in with our takes as well. Though you should read everyone’s views, here’s what I had to say:

It’s trite to say everywhere, but how about everywhere and all that once? With the success of 14th Street in their back pockets, DOT and the MTA could roll out multiple busway corridors at once in a variety of neighborhoods at the same time. There is no real reason for a restructuring of streets one at a time other than fear of backlash, and the only real barrier to more busways along more streets in more boroughs right now is political trepidation. As the successes and popularity of the 14th Street pilot grow, so too should the political will.

With that in mind, the next projects should focus on streets outside of Manhattan where subway access is limited, bus ridership is high, and bus speeds are slow. Fordham Road has been an unqualified SBS success story, but traffic plagued speedy bus service. Utica Avenue’s B46 has encountered so many cars blocking its route that the MTA recently had to restructure service and reduce frequencies. Both routes would benefit from a busway.

In Queens, routes serving Flushing and Jamaica would help improve last-mile bus connections while providing transit relief to subway deserts. And in Manhattan, any major crosstown street could support a busway. The city could brush off the old plans for 34th Street or explore the Vision42 proposal, and dedicating most of 125th Street to buses would do wonders for Harlem. I’d also think big—or at least north/south—and explore turning a Manhattan avenue into a busway. Thinking big, after all, is how we can truly transform NYC streets for the better.

The call I issued on Curbed New York over the summer to reform environmental laws to grant de facto approval to transit priority projects still stands as well.

Gordon had previously offered a fuller overview of the Miracle on 14th Street the week after the busway made its debut. “The totality of this shift from a miserable, traffic-clogged thoroughfare to a pleasant urban street with speedy, efficient bus service feels like a miracle,” he wrote. “It is a miracle, when you consider how hard it is for anyone to accomplish anything positive in this city’s transportation scene.”

As the quiet and calm — and it is noticeably quieter without the constant headache-inducing din of traffic — descends upon 14th Street, transit officials and politicians too are taking up the call. Andy Byford told reporters last week that he would “love to replicate [busways] elsewhere” throughout the city, and even though he hasn’t experienced the busway in person yet, Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at length about the future of the project during his weekly appearance on The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday. Despite hedging about the “test/pilot” nature of the program, the mayor indicated a willingness to expand this type of street treatment elsewhere. I’ll quote at length:

We did this to test this approach and to decide at the end of the test what it meant not just for 14th Street, but what it might mean beyond. But I said at the beginning, you know, this is not something you do for a few weeks. We’re taking that test into next year, and when it’s concluded we’re going to start to think about what it means for every place else. A lot of folks in the community were really concerned about some of the consequences of it, intended and unintended, and whether there’d be more traffic on the side streets and all that. We need to study that over a period of time and be responsive to those concerns as well. But the central reason we did it – and I’m the one who authorized it – is because we’ve got to get people back on the buses, we’ve got to get people to feel more comfortable with mass transit, we’ve got to get cars off the street, and the only way you’re going to get cars off the street is if mass transit works a lot better and is more reliable and faster. So, it’s very encouraging, but to everyone who’s either an advocate or already believes in the approach, we owe it to the whole city and to the community to really give this a thorough test, and then we will have a much stronger case if we make any other changes, going forward, because it’ll be based on a serious body of fact.

The mayor’s statement is a bit of a mealy-mouthed mess of mumbo jumbo, but he seems willing to explore the issue. And when he’s out of office in 27 months, the next mayor can take this busway ball and run with it aggressively. In the vein of DeVito’s call, it shouldn’t take three years — or 18 months — for the city and MTA to begin planning new busways.

I’m going to close this for now with a thought on the mayor’s words. As part of the back-and-forth with Lehrer, de Blasio also said, “It’s never been done before in New York City, and we’ve got to get it right, and we’ve got to play the long game.” The long game, of course, is catching up with us as the climate continues to change at a breakneck pace, and the city must do what it can quickly to curtail the use of private automobiles. With congestion pricing on the horizon, busways can be a major part of ensuring adequate transit service for those who leave their cars at home.

