Carlina Rivera Isn’t Helping Transit Riders Weather the L Train Shutdown

Rivera, who represents the East Village and parts of the Lower East Side, doesn't want 24/7 bus lanes on 14th Street.

City Council Member Carlina Rivera. Photo: Emil Cohen for NYC Council
City Council Member Carlina Rivera. Photo: Emil Cohen for NYC Council

In order for the L train shutdown plan to work, bus priority measures need to be in place all day, every day. Ridership on the L train remains substantial on weekends and well into the night, and the replacement bus routes will need to provide reliable, high-capacity service round the clock.

NYC DOT plans to create bus lanes on Grand Street, Delancey Street, and 14th Street, but hasn’t specified which hours those rules will be in effect. To guarantee functional bus lanes, advocates have been imploring DOT to make the bus-only rules 24/7.

Council Member Carlina Rivera, who represents the East Village and Lower East Side, isn’t helping.

In a letter to MTA New York City Transit President Andy Byford and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg yesterday, Rivera asks for bus priority rules on 14th Street to only be in effect from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays [PDF].

The letter also urges DOT to split the two-way protected bike lane slated for 13th Street into an east-west pair on 12th Street and 13th Street. DOT is open to the idea, but would prefer to offer a single two-way route as close to the action on 14th Street as possible. Splitting up the bikeway also risks setting off a whole new swarm of NIMBY complaints on 12th Street.

Despite her professed support for protected bike lanes, Rivera ticks off the standard list of bogus arguments against them, like the presence of schools on the street or the degradation of emergency vehicle access.

Rivera’s argument against 24/7 bus lanes on 14th Street also appears to be an attempt to split the baby.

While acknowledging that a rush hour-only busway will be “insufficient in dealing with the massive number of vehicles that will be traveling this corridor throughout the day,” Rivera says the bus priority should not extend past 8 p.m. because “vehicular traffic is significantly lower on weeknights.”

But bus ridership on 14th Street is expected to remain high — over 1,000 riders per hour — through midnight, according to data released by the MTA and DOT earlier this year [PDF]. With so many passengers, buses should retain priority regardless of car traffic levels on 14th Street.

At the same time, Rivera called for 24/7 HOV3 restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge so traffic does not “deter visitors from frequenting small businesses… which operate well into the evening.”

The same logic can, and should, apply to 14th Street. Businesses on 14th Street rely on late night customers just as much as business in the area by the Williamsburg Bridge, where Rivera is pushing for 24/7 HOV3 restrictions.