Home Buses 34th Street: The life and death of a Great Idea

34th Street: The life and death of a Great Idea

by Benjamin Kabak

Project opponents believe the 34th St. Transitway will blight the area. (Image via NYC DOT)

Once upon a time, the Department of Transportation had a Great Idea for 34th St. The Department recognized that this oft-choked road could go for some reengineering in order to deliver cars to where they want to go and better service the tens of thousands of commuters who use 34th Street-bound buses while allowing the pedestrians that drive the businesses to flourish. Thus, a Transitway was born.

Conceptually, the ideas seemed simple enough. Most traffic west of 5th Ave. is heading to the Lincoln Tunnel and most traffic east of 5th Ave. is bound for the Midtown Tunnel. The street, therefore, would go one way in its respectively direction while 34th St. from 5th to 6th — an area bound by Macy’s, the Manhattan Mall and the Empire State Building — would be closed to most traffic. A two-way, two-lane bus-only lane would span the length of the island.

For the people who ride and the people who walk, this would have been a grand experiment in restoring the streets to the people who make them thrive. But the residents, for selfish reasons, and business owners with some practical concerns that could have been addressed, did not like it. Coop and community boards played the senior citizen card. How could old ladies to get to their door steps behind bus lanes if taxis couldn’t reach them? What happens with deliveries? Won’t a wall of buses lead to constant blight?

I’ve sparred with these claims in the past. Basically, they amount to glorified NIMBYism. New Yorkers hate change, and they particularly hate being told that the streets belong primarily to people and to modes of transportation that carry more people and not to cars. The battle has grown fierce over the last few weeks as Steve Cuozzo issued an insanely wrong critique of the Transitway that Streetsblog quickly dispatched. But the opponents had the Post on their side, and as Janette Sadik-Khan and DOT took heat over the Prospect Park bike lanes, the Transitway came under fire.

Today, we learn dismayingly that DOT is starting to cave. As Michael Grynbaum reported, the Department has eliminated the pedestrian-only space between 5th and 6th Avenues, and it is reassessing the plan to usher in the city’s first physically separated bus lanes. “The design has evolved as we continue to work with the community,” Sadik-Khan said to The Times. “We want the public process to play itself out.”

For now, the city is mum on the fate of the Transitway. They will present revised design of the Transitway at a March 14th forum, and the plans will be finalized by the end of the year, four years after DOT first announced the 34th St. concept. Progress is slow in New York, and it’s hard to call it forward-looking by now.

Beneath the name-calling and the bitter debate, I wonder what’s really going on here. This project has been met with an obscene of community resistance from what many contend is the wrong or incomplete community, and the minority — a vocal and well-connected minority at that — is asserted its voice over the greater good of the city.

First, DOT does deserve a tip of the cap, in a sense, for listening to the concerns of those whose opinions it solicited. It hasn’t been a very movable participant in the redesign of New York’s streets lately, and to heed the public will lead to better cooperation.

That said, they’re not asking everyone they should. As Cap’n Transit has been pointing out for six weeks now, DOT has failed to consider how Queens and Staten Island commuters should have a say in this project. Over 33,000 people a day from Staten Island and Queens take buses that lead to 34th St. in order to get to work, and the opinions of those folks who would benefit most from improved transit aren’t actively courted by DOT.

As the Cap’n wrote, “Why did they limit the “community” to people living right near 34th Street? Why concede the frame that the only “community” that matters is the tiny group of people who really care about curbside car access? And once they did, why did they then let [Corey] Bearak in? They wound up with a bunch of entitled NIMBYs screaming about not being able to get bottled water delivered by truck, and a guy who seems to be paid to attack the Bloomberg Administration – and no express bus riders to balance them out!”

People and buses are being shunted aside by drivers along 34th Street.

Meanwhile, if any project demands a hard line from DOT, it’s this one. As the Cap’n noted last week, 34th Street could be a bellwether for the city. From personal safety to faster commute times to cleaner air and a nicer environment for pedestrians, this project matters. From a modeshare perspective, it’s a no-brainer. Cars are vastly outnumbered by pedestrians and buses, and cars, which are trying to escape 34th St., do not contribute to the area’s economy.

Right now, this project sits in the balance. If DOT unveils a new version without physically separated bus lanes, the city might as well throw in the towel on Select Bus Service. A loss here simply means the people who cry the most and scream the loudest win even when their arguments shouldn’t carry the day, and it means that buses — used by over two million New Yorkers daily — won’t get the upgrades they need to become more viable. The long-term ramifications of that decision will echo well beyond the hallowed curbs of 34th Street.