And yet, part of me thinks this reaction from the city has been a bit too much. The busway is great, and we knew it would be great because busways like this one work all over the world. We don’t need to pretend New York City invented the busway, and we don’t need to spend months studying the effects of the busway on bus service or traffic on adjacent streets. We have years of data from a variety of cities, and instead of falling back on New York Exceptionalism, we should push forward for more bus treatments all over the place as soon as possible. It’s not very complicated: Getting cars out of the way does wonders for bus service. That’s one secret trick and the true vision New York City and its bus riders deserve.



Categories : 14th Street Busway

44 Responses to “The one simple trick to fix NYC bus service”

  1. J Adlai says:

    Nice write up! I’m interested to see what’s next, because, for all of the hoopla around the M14 busway… there’s a subway underneath it.

    The M23 or the M34 you mentioned would seem to be strong candidates for the busway treatment as crosstown routes that could serve a lot of riders but are hampered by low speeds. The 125th corridor, with 4 routes serving the core of the street, is a really interesting option too, especially since there really aren’t any good options on the subway to get across town that far north.

    But the most interesting one in my opinion is the B46. I don’t know that making a busway south of Eastern Parkway is necessary, but certainly one between Fulton and EP would serve to get the buses out of traffic and speed them up dramatically, and possibly help to get ridership back up on the line.

    Will be interesting to see if a comprehensive plan comes out any time soon outlining more of these routes. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this effort was a one-off that is not replicated any time in the near future.

  2. Larry Penner says:

    In the outer boroughs, you may need more than busways to improve service.
    This is especially true when buses feed into the first stop of a subway line.
    Consider there is seed money in the current MTA $33 billion 2015 – 2019 Capital Plan to look into the possibility of the long forgotten Flushing Bus Terminal, which closed in 1954. To date, there is no indication that these dollars have been spent. This need has been previously documented in planning studies going back to the 1960’s. Construction of a Flushing intermodal bus terminal could facilitate a smoother transfer between bus and subway. In the early 1960’s Flushing Municipal Parking Lot 1 was thought of for construction of an intermodal bus terminal. This facility would take hundreds of buses off the surrounding streets, where they discharge and pick up riders. For 55 years, generations of public officials, on a bipartisan basis, have failed to secure any funding necessary to support environmental review, design, engineering and construction of this badly needed transportation improvement.

    From the 1960s to today, there has been an explosion in the number of commuters riding buses to Flushing and transferring to the subway. This has been complimented by a huge growth of commercial businesses accompanied by the demolition of homes to support construction of apartment houses and multi family homes in the surrounding neighborhood. Just walk in any direction from the corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue in downtown Flushing and see for yourself. Buses traveling to, from and thru downtown Flushing move at slow speeds due to excess traffic not only during rush hour but also off peak. This results in a longer commute for riders and periodic bunching of buses on many routes.

    Construction of a climate controlled intermodal bus terminal could assist in improving traffic and pedestrian circulation in and around the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue along with the rest of downtown Flushing. Over 60,000 rush hour #7 subway riders and thousands more off peak would be protected from heat, cold, rain, snow and winds. There could be a smoother transfer between the bus and subway. Opportunities would still be available for air rights above the bus terminal for parking, joint development of retail, office and/or residential units, including affordable housing.

    How disappointing that no elected official has ever stepped forward to honor this commitment from decades ago.

    Diogenes is still looking for any MTA board member or public official to add this project to the MTA’s upcoming $51 billion 2020 – 2024 Capital Plan. The MTA has promised to make this plan public in October 2019. Perhaps this project could be added before the Albany MTA Capital Program Review Board approves the plan.

    In the interim, a short term improvement could be construction of bus holding lights at bus stops. This would assist riders transferring from subway to bus when a train arrives several minutes after scheduled bus departures. Missing a bus by a minute or two during off peak hours (when buses operate with longer intervals) is frustrating to riders. Why not also invest in installation of bus holding lights at other major bus to subway transfer connections as well?

    (Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Bus, NYC Department of Transportation along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ)
    .

