Thousands of bikers are expected to flood Union Square, and 14th Street will become the country’s busiest bus corridor, when the L train shuts down next year, according to a new study. The MTA and DOT released a traffic analysis yesterday showing just how disruptive the 15-month closure of the Canarsie tunnel will be. Proposed solutions include a two-way bike lane on 13th Street and a busway on 14th Street, and some of them will be implemented as soon as this summer.
According to the MTA, 14th Street will need to accommodate up to 84,000 bus transit customers per day when the shutdown begins in April of next year, “making it the busiest bus corridor per mile in the entire United States.” In order to do so, NYCT plans to establish a new M14 Select Bus Service route. The route would span from 20th Street and Avenue C to 14th Street and 10th Avenue. The MTA claims that this will provide a bus every 1 to 2 minutes at peak times in each direction. It’s hoping to reduce the time it takes to cross town to approximately 17 minutes, meaning 37 percent faster bus runs.
The “core” of 14th Street (between Third and Ninth Avenues) is expected to serve as an exclusive busway with peak hour restrictions. The analysis states that, “Under this plan, access to the Busway would be mostly limited to M14 local and SBS buses; however, Access-A-Ride vehicles, local deliveries, emergency vehicles, and private cars accessing parking garages would also be permitted.” Priority treatment would be given to buses during peak periods, though the specific hours are still being determined. Without the busway, it’s projected that traffic on adjacent side streets would see an average increase of 18 percent, and typical crosstown bus travel times would rise from 23.2 minutes to an estimated 25.7 minutes.
The MTA anticipates that as many as 5,000 new daily cyclists will hit the streets surrounding Union Square during the closure. In order to ensure that these cyclists are safe and separated from traffic, the agency plans on creating a bike path along 13th Street, which will be used by an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 cyclists per day. The bike path would travel in both directions, eliminating around 235 parking spaces along the street’s south curb. It’s also predicted that bike ridership over the Williamsburg Bridge will increase at least 300 percent from today’s average volume of 7,100 riders. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any mention on how to cure that headache. Instead, when it comes to the Williamsburg Bridge the MTA’s focus will be on shuttle bus service.
One of the primary components of the MTA’s alternate service plan is “to provide shuttle bus service from neighborhoods in Brooklyn to subway connections in Manhattan via the Williamsburg Bridge.” This is going to be an essential part of making sure the J and M lines aren’t completely flooded, and it will also attempt to prevent a massive shift to using personal cars or for-hire vehicles such as Ubers or taxis. Therefore, the DOT will be implementing a policy of “HOV 3+” meaning only buses and trucks would be allowed on the bridge in both directions during peak hours. According to the analysis, “Regional modeling of this policy suggests a traffic volume reduction of 5 percent on the larger 14th Street corridor as a result of this policy.”
The DOT plans to start implementing the proposed street treatments in late summer, with “substantial completion” expected by winter 2018. The anticipated start date of all the restricted traffic access, however, is still pending.