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BrooklynBus March 3, 2011 - 8:29 am

I’m not so sure that elimination of the pedestrian space is such a bad idea, but the separated bus lanes need to stay.

David in NY March 3, 2011 - 2:43 pm

But pedestrians, by a very large percentage, make up the most number of people using the street. The sidewalks matter the most.

Anyone who walks to Penn Station knows how completely crazy the sidewalk can get. Most people use the south side of 34th St. which makes it worse. Add to that all the street vendors and you’ve got footlock.

Right now, the city could improve the situation by moving all vendors to the north side of the street and remove any other barriers that slow down pedestrians.

Closing down major streets can backfire. Remember all the closed downtown main streets in the 1970s that everyone ended up abandoning?

There needs to be a happier medium to this problem.

Matthias March 4, 2011 - 1:46 pm

Barring access to motor vehicles doesn’t constitute “closing down” a street. It is still open for public use. Look at the success Times Square has been with the additional space for pedestrians.

Bolwerk March 4, 2011 - 4:29 pm

Allowing motor vehicles should be regarded as closing off space to pedestrians!

Nathan H. March 3, 2011 - 8:43 am

If only the original design had included bicycle lanes, cyclists could be sacrificed for NIMBY appeasement instead of pedestrians.

Daniel Howard March 3, 2011 - 1:20 pm

@Nathan H. HAHAHAHAHAHA Thanks for the chuckle!

pea-jay March 3, 2011 - 9:03 am

This could be a bargaining chip DOT was willing to give up to move the rest of the project through. Personally I think the pedestrian space is just fine but if the separated lanes stay, much is still accomplished.

When I say separated, I mean as in the picture above, not the lane on each side arrangement that they use near me with the SBS lanes on Fordham. That’s only marginally faster than no lanes at all

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines March 3, 2011 - 9:11 am

[…] Ped Plaza Dropped From 34th Street Transitway; Other Elements in Doubt (Post, News, WSJ, SAS) […]

Al D March 3, 2011 - 9:26 am

What kind of NIMBY’s are at play here? This strip is almost exclusively commercial and I’m sure that some sort of delivery access can be arranged, perhaps even a drop off loop for taxis, etc.

John-2 March 3, 2011 - 9:33 am

West of Madison, 34th is commercial. From Madison to Second, it’s primarily residential, which is likely where all the opposition is coming from (I actually could see more sincere protests from the folks living on 35th Street over the plan, which figures to get the brunt of the excess traffic off of 34th, since DOT blocks 33rd Street at Park Ave. and Herald Square, while Penn Station and Kips Bay block 32nd Street to through crosstown traffic).

Al D March 3, 2011 - 3:20 pm

Thanks, I mis-read that the pedestrian corridor between 5 and 6 Aves was at risk, and thus my query. Upon the second reading, I now see that the whole kit and kaboodle is in jeopardy.

That is just a shame. A median bus thoroughfare may be the best way to give these NIMBY’s their beloved curb side access. Now the kids can continue to run into on-coming traffic!

Bolwerk March 3, 2011 - 4:42 pm

Seems like entitled elderly types to me. 😐

tacony palmyra March 3, 2011 - 9:37 am

It’s interesting to contrast this with public outreach in poor neighborhoods, where “community stakeholders” are more likely to be made up of people who don’t live in the neighborhood, but do business there. Take for instance the Columbia University expansion plan, where a self-storage mogul and a gas station owner caused the biggest roadblocks to using eminent domain, despite the 300 mostly low-income people being directly displaced from their neighborhood.

Wealthier people are more connected to the political establishment and know how to work the system to their advantage. The general public doesn’t even consider the fact that they need to make noise to speed up their bus commute on 34th Street, let alone have the time or wherewithal to do so. DOT was courting the affluent NIMBYs of Murray Hill because they needed to. The wealthy retired folks sitting around all day are the ones with the time and resources to derail the project.

BrooklynBus March 3, 2011 - 9:50 am

“The general public doesn’t even consider the fact that they need to make noise to speed up their bus commute on 34th Street…”

That’s one of the oldest problems. It is always much easier to get people to oppose something than to get them to come out to support something.

zz March 3, 2011 - 10:11 am

I’m a big supporter of NYCDOT’s buslane improvements, but I’m not shedding a tear about this one. If you look around, you won’t find too many successful examples of high-volume busways this narrow. There are many different bus services on 34th Street, and a 2-lane busway was a formula for more bus congestion, not less. Besides, London has done great things with camera enforcement but no barriers, while Paris has been less successful with barriers but insufficient enforcement. The city may not be able to come up with a sexier proposal than the 34th Street busway, but I’m optimistic they can find one that works at least as good.