    • Stephen says:

      I’m one of those folks who takes a bus to Main Street. I will say that an enclosed bus terminal would be nice. The word cluster-you-know-what doesn’t begin to describe the experience of the area as it relates to bus riding (I will refrain from my diatribe against the ‘touch yellow tape to open doors’ messages).
      I am curious about the bus holding lights. I’ve missed my share of buses by a minute or two over the years, but how would they operate? How is the Q12, for example, going to the know a train just unloaded its passengers? Are we constructing some sort of bus-train network connection? Thank you.

    • Terry says:

      Cut and paste the same old stuff, the same words are in every Queens rag every week.

    • ChrisC says:

      please just stop postimg your long screeds of rubbish. Especially as you post the same screed elsewhere.

      Set up your own blog instead of abusing this one.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Unless there is some way to appropriate some existing piece of infrastructure for it, it sounds like a horrible idea. Urban big box bus terminals are expensive, smelly eyesores, arguably justified when there is a need to serve long-distance traffic. They demand what is essentially highway infrastructure, with the same footprints and most of the environmental problems.

      Probably a better model for Flushing is something like the Ridgewood Intermodal Terminal. It’s not climate-controlled, but it is pedestrian-friendly and facilitates quicker platform-to-platform transfers between the two subway lines there and the buses than those two subway lines have between each other.

  3. Rob says:

    I bet your data from other cities did not include Phila – which in ’70s turned Chestnut St in center city to buses only. I liked it but apparently others didn’t, and some yrs later they undid it all, and now it’s just another typical vehicle filled clogged street again.

    And ‘the climate continues to change at a breakneck pace.’ Really? How much hyperbole there?

    • VLM says:

      It’s always strange to me that a bunch of lunatic climate denialists like to hang out on transit blogs. What do you think transit is going to help accomplish? And yes, if anything, calling climate change “breakneck” understates the problem.

      I have no idea what point you’re trying to make about Philadelphia. The 1970s were not exactly a progressive era for investment in features of today’s urbanism.

      • Bolwerk says:

        LOL about climate denialists. They compulsively come in shit on every thread questioning the transpo status quo.

        Though the 1970s were probably more progressive for transit than any era since. The last aggressive spate of subway building in the U.S. was in the 1970s, though it didn’t help NYC very much.

      • Adam Halverson says:

        Before jumping to the conclusion that “the science on this is settled” and that “97% of scientists” agree with the global warming/climate change consensus (a figure that was fraudulently concocted), read the below summary and linked article first:

        Climate Science’s Myth-Buster: A long-time climatologist, who initially supported the global warming/climate change consensus, realizes at some point that much of it is based on fraudulent science, influenced by money and politics. This scheme was cooked up by the IPCC in 1988, and has expanded ever since.

        Even climate skepticism is treated the same as climate denialism; this rogue, mob groupthink doesn’t allow for any dissent, or hint thereof, at all – it’s an echo chamber. The incidents involving the East Anglia University leaks, the exposure of the hockey-stick graph as a fraud, the refusal by NOAA to release the raw climate source data, and recently, the failure of Michael E. Mann to produce data to support his claims in court should, at the very least, make one reconsider.

        But when you have actual lunatics in power exclaiming “we have only 12 years to live!” or 10 years, or even 18 months – claims not even the IPCC supported in any form – that should raise some serious red flags. What is the M.O. here? (AOC was forced to walk back her 12 years claim on Twitter, but then said that anybody who believed that claim has the intellect of a sea sponge. Is that how she thinks of her supporters?) Climate Alarmism has become a religion of sorts – it is contingent mostly on the faith of the people, despite evidence to the contrary. When fearmongering is used to convince everyone that civilization will be wiped out, and many accept the premise on faith, panic ensues… predictably, the virus of lunacy spreads like wildfire.

      • Adam Halverson says:

        Before jumping to the conclusion that “the science on this is settled” and that “97% of scientists” agree with the global warming/climate change consensus (a figure that was fraudulently concocted), read the below summary and linked article first:

        Climate Science’s Myth-Buster: A long-time climatologist, who initially supported the global warming/climate change consensus, realizes at some point that much of it is based on fraudulent science, influenced by money and politics. This scheme was cooked up by the IPCC in 1988, and has expanded ever since.

