MIRACLE ON NEW YORK’S 14TH STREET

© Todd Maisel

On October 2019, the New York MTA, in conjunction with the New York City Department of Transportation, overcoming many legal challenges, launched the long awaited 14th Street Busway which speeds buses along this previously notoriously congested section of Manhattan. The impetus for the pilot is to offer customers an alternative to the L train, which will be running on a reduced schedule during a 20-month reconstruction project. A combination of existing technologies found on other Select Bus Service (SBS) routes such as off-board fare collection, transit priority signals, and high frequency service combined with fairly sweeping traffic restrictions to 14th Street from 6am to 10pm, has proven to be a big hit with riders.

 

According to analysis, ridership is up 24% on weekdays and 30% on weekends, as riders have shed nearly 10 minutes of an end-to-end trip along 14th street. Importantly, traffic effects on adjacent roadways, a frequent talking point of opponents to the pilot, have been minimal to none. The project has earned much positive reception from both city and MTA leadership. Mayor DiBlasio stated; “It’s a new day on 14th Street. We are getting New Yorkers moving and saving them time for the things that matter” while MTA president Andy Byford stated; “The 14th Street Busway is wildly popular with riders enjoying 30-40% faster trips, and that should be replicated throughout the city.”

The good news for transit systems all over North America is that the success of the 14th Street busway can easily be replicated elsewhere without expensive capital investment, all it requires is coordinating managing street space with accommodating transit service.