R. Graham March 3, 2011 - 1:01 pm

Why shouldn’t this plan be succesful? I can see if these buses didn’t have to make a stop at all of the bus stops along the route, but to anyone familiar with this strip, all of the buses running on 34th Street absolutely stop at every corner picking up and dropping off passengers. If you add signal control to these buses it would be a massive boon to not have theses buses diping in and out of traffic to get around illegally stopped vehicles.

ajedrez March 3, 2011 - 11:57 pm

He’s saying that the frequency of the buses on the busway (remember, a bunch of express buses from Queens and Staten Island also travel along 34th Street) could be a problem, as buses would have a hard time passing each other.

Maybe the best way is to have a pair of separated bus lanes on each side of the street, and have the people board at the curb. That way, buses can pass other buses as they stop to pick up people.

ferryboi March 3, 2011 - 10:22 am

I totally dig that light blue BMW ghetto cruzer in the photo (first car on the left). Whoever created that pix definitely lives in NYC!

ollie March 3, 2011 - 10:38 am

i can do without another pedestrian plaza in that area.
i actually find them annoying to walk through

ferryboi March 3, 2011 - 10:55 am

But then where will all the grossly overweight, t-shirt, shorts and sock-n-sandal wearing tourists plop their asses down after shopping at A&F?

Tim March 3, 2011 - 11:14 am

I find it ironic that the resident who is concerned about the impact on their quality of life is “selfish”.

Eliminating curbside access 24/7/365 for residents and small business owners increases our cost of living, is potentially detrimental to our health and creates a barrier that impacts all aspects of life from medical visits, home repairs, oil deliveries, moving procedures the list is effectively endless.

All of this so (according to the DOT) the vast majority of 34th St bus rides will improve by 2 minutes.

An advocate for the BRT who does not acknowledge or dismisses residential concerns regarding their lives, safety and livelihoods for a 2 minute improvement in transit times is the selfish one.

Residents have participated in this less than perfect process as defined by the DOT. Residents have voiced their concerns, it remains to be seen whether the DOT listens.

Calling me selfish because I am concerned about the impact on of this concept upon my family demonstrates a myopic perspective that will in the long term hurt the transitway you are supporting.

Nathan H. March 3, 2011 - 11:36 am

> I find it ironic that the resident who is concerned about the impact on their quality of life is “selfish”.

It’s like a black fly in the chardonnay of some 34th street residents, no doubt about that.

Tim March 3, 2011 - 1:49 pm


FYI, there are 4 neighborhoods located on 34th Street that will be impacted by the denial of essential curbside access – Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, Kips Bay and Murray Hill.

In fact – 7 of the 14 avenue blocks spanning 34th Street are primarily residential.

For myself, I prefer Bud, in a can, stays colder longer that way.

Al D March 3, 2011 - 3:22 pm

I would suggest a median bus thoroughfare. This would preserve curbside access.

Bolwerk March 4, 2011 - 9:27 am

Curbside access isn’t necessarily desirable to maintain, particularly if through traffic is going to be encouraged.

R. Graham March 3, 2011 - 1:04 pm

That two minute improvement estimate is the most modest estimate on the face of the earth. With the way those buses crawl with the obsticles they face now? I can easily see a 5-7 minute improvement average!

Tim March 3, 2011 - 1:42 pm

The 2 minute improvement is the DOTs numbers not mine.

The DOT states that the average bus speed on 34th St is 4.5 miles per hour. The estimated improvement range is 20 – 35%. The DOT has also stated at the Community Advisory Committee meeting held in the summer of 2010 that the typical bus ride on 34th St are short, the equivalent of Madison to 7th Ave (a distance of 1/2 mile).

If you take the high end of their improvement range and apply it to the typical trip, that is a 2.1 minute improvement, best case, the DOTs numbers.

J B March 4, 2011 - 1:03 am

That’s 2 minutes, times the number of people who take these buses each day. The idea of New Yorkers “needing” curb access is beyond my understanding. In my whole 22 years growing up in New York I can’t think of a time where it was absolutely necessary to park in right in front of our doorway, instead of on a nearby street. Usually our block was so packed with parked vehicles that we didn’t have a choice. If we ever had to carry anything heavy inside, we just used a hand truck. If we couldn’t manage even with a hand truck, we could have paid someone. No direct curb access is not an insurmountable problem that no one has ever had to deal with.

Bolwerk March 4, 2011 - 9:30 am

I asked about the 2m below. If it improves a typical short trip by that much, it’s amazing. 20% to 35% improvement in service speed is spectacular, and will make the bus closer to suitable for cross-town trips.