        Even climate skepticism is treated the same as climate denialism; this rogue, mob groupthink doesn’t allow for any dissent, or hint thereof, at all – it’s an echo chamber. The incidents involving the East Anglia University leaks, the exposure of the hockey-stick graph as a fraud, the refusal by NOAA to release the raw climate source data, and recently, the failure of Michael E. Mann to produce data to support his claims in court should, at the very least, make one reconsider.

        But when you have actual lunatics in power exclaiming “we have only 12 years to live!” or 10 years, or even 18 months – claims not even the IPCC supported in any form – that should raise some serious red flags. (AOC was forced to walk back her 12 years claim on Twitter, but then said that anybody who believed that claim has the intellect of a sea sponge. Is that how she thinks of her supporters?) Climate Alarmism has become a religion of sorts – it is contingent mostly on the faith of the people, despite evidence to the contrary. When fearmongering is used to convince everyone that civilization will be wiped out, and many accept the premise on faith, panic ensues… predictably, the virus of lunacy spreads like wildfire.

    • Doctor Memory says:

      Yeah, the Chestnut street busway was great when it existed: at the time I worked at a record store at 17th & Chestnut and lived out in west philly, so the ability to jump on the bus and end up at 47th Street 20 minutes later was great.

      Sadly, the upsides of the busway kinda got swamped in Philly’s generally apocalyptic conditions in the 80s to early 90s: I don’t think that the lack of traffic was actually the problem on Chestnut (it was just generally true that the further north you went, the grimmer the streets got) but it’s hard to blame anyone who thought that even gridlock was an improvement on empty sidewalk, vacant storefronts and crack vials.

      • Alon Levy says:

        Yeah, this. Various pedestrianization projects in 1970s’ America failed because of the context of urban decline, leading to a lot of doom and gloom predictions about Times Square in the 2000s. But the 21st century is another era and Times Square, Herald Square, etc. are thriving without cars.

  4. Larry Littlefield says:

    “In short, everything the project’s proponents knew would happen – faster bus speeds, a reduction in driving, no traffic on side streets – has come to pass, as we seen in countless other cities around the world, and the worst predicted by opponents hasn’t materialized.”

    Everything that the OPPONENTS knew would happen has happened. That’s why they had to stop it from being implemented, even on a trial basis. If you’ve been around long enough, you know there is ZERO chance the opponents were pleasantly surprised.

  5. Billy G says:

    To take your North/South dedicated BRT and bicycle corridor idea, here’s what I’d suggest:
    3rd Ave + Bowery starting at Houston St and going uptown should be made into a bus/commercial truck only corridor, with the tradeoff being that commercial trucks have to avoid 1st and 2nd avenues except for direct deliveries. The inner two lanes of Bowery/3rd ave would be engineered to be bus-only, and the sidewalk-meeting lanes would be for licensed commercial standing deliveries only, no more than 30 minutes. Truck traffic would be limited to 20 MPH, neighborhood zone. There would be vertical sticks dividing these sections of roadway. There’d also be a bidirectional bicycle highway on one side of the roadbed. I could even see cutting a little into the sidewalk for the bicycle highway to be realized, use steel bollards to separate bicycle and pedestrian travel from motorized vehicles. Ramped center islands in the roadway could be used for ADA BRT stations, assuming doors are available on the interior side on the rolling stock (not true now). As part of this operation, Bleecker St would be made one way in the opposite direction between Bowery and Lafayette, and the section closest to Bowery would be wired for electric car charging/parking. Other disjointed streets would have to be evaluated for through traversal of the newly adapted roadbed of 3rd ave.

  6. BrooklynBus says:

    I lived on Utica Avenue for 25 years and frequently used the bus and drove in it for the last four years I lived there. A busway would be ridiculous. There are no other alternative streets for cars and trucks to travel on. It is the only through street. It has always been horribly slow, and I can imagine with the bus lanes it is even slower for cars. It is not even faster for buses because the lanes are always blocked. It is irresponsible to plan only for buses and totally ignore what happens to other traffic.

