After the L Train “Shutdown” was changed to a “Slowdown”, many commuters, residents, and businesses were left wondering; what about the corresponding street redesigns? On April 24thMayor Bill de Blasio gave some clarity by announcing that the city will try a pilot on 14th Street by creating Transit/Truck Priority lanes, prohibiting through traffic from 3rdAvenue to 9thAvenue. The pilot will coincide with the launch of the M14 Select Bus Service (SBS) in June and is expected to last 18 months. According to Mayor’s press release:
- Only buses, trucks and emergency vehicles will be able to use 14th Street between 3rd and 9th Avenues as a through route.
- Local traffic will still be permitted to make pickups and drop-offs along the corridor and access garages, but cars will always need to turn right at the next possible location. Left turns will not be allowed.
- New curbside regulations will prioritize short-term loading and passenger pickup activity.
- Intersections along 14th Street will be designed with new turn lanes where appropriate to ensure that bus lanes will remain clear. Intersections will also receive Vision Zero treatments, including painted curb extensions.
To enforce this transit/truck priority pilot the City will place cameras along the route which raises a few vital questions: What is the definition of “truck”? Is it any commercial vehicle? Will trucks be issued camera tickets first and then have to defend themselves at a hearing? Will the City (or it’s contractor) review every vehicle each day and then issue tickets accordingly? What about commercial vehicles with multiple stops on 14thStreet? The issue of enforcement at multiple stops was never resolved during the initial L Train plan.
At Grand Street, the City will look to make the bike lanes along the Grand Street corridor in Brooklyn permanent. Between Waterbury Street and Vandervoort Avenue, DOT will modify the protected bike lanes. There are numerous commercial and industrial businesses in this area. To accommodate them the City will add metered parking and new loading zones around the corners from Grand Street. The City will also look to make the bike lanes along 12thand 13thStreets in the Village permanent with more loading zones and delineators added.
The last bit of changes relates to University Place and Union Square West. DOT will look to make the changes to roadway spaces along both University Place (between West 13th & 14th Streets) and Union Square West (between West 14th & 15th Streets / between West 16th & 17th Streets) permanent. On University Place, eastbound vehicles on 14thstreet will be allowed to turn right and proceed (slowly) through the block. Union Square West will remain closed to general traffic.
Like most City Hall pronouncements, the devil is in the details. If this is a pilot program, how will its success be measured? We’re still waiting for information on the clear curbs program. A report on that was due 6 months ago. The proposal allows for both “passenger pickup activity” and “short term loading”. What is “short term loading”? What about a truck used for a service call? If for hire vehicles (FHVs) sit in commercial loading zones, as they do elsewhere in the city, will that cause trucks to be in violation? That said, we’re glad to see trucks featured prominently in this proposal. Hopefully the City is beginning to realize that trucks are a necessity, not a nuisance.