Nathanael March 3, 2011 - 4:35 pm

“Eliminating curbside access 24/7/365 for residents and small business owners”

You’ll have curbside access 24/7/365. What won’t have curbside access is your 5000-pound lumps of metal and plastic.

You are the very definition of the car-obsessed.

Business owners who receive large shipments in trucks, which could not easily be rlled down the sidewalk, may have good reason to object. Residents don’t.

joe w March 3, 2011 - 11:40 am

Compared to other major crosstown streets (14, 42, 57, 72) 34th street has probably the highest level traffic. The connection of the Queens Mid-town Tunnel to the Lincoln Tunnel create a major thoroughfare that is handled on 34th street and on different hours both 35th and 36th streets. 33rd street has been closed to crosstown at 33rd street and Park Avenue because of the traffic deaths that occurred when cars came out of the tunnel southbound. At one time it was the deadliest corner of the city. Any re-routing of traffic at any hour would create obvious additional traffic that these streets would not handle well. Even having traffic police (with additional budget) at given hours each day would probably stop corner blocking and horn honking, but not the congestion. And their cost should be added in. Pre-paid bus tickets along 34th (as now exist on 2nd Avenue) would help. Raising the tunnel fares on the east and west side during high traffic hours would also help. Something to note: Robert Moses had a plan to widen 36th street by lopping off the front stoops of the brownstones to add one or two more lanes for car usage. Since Moses never drove a car, I consider his idea to be as practical as is this 34th street ill considered plan that has fortunately been rejected – thus far. It probably would have also diminished the value of living on 36th Street even to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Stimpson, JP Morgan and others of small note. As a point of reference – Where does the author of this article live?

Benjamin Kabak March 3, 2011 - 11:45 am

I don’t mean this facetiously, but do you have data to back up the claim about the number of cars using 34th St. as a tunnel-to-tunnel route? I don’t think it’s nearly as high as people are claiming.

R. Graham March 3, 2011 - 1:05 pm

Let’s get some congestion pricing going and we’ll reduce it some more!

David in NY March 3, 2011 - 2:50 pm

This is a very good point. 34th Street is two-way, are all these tunnel-bound vehicles moving out of NYC or do they also come back in the morning too? Their argument seems weighted to their view.

BrooklynBus March 3, 2011 - 4:12 pm

Had Moses been successful with his Mid-Manhattan Expressway, you wouldn’t be asking that question. Only three or four story buildings would have been torn down and replaced with skyscrapers and a highway running through them, not to mention all the tax revenue it would have generated.

VLM March 3, 2011 - 4:15 pm

Of all the craziest things I’ve read in the comments on this site, hearing someone advocate in 2011 for the Mid-Manhattan Expressway takes the cake. Unless you’re talking about a tunnel underneath 34th St. from river to river with no impact on surface travel, the Mid-Manhattan Expressway would have forever ruined Manhattan. I thought we were beyond this already.

R. Graham March 3, 2011 - 8:42 pm

The tunnel idea would have been the best thing that could have ever happened for Manhattan. If you’re not stopping in Manhattan, Mid-Manhattan Tunnel would be the way for you.

Woody March 4, 2011 - 12:20 am

Wow. We got from Mid-Manhattan Expressway to Mid-Manhattan Tunnel without missing a beat. Or did we?

Was a Mid-Manhattan Tunnel ever proposed? I have a few problems with it, namely the 8th Ave line, the 7th Ave line, the Broadway BMT line, the 6th Ave line, and the Lexington line. (Not to mention the PATH line, and a long-rumored potential 2nd Ave line, and some kind of water tunnel or two.)

Engineers and planners are frustrated by the apparent near-impossibility of getting a two-track train tunnel from Jersey to continue beyond Penn Station to Grand Central Terminal. But Robert Moses figured out how to put four or six lanes of auto traffic underground? True genius.

Well, I can see how such a tunnel would be paid for: Take money from transit projects and sink it all into the Mid-Manhattan Big Dig.

Alon Levy March 4, 2011 - 2:05 am

Getting a two-track train tunnel to continue east was actually pretty easy. The engineering problems with Alt G were not the east-west component, but rather the turn from east-west to north-south, which might require some takings (it was uncertain and they chose not to study it further), and the connection to GCT, which would pass too close to the Lexington Line and would cause disruption during construction.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to support building a second tunnel through Manhattan when the first one’s underused modulo one bottleneck, much less building one that makes it easier to pollute. And the other points about intersecting subway lines are true. But the bits that would increase the capacity of the existing tunnel are not very difficult.