    When I lived there in the 70s and used the bus, there was no parking northbound for the three blocks prior to Eastern Parkway from 7 to 10 AM only. It was quite sufficient without any bus lanes. That extra lane allowed cars as well as buses to move without any delays. The problem was that 75 percent of the tine there was at least one car parked blocking the lane. When that happened, cars and buses were delayed by ten minutes. The solution was just to keep the lane clear which was never done. Cars as well as buses were able to benefit from that extra lane, not only buses.

    But with today’s mentality, the city doesn’t want cars to benefit. They want car travel to be as slow as possible because motorists are viewed as the villains who do nothing but break the law and mow down innocent pedestrians while cyclists are the angels and need protected bike lanes everywhere to further slow traffic even further.

    • VLM says:

      You have some complex when it comes to rational street space allocation, eh? No wonder the MTA fired you.

      Anyway, you’re the literally only person who brought up cyclists here in a rigorous discussion about buses. Here are some facts for you that have nothing to do with cyclists. Cars are indeed killing people and destroying the environment, and they shouldn’t have a primary place in city life. They can fit a handful of people, though most run empty, and aren’t efficient for moving residents through a city. The B46 meanwhile serves 38,120 per day, and it’s slow because people like you insist on driving everywhere. Move cars out of the way, and the bus moves. It’s not rocket science. A former transit planner should know that.

      • BrooklynBus says:

        First of all, I was never fired. I couldn’t work at a location with unhealthy air that the MTA refused to address. Did you see the Daily News articles about the unhealthy air at East New York Depot that the MTA has known about for forty years?

        https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-asbestos-east-new-york-bus-depot-poison-20190923-rmg6nuq72zdqfi35wx2ifh7loe-story.html

        Yes, cars are killing people. Guns and other weapons are also killing people. Drugs are killing people. Hospitals are killing people. Even bicycles kill people occasionally. Does that mean we should get rid of guns, hospitals, drugs, and bicycles as well as cars? Of course not. You can’t take a single fact and use that as justification to get rid of something.

        Cars do not have a primary place in city life because 80 percent of work trips in NYC are made by mass transit, so you are wrong about that too.

        The B46 is slow because the bus lanes are not enforced, not because beople insist on driving everywhere.. People rely on cars because the bus system is deficient. Why would any rational person choose a bus trip taking one or two hours when the same trip can be made by car in 20 minutes if they had the choice? What is your solution,? Make both trips take 90 minutes?

        Didn’t realize “most (cars) run empty”. Guess they run without drivers. What about all the buses that run nearly empty like overnight? Should we get rid of them also?

        And by the way, I drive an electric car now so I am not destroying the environment. Guess diesel buses aren’t destroying the environment. It’s only cars because they are evil. Right?

        • TimK says:

          Cars do not have a primary place in city life because 80 percent of work trips in NYC are made by mass transit, so you are wrong about that too.

          Cars do have a primary place in city life because they are allotted a share of physical space utterly out of proportion to the share of people that they carry, and any attempt to reduce that share is met with screaming hysteria from motorists.

          The B46 is slow because the bus lanes are not enforced, not because beople insist on driving everywhere.

          Not enforced against whom? Why, against people who insist on driving everywhere, of course. It isn’t buses that are blocking the bus lanes.

          • BrooklynBus says:

            No, bicycle lanes are out of proportion to the number of users, not lanes for cars and trucks. The Queens Blvd bike lanes are rarely used. They are used by about 2,000 riders a day as compared to hundreds of thousands of cars a day, yet bike lanes occupy 17 percent of the roadway.

            They only place where cars take up an inappropriate percentage of the roadway are streets with extra heavy pedestrian activity like midtown Manhattan So would the solution be to ban all cars from every street below 125 Street and extend the sidewalks? Don’t forget that trucks and emergency vehicles also use the streets, so it would not even be possible to narrow every street to two lanes for them.

