Society doesn’t break down with 14th Street closed to cars

A bus on 14th Street in New York City
A bus on 14th Street in New York City
14th Street in Manhattan has been closed to cars to make way for buses.

Society doesn’t break down with 14th Street closed to cars

Despite critics’ dire warnings, everything seems to be going well.
October 3, 2019

The 14th Street busway was “a nightmare set to unfold,” with West Village residents “bracing themselves for an onslaught.” When the rain-soaked day of disaster arrived … everything went pretty smoothly, actually.

On Thursday morning, the city began its experimental transit initiative, preventing all passenger cars – including taxis and ride-hail app vehicles, such as Uber and Lyft – from driving on 14th Street in Manhattan between Third and Ninth avenues, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

It’s an effort to improve bus commuting times, specifically on the M14 bus line, which is among the city’s slowest – literally slower than a manatee – and has lost 30% of its passengers over the past five years. The project also seeks to reduce car emissions, and was initially introduced as a way to improve commutes for L train riders, as ongoing construction on the line promises to slow trains

There was enormous resistance to the project, which pitted the residents of the well-to-do neighborhoods against the city’s daily bus riders. Critics insisted the initiative would increase traffic and contribute to greater noise and air pollution in the area. Several lawsuits addressing opponents’ concerns stalled the transit project – initially slated to begin in July – from going into effect, in an attempt to keep the busway from happening altogether. The project was ultimately given the green light last week. 

City transit reporters and advocates have been sharing photos and updates from 14th Street on Thursday, reporting faster commute times, clear roads and enforcement of the busway’s new road regulations.

Reporters also shared photos from some of the surrounding streets, which critics warned would be packed if cars were forced off 14th, showing fairly normal-looking traffic flow.

Not everyone is on board with the new regulations, and some drivers are simply not yet up to speed on the new rules, but thankfully, drivers are being granted a 60-day grace period before the city begins issuing tickets for driving on the road. 

The busway will be in effect for 18 months. Only time will tell whether it will continue to improve commutes and make streets safe for pedestrians and cyclists, but it’s certainly off to a smooth start.

Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is a staff reporter at City & State.