Bolwerk March 4, 2011 - 9:31 am

There’s a simple, inexpensive solution: don’t let POVs cross Manhattan to get to LI, or make it prohibitively expensive to do so. The world won’t end.

J B March 4, 2011 - 10:51 pm

God forbid we consider operating a better rail system to get them through Manhattan. Less pollution, less congestion, lower cost.

Alon Levy March 4, 2011 - 1:59 am

Mid-Manhattan Expressway… sigh. If you promise to stop trying to vandalize my borough, I’ll promise to stop supporting proposals that de-vandalize yours. Do we have a deal?

Scott Bowen March 3, 2011 - 2:22 pm

Opposition also came from the residents of 35th St , a westbound street, that would have bore the burden of NO westbound traffic on 34th st.

Al D March 3, 2011 - 3:28 pm

But this is the thing, and I don’t mean to single out your comment in particular because the comment is a general one. There is already so much darned traffic on all these streets that aren’t we really just speaking about diminshing returns at this point? What’s the difference really if at peak times, the traffic volume increases by 15% or so on any of the surrounding streets? There is such a ridiculous amount of traffic already that it really can’t make much of a difference. Sometimes in these discussions, I get the feeling that we are talking about taking an uncrowded, quiet side street and making it into a major throroughfare when it reality it already is a majot thoroughfare.

ferryboi March 3, 2011 - 3:37 pm

Looking for lighter traffic and wide-open sidewalks? Move to Detroit, they got plenty of both.

Iris March 3, 2011 - 3:58 pm

With the proposed 34th Street Transitway, the DOT is taking a 6 hour issue (7AM-10AM and 4PM-7PM) and making it a 24/7 issue. Four (4) neighborhoods (Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, Kips Bay and Murray Hill) have already been impacted by the denial of curbside access from the 7AM-7PM bus lane currently in existence (except for 7AM-10AM and 4PM-7PM on the north side of 34th Street between Lex and Park as the post office is located on this strip of 34th Street…obviously the Post Office is more important than the tax payers living on 34th Street). There are over 5000 residents living on 34th Street alone. 7 of the 13 Avenue blocks spanning 34th Street are residential and this does not take into consideration the residents on the side streets that will be the recipients of the traffic that will not be able to transverse 34th Street. How can the DOT assert that moving trucks, major appliance deliveries, renovation and construction deliveries required for the aforementioned 5000 residents on 34th Street be able to occur before 7AM and after 7PM??? “Land locked” residential buildings along 34th Street between the East River and Park Avenue as well as on the West Side are already having to pay for extra crew for moving vans which now have to park on the Avenues near the buildings and move the furniture from the building to the Avenues. The current and proposed lack of access affects my rights as a property owner with any deliveries being ticketed offenses, yet they are not ticketed offenses when cars are parked in front of NYU Langone (south side of 34th Street between 3rd and Lex) or if they stop at the Affinia Dumont Hotel (also on the south side of 34th Street between 3rd and Lex) so why is enforcement seletive????

Nathanael March 3, 2011 - 4:39 pm

Ooh, you have to pay for a crew to move furniture half a block.

Oh come on. It’s HALF A BLOCK. I’ve had to move furniture farther than that on my OWN, in a rural area with no road access, in a college campus with no road access, etc.

There are districts of European cities which cannot be accessed by car at all, which are on HILLSIDES, where none of the buildings have elevators, where a furniture delivery requires a good hour on foot — we’re not talking about that here!

If you want to complain about selective enforcement, that’s reasonable.

J B March 4, 2011 - 1:12 am

1) Enforcement is a separate problem, agreed, it shouldn’t be selective.
2) Since when is curbside access a right as a property owner? And wait one second, did you say property owner? You own property on 34th street in Manhattan and you can’t afford to hire someone to move stuff half a block on the rare occasion that it’s necessary? Judging by comments here everyone on 34th street is moving furniture into their homes or getting major appliances installed on a daily basis.

Car-Free New Yorker March 3, 2011 - 4:11 pm

Don’t own a car. Don’t have a driver’s license. Don’t even know how to drive a car. Just had a great walk from 9th Street to my place in Murray Hill.

And I oppose the Busway. (That’s what it is, a Busway — not a bikeway and now, with the plaza dropped between 5th and 6th Avenues, not a pedestrian way, either.)

A Busway: for local and express City buses, NYU buses, tour buses, existing ferry buses and new City buses for the proposed East River ferries coming in at 34th Street. A busway, as shown up to now, behind concrete barriers cleaving 34th Street in two. (Or better yet, a bus dump, as all of DOT’s new street and water routes seem to converge on 34th Street.)