            As I said most people do not drive everywhere. They only use their car when it is the best choice for them. Not everyone can bike or use mass transit and not every trip can be accomplished in a reasonable time by mass transit especially if your trip needs to be made at an odd hour when bus headways are 60 or now even 75 minutes for a few routes overnight. A wait of 45 minutes in the afternoon is not that uncommon. Until that changes, people need their cars.

            And who are the biggest blockers of bus lanes? Its police cars in many instances. The same people who should be enforcing keeping those lanes clear.

            • TimK says:

              If only 20% of work trips are made by automobile, then it must be out of proportion for automobile lanes to occupy something like 80% of total street and roadway space (I’m including sidewalks to arrive at that figure — if you exclude sidewalks, you’re over 90% — and of course it’s a guess).

              The problem, of course, is that the automobile by its nature requires enormous amounts of space to move relatively few people.

              And who are the biggest blockers of bus lanes? Its police cars in many instances. The same people who should be enforcing keeping those lanes clear.

              Sometimes. Often not. But you’re right that the cops don’t do enough to enforce the bus lanes. This is because they share your views on the primacy of the automobile, so you have no room to complain, actually.

              • BrooklynBus says:

                You make it appear that only autos use street space. Streets are shared by cars, including cabs and rented cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, bikes and emergency vehicles. So how much street space do you propose be allocated to automobiles which by the way move more people than bikes even including tandem bikes?

                Cops view it as a right that they be able to drive to work because taking a bus or train is beneath them. That’s why they constantly illegally park because they feel they are above the law. They won’t ticket themselves.

                • TimK says:

                  You make it appear that only autos use street space. Streets are shared by cars, including cabs and rented cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, bikes and emergency vehicles.

                  All of those are automobiles except for motorcycles. And yet those other categories of automobiles, plus motorcycles, are significantly outnumbered on the streets of New York by private automobiles. Without private automobiles, the other categories would be just fine with significantly less space. It’s the private automobile that’s driving the space requirements here. Who do you think you’re kidding?

                  Cops view it as a right that they be able to drive to work because taking a bus or train is beneath them.

                  Are you implying that private motorists don’t feel that way? Not all of them do, of course, but a fair number do.

                  That’s why they constantly illegally park because they feel they are above the law.

                  Your implication that cops are the only people who park illegally in New York City is adorable. Really.

  7. SEAN says:

    Gave this a little thought before I chose to comment. The basic idea to remove traffic off such streets as 14th & defuse it on adjacent roads is smart, but you need congestion pricing to have a long lasting impact. That said, this is a good first step & should be done on other clogged arteries such as 34th, 42nd & as one person noted on the news 125th & that’s just Manhattan.

    I know there are streets in the outer boroughs that deserve similar treatments such as Hillside Ave, Fordham RD/ Pelham PKY & other high bus usage arteries. Now each area should have it’s own custom set of features, but all should have a minimum standard that include… street trees, protective ballards, off board fare collection & signal priority.

  8. Void says:

    I still say a bigger improvement system wide would be placing stops BEFORE lights so buses can load and unload while stopped at reds (and load for the entire time of the red) instead of after the light where the bus has to stop for the light, then stop again to load and unload right after crossing the intersection. This is an almost universal loss of efficiency throughout most of the entire system.

    • AMH says:

      The problem with putting stops on the near side of the intersection, as you propose, is that a bus reaching the stop on green will have to stop, wait as passengers board/alight, and then once the light turns red, will have to sit there for an entire cycle before proceeding. Putting stops on the far side allows the bus to leave the stop as soon as boarding is complete (and with proper signal priority the bus should always make the light since the green can be held just long enough for the bus to get through).

  9. The Hunkster says:

    The 14th Street busway is a catalyst for future busways all across the city, assuming if the pilot program is successful in bringing back riders and then some.

  10. Holly says:

    This is nice but not the full story. 13th street this morning had deadlocked traffic at 8:40 am, so much so that I had to get out of my cab 4 blocks before my stop. I’ve never encountered such traffic on a Saturday morning on 13th Street before. Buses are not that popular in NY. It’s nice the buses are 5 minutes faster, but it sure has inconvenienced a lot of people for this result.

    • BrooklynBus says:

      I never implied that cops are the only people who illegally park. Considering trucks as a subset of automobiles is adorable. So why wouldn’t you consider motorcycles also as a subset of automobiles? If an automobile can have 16 wheels, it also can have two.

      I see you conveniently didn’t answer my question of how much roadspace would you remove. Would you ban all cars south of 125 St to extend siidewalks? Do you really think we would solve the congestion problem if each street has one fewer traffic lane even with half the cars on the road? Who are you kidding?

      • BrooklynBus says:

        The above comment is addressed to TimK.

      • TimK says:

        By only talking about cops as illegal parkers, and ignoring other motorists who park illegally, you implied either that only cops park illegally, or that other motorists’ illegal parking isn’t worth worrying about. Pick one.

        So are emergency vehicles also not automobiles? You broke them out into a separate category, too.

        Sorry I missed answering your question:

        So how much street space do you propose be allocated to automobiles which by the way move more people than bikes even including tandem bikes?

        I would have one or two lanes on each street, max. On streets with two lanes, one lane would be for emergency vehicles and the other for everything else. The fines for non-emergency vehicles operating more than a block in an emergency vehicle lane would be automatic and extremely high. I’m thinking the fine would be the price of the vehicle used in the violation when it was originally sold, adjusted for inflation. That ought to deter a few violations.

        Private automobiles are not part of this vision.

        Would you ban all cars south of 125 St to extend siidewalks? Do you really think we would solve the congestion problem if each street has one fewer traffic lane even with half the cars on the road? Who are you kidding?

        Nobody. We’d be getting rid of way more than half the existing private automobiles.

        • BrooklynBus says:

          You read what you want to see. I was not only talking about cops as illegal parkers. The statement I made was that in many cases cops are the biggest blockers of bus lanes. That statement doesn’t ignore the other violators.

          So now along with motorcycles and trucks and tractor trailers, ambulances, firetrucks and other emergency vehicles are also automobiles and I guess we could get rid of half of them..

          Your notion of the percentage of private automobiles as a percentage of traffic is inflated. Also your notion of the percentage of those who drive or use a taxi who could conveniently use mas transit is also highly inflated. Only a small percentage of those who take a car or taxi would be able to make a mass transit trip in a similar amount of time assuming there was added capacity for them to use mass transit.

          For most, the trip would take significantly longer, they have some physical problem that prevents them from using mass transit, like they can’t easily walk or stand for long periods of time, or they have cargo with them that would make mass transit inconvenient. You make it seem that anyone in a car could just as easily use a bus or train which just is not true,

          Also, the MTA is not willing to provide the needed service to accommodate them. It should not be necessary to stand on a subway for most of your trip home at 10 PM on weekends which is often the case. People are in their cars at that time for a reason. They don’t want to wait 30 minutes for a a bus. Why would this change if we limit road capacity further?

          I would say that private automobiles, excluding taxis, trucks, motorcycles and emergency vehicles that use midtown streets barely exceeds 50 percent. So if we get rid of half the street capacity and half the cars as you suggest, congestion would stay exactly the way it is today. Don’t forget that extra buses that would be needed also takes up street space. Also, with only one lane for cars and no passing or left turn lanes, every time someone needs to park or make a left turn, all traffic must stop which would make congestion worse than it is today. Having a dedicated lane in every street just for emergency vehicles would be grossly inefficient.

    • BrooklynBus says:

      Yes they do a single test without considering weekends and conclude the program is a success. They need todo continual tests on different days and in different seasons before drawing conclusions.

    • Guest says:

      “Buses are not that popular in NY.”

      Average Weekday MTA Bus Ridership in 2018: 1,811,181

      “the average weekday ridership on the M14 has gone up by around 17% from approximately 26,000 riders per day to over 31,000. Note that this early period includes both Yom Kippur and Columbus Day, and the non-holiday average appears to be closer to 32,000.”

      Around 21,000 vehicles a day traveled along 14th St prior to the busway implementation. Most of those vehicles held a single occupant.