Tim above is right. For what? A two-minute cut in travel time? Tens of millions of federal dollars for a two-minute cut in travel time? Tens of millions, when pre- boarding payments and rush-hour bus lanes can be done at little capital cost (and without cleaving 34th Street in two).

Bolwerk March 3, 2011 - 4:46 pm

Where’s this two minute statistic from?

Car-Free New Yorker March 3, 2011 - 6:43 pm

Check Tim at 1.42pm above.

R. Graham March 3, 2011 - 8:45 pm

As Tim stated that’s the DOT’s estimate and they are being modest.

J B March 4, 2011 - 1:15 am

Again, two minutes, for thousands of commuters, twice each day they go to work, every work day of the year for as long as the bus lane lasts. Added up that’s a lot of time.

Bolwerk March 4, 2011 - 9:38 am

2m for a typical trip, apparently. That’s different than 2m shaved off the bus’s crosstown trip. The first is excellent, and latter is trivial.

AC March 3, 2011 - 5:33 pm

Dear Mr. Kabak:
Before taking the residents of 34th street in four of the neighborhoods (Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, Kips Bay and Murray Hill), to task and calling them names and labeling them as being SELFISH, I would suggest you check your facts. 34th Street has the heaviest bus traffic compared to many of main streets (23, 14, 42, etc.) in Manhattan. And I agree with ZZ’s response that a dedicated bus lane will not help move M16 and M34 any faster. According to NYCDOT there are 30 (5 local, 25 express) buses that use 34th Street. Not including other buses such as NYU shuttle buses, travel buses (Bolt, etc.), double-deckers (City Sights and Gray Line). See list at the end of this note.

The length and width of a street is a given, overloading it with so many buses, especially, during the rush hour, is the direct result of the transportation agency’s planning or lack of it!!!! A dedicated bus lane will not solve the problem. According to MTA’s website the average NYC bus length is 40 feet, the proposed articulated buses will probably be 60 feet. Just do the math and see how much faster can these buses move when there are five, seven, or ten of them running one after the other at the same time and making stops during rush hour. I invite you to spend some time on 34th Street during rush hours to have a better understanding before condemning our communities. FYI, I live on 34th St. on the East side, don’t drive (don’t even have drivers license), don’t take taxi cabs. I rely on public transportation and healthy walk.


Local: (5 buses)
M16, M34, M4, Q32, NY Waterway ferry bus service

Express: (25 buses)
QM1, QM1A, QM2,QM2A, QM3, QM4,QM10, QM11, QM12, QM15, QM16, QM17, QM18, QM22, QM23, QM24, BM5, X51, X22, X23, X24, X17J, X22, X31, Atlantic Express buses from NJ

Other buses: There are also numerous charter buses, NYU shuttle buses, Travel buses (e.g., Bolt, etc.), double-decker buses (e.g., City Sights, Gray Line) that made 34th Street one of their main routes.

Car-Free New Yorker March 3, 2011 - 6:41 pm

Well AC, as a fellow “car-challenged” New Yorker without a license, I welcome your comments. Both of us oppose the Busway — on foot!

ant6n March 3, 2011 - 7:07 pm

So are you saying that buses are moving faster in mixed traffic, than they would on a dedicated busway without non-bus traffic or parked vehicles blocking the roadway.

zz March 4, 2011 - 2:34 am

AC, just to be clear, I’m all for dedicated bus lanes, with enforcement. If designed well (e.g. offset from the curb), they can make a significant difference to travel times. I was just expressing relief that the city dropped its plans for a 2-lane, physically-separated busway, which could have slowed bus service during peak hours.

Donald March 3, 2011 - 7:27 pm

Adding a bus lane could very well make buses travel SLOWER because when buses are in the bus lane, they cannot pass each other. If one bus makes a stop to let 5 people off, for isntance, the bus directly behind it cannot pass unless it travels into the oncomming lane, which I am sure would not be allowed. As always, proposals to make traffic flow easier usually have unintended consequences.

Donald March 3, 2011 - 7:30 pm

and by “bus lane” I mean transitway with barriers separating it from the rest of traffic.

ABB March 3, 2011 - 7:47 pm

I find it incredible that some would actually deny the needs of the elderly and the handicapped! Where else in NYC would a resident be denied access to their own front door? And, let’s get away from the elderly and consider a young family of four returning home from a weekend away with strollers, coolers, luggage, etc. How could they only drop off all of this paraphernalia at one of the avenues– a full long block away from their own front doors? Is it selfish for a resident to expect the same kind of access that others in the city enjoy? Do you realize that there are in excess of 5000 residents who live on 34th Street? Many more live on the corners of 34th Street who would also be denied access to their service entrances. And all of this to “speed” along buses by 2 minutes!

Tsuyoshi March 3, 2011 - 11:23 pm

Just a suggestion: you can always walk to your front door. That’s what I do, since (like most New Yorkers, in fact), I can’t afford a car nor a taxi.

Woody March 4, 2011 - 12:29 am

Deny the needs of the elderly and the handicapped?

You mean those people who seem to ride city buses in disproportionately high numbers? Those people who get jostled and almost knocked down while trying to make their way down overcrowded sidewalks? People like me? (Age 66 and counting.)

Somebody may be denying the needs of the elderly and infirm here, and I really don’t think it’s the people favoring better bus service, wider sidewalks, and shaded benches where the weary can rest.

J B March 4, 2011 - 1:17 am

Why that’s exactly what my family did when we couldn’t find a place to park! Oddly enough the world didn’t end.

Matthias March 4, 2011 - 2:26 pm

Just to be clear, one of the avenues would always be no more than 1/2 block from a given front door.

Donald March 3, 2011 - 10:48 pm

If the 2 minute figure is true, then installing busways is a waste of money. I think it’s easy for peole here to support busways when those busways will NOT block direct access to their buildings.

And I think that bsuways could slow buses down because, as I said above, buses will lose the ability to pass each other. Express buses could not use the busway because the local buses will slow them down.

Chris O'Leary March 4, 2011 - 1:09 pm

No, it’s not a waste. Multiply that two minutes by tens of thousands of bus riders each day, by five weekdays each week, by 52 weeks a year. Odd that you think that’s too insignificant to justify the construction of this.

Here’s the only solution if youe’re worried about the inability of buses to pass each other: close 34th Street all together and make it a four-lane busway!

AC March 4, 2011 - 12:09 pm

Dear Tsuyoshi:
I think you are missing the point. Walking to our front doors is not the issue. I am more than happy to do that. The issue is that many who are making comments do not have any idea how big an impact this will make on the communities on the 34th Street stretch.
On the entire stretch of 34th street:
1) Between Madison Ave and FDR Drive there are more that 4,500 apartment units, 59 buildings with main entrances on 34th street, 54 buildings with service entrances on 34th street.
2) On west of 8th Avenue, there are 1,250 apartment units, with 6 buildings that have main entrances on 34th street and 5 buildings with service entrances on 34th street.
In summary with no stop (drop off and pick up) between 7am to 7pm, you are putting so many residents (more than 8,500) not to mention businesses and medical patients at a disadvantage. 34th street is not a HIGHWAY or EXPRESSWAY, it is an important street that has real people as residents with everyday needs. Fourteen-block-stretch 34th street includes 7 blocks that are residential. Imposing such restrictions on these residents is akin to taking away their basic rights. For example, a building of more than 220 units (where I live), has many daily needs and emergencies. Under the plan all will be denied. I think many of you who have well-intentioned comments and feelings, please put yourselves in our shoes before passing unfair judgments. Again, this is not a highway or expressway!!! It’s mainly a residential area that has thousands of residents.

Benjamin Kabak March 4, 2011 - 12:13 pm

The vast majority of mainly residential areas in the city do not have direct curbside access. My apartment building, for instance, is separated by a lane of parked cars from the street, and when I get delivers, the trucks somehow manage to make it work.

Meanwhile, you’re taking about half of 7 streets because one side of the street will still have curbside access as the diagrams clearly show. I’d imagine delivery trucks and people will make it work as they have in mixed use areas that have dedicated transit lanes throughout the world. Extend your perspective beyond your own front door, and you’ll see that the world will not end — and will be a better place for pedestrians and people — with these improvements.

Matthias March 4, 2011 - 2:36 pm

This is probably a separate issue, but I think that more loading zones and less curbside parking (along with aggressive ticketing of double-parking) would speed up buses and make cycling easier and safer while reducing driving and pollution. As it is, double-parking (in the bike lane) is practically the only way to make deliveries now. Why should most of our curb space be used for storing private cars?

Car-Free New Yorker March 5, 2011 - 3:18 am

But you’re not extending your perspective beyond your own personal experience, are you, i.e., the parking lane against your curb?

In any case, that’s quite different from having two bus lanes behind concrete barriers blocking your doors!

Buses aren’t delicate things. They’re huge and, with the busway, fast-moving tons of metal going in two directions.

Who’d want to jockey between them to get to their front doors?

And who wants the noise and exhaust traveling up building walls and windows located beside the busway?

The busway isn’t some subtle, integrated system of moving people around. It’s a big gash across Manhattan, throwing off congestion, noise and inconvenience in its wake.