      “13th street this morning had deadlocked traffic at 8:40 am”

      This is not a typical situation as evidenced by the statistics.

    • AMH says:

      More busways will do a lot for the popularity of buses. Making them faster will convenience a lot of people; for some reason the convenience of bus riders is consistently undervalued.

    • ajedrez says:

      So take the bus for 4 blocks then (or better yet the whole length of your trip) and enjoy the clear lanes on 14th Street

  11. LondonBus says:

    In addition to improved journey times, reliability should improve too.

    You’d expect to see this in two ways:

    a) Buses run on reliable headways (no bunching in twos or threes).
    b) Buses run closer to the schedule.

    Does MTA publish any reliability metrics?

    • BrooklynBus says:

      They have what they call performance inducators, but that leaves a lot to be desired. For example, buses four minutes or less off schedule are considered on time. So if the scheduled headway is ten minutes and the first bus is four minutes early and the next one is four minutes late, you will be waiting 18 minutes instead of ten minutes, and that woukd be considered as “on time”. Also, if two routes run on the same street for like three miles, the performance indicators are done separately for each route when many could use any route on the street. So the same route number would have to bunch for it to be recorded as bunching although as many as five buses coming at once would not be considered bunched if the route numbers are diffferent.

  12. smotri says:

    I found it very nice walking down 14th Street without all the aggressive motor vehicles to contend with. It would be great if the same thing were to be done with other major crosstown thoroughfares – 23rd Street, 34th Street, 42nd Street quickly come to mind, but I’m sure there are others also worthy of this treatment.

  13. Stephen Bauman says:

    the average weekday ridership on the M14 has gone up by around 17% from approximately 26,000 riders per day to over 31,000. Note that this early period includes both Yom Kippur and Columbus Day, and the non-holiday average appears to be closer to 32,000. The M14 has lost nearly 25% of its weekday ridership since 2013, and this reversal, if it holds, would represent the line’s best performance since 2015. Weekend ridership went up by around 33% with only the introduction of the Select Bus Service treatment, and we’re still awaiting enough data on weekend trips since the lane restrictions were implemented.

    Something has been omitted. The comparisons are between September 2018, September 2019, and the first two weeks of October 2019. SBS service started on 1 July 2019. 14th St became bus only in October 2019. The L train’s partial shutdown started on 26 April 2019. This means that the September 2018 to September 2019 ridership comparison reflects not only the SBS and bus lane changes but also riders displaced from the L train. It would be interesting to see the September 2018/2019 weekday comparison broken down by hour. Manhattan weekday service was substantially reduced after 10pm. Did the weekday service show the MTA’s reported 15% increase during the period of reduced service or was the 15% uniform throughout the day?

    The MTA press release gave raw weekday data for Sept 2018, Sept 2019, and 2-11 Oct 2019. The figures are 26,350, 30,195, and 31,031, respectively. A weekday Sept 2019 to Oct 2019 comparison would isolate only the dedicating 14th St to buses change. That increase is 2.7%. This may be a bit low because of the Yom Kippur holiday in October 2019. However, it’s not the 17% that’s been proclaimed in the “mission accomplished” statements.

    The success of bus only streets will be measured by increased ridership. Improved travel speeds and reliability are a the tactics to achieve this, not the objective. The 2.7% ridership increase, due solely to bus only streets, isn’t quite the slam dunk that’s been reported.

    • ajedrez says:

      Keep in mind that a lot of bus operators had to drive slower or hold at stops because the schedules weren’t updated to reflect the faster travel times. So the real ridership increase should come in January when the new pick starts.

      • Stephen Bauman says:

        So the real ridership increase should come in January when the new pick starts.

        And then decrease in May, when the L train tunnel work is completed?

  14. Brooklynite says:

    The next busway should be on 42nd Street, and not to speed up the M42, but instead to accommodate the impending rebuild of the PABT. The current rebuild plan (in-place, floor by floor rebuild) is expensive and impractical; moving some NJT buses to pick up and drop off along 42nd Street would allow the terminal to be rebuilt one half at a time, from the ground up.

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