Too bad Commissioner Sadik-Khan over-stepped on this one. DOT’s high-handedness is catching up to her. See today’s Times. It’s the beginning of the end.

Thank goodness!

Alon Levy March 5, 2011 - 5:16 pm

Jockey between them? The minimum rush hour headway on the M34/M16 is 3 minutes. Figure another 3 minutes for the Queens express buses, and this means that you have more than a minute between successive buses on each lane, at the peak or rush hour.

J B March 5, 2011 - 12:43 am

It’s hard for us to be sympathetic when many of us already don’t have curbside access, and when this would benefit 33,000 (probably poor) bus users from the outer boroughs.

Alon Levy March 5, 2011 - 1:04 am

The half the ridership that’s on the M34/M16 is in Manhattan. The other half is on express buses, i.e. people who aren’t poor. There are way better arguments for ignoring the local NIMBYs than “They’re all poor bus users” – especially since those NIMBYs are the sort who think that they themselves are poor because they make only $70,000 a year.

Car-Free New Yorker March 5, 2011 - 3:30 am

According to DOT. the typical 34th Street bus rider travels one-half mile.

One half-mile! Or the equivalent of Madison to Seventh Avenues! (See Tim above.)

When buses were slowed by the Times Square “improvements,” DOT argued that few people take buses the length of their routes, according to the New York Times.

So what’s the gain for tens of millions of dollars in concrete barriers and traffic islands on 34th Street?

Not much. (And sorry, four minutes from traveling in both directions per day doesn’t add up to much quality of life difference for bus riders, of which I’m one.)

34th Street Fallout: Posturing and parades :: Second Ave. Sagas March 4, 2011 - 4:03 pm

[…] the dust is still settling over the Department of Transportation’s plan to scale back elements of the 34th St. Transitway, news and views are flying fast and furious. Ahead of this weekend’s Transportation Camp, […]

Alon Levy March 4, 2011 - 4:18 pm

I wish on the NIMBYs nothing but low-income housing projects in their neighborhoods.

J B March 5, 2011 - 12:52 am

For the sake of the NIMBYs, let’s do some simple math:
“Only” two minutes saved on the average trip.
Times 33,000 users a day, from Queens and Staten Island alone, times 2 since they probably all take the bus both to and from their destination.
That’s 132,000 minutes saved a day, or 2,200 hours, for people who are probably poorer than you.
For an individual, that’s 4 minutes each day, times 5 days a week, times (let’s say) 48 weeks a year- 960 minutes, or 16 hours, saved every year, for 33,000 (and probably more) bus users. Keep in mind bus users are probably unable to drive or afford a home near a subway station- in other words, are poor, young, elderly or disabled. So that’s tens of thousands of relatively disadvantaged people who will have 16 more hours each year to work, be with their families or relax after a hard day.
The cost? Your curb access, which many if not most New Yorkers live without anyway.

Alon Levy March 5, 2011 - 1:02 am

33,000 is the total number of boardings, not the total number of unique users.

Also, the half of those users who ride from Queens would be infinitely better served by bus-only paths to, through, and/or out of the Queens Midtown Tunnel.

Recommended Reading: What future NYC BRT? :: Second Ave. Sagas April 5, 2011 - 12:20 pm

[…] the wake of the death of the 34th St. Transitway, transit advocates have been down on the state of citywide bus improvements. Everyone in New York […]

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[…] should have been the city’s shining BRT moment — has been toned down in the face of NIMYBism and local opposition. Other ideas — an Adopt-a-Station plan to keep the subways cleaner — went […]

Staten Island’s Closed BRT Disaster | Pedestrian Observations August 5, 2011 - 9:18 pm

[…] After having constructed something like bus rapid transit in the Bronx and Manhattan, the MTA is moving forward with its plan to have a line in each borough and has made a proposal for Staten Island Select Bus Service. Buses would run from the Staten Island Mall to Hylan Boulevard, the main corridor serving the South Shore, and thence to Brooklyn over the Verrazano Bridge to connect to the subway. As Ben Kabak reports, this is intended to resuscitate the idea of SBS after the cancellation of the 34th Street Transitway. […]

On the Montauk Cutoff and a lesson from the Rockaway Beach Branch Line mess :: Second Ave. Sagas December 7, 2015 - 11:56 pm

[…] do not have a seat at the immediate table. It threatens to be Queens’ own response to the debacle that was the 34th St. Transitway, and that’s a future and history we shouldn’t want to […]

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[…] works. As you may recall, the previously proposed crosstown transitway 20 blocks to the north died a sad death at the hands of NIMBYs five years ago, and a 14th St. corridor could showcase how this idea should and can work in New […]

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