Appeals Judge Slams The Brakes On 14th Street Busway

An appeal slowed down the M14 Busway, but a ruling on Friday may jumpstart it. Photo: Google Maps
An appeal slowed down the M14 Busway, but a ruling on Friday may jumpstart it. Photo: Google Maps

Self-styled progressive lawyer Arthur Schwartz got a judge to slam the brakes on the 14th Street Busway again, just days before the pilot transit corridor was supposed to launch.

The coalition of wealthy West Village and Chelsea landowners, who lost their court bid to stop the Busway on Tuesday afternoon filed a hurried appeal that was granted by the Appellate Division on Friday, NY1 first reported.

According to the court papers, Schwartz’s plaintiffs, who are among the wealthiest people in the city, argued that Justice Eileen Rakower was wrong in allowing the Busway to proceed because the city did not actually take the required “hard look” at possible impacts of the car-free Busway that is necessary under state environmental law.

The Department of Transportation maintains it did conduct a traffic simulation that showed 1,000 vehicle trips per day would be diverted from 14th Street onto the surrounding blocks of West 12, 13, 15th and 16th streets — the main concern of Schwartz’s clients. The affidavit from DOT Deputy Commissioner for Traffic Eric Beaton called the modeling of 1,000 diverted trips a “conservative” outcome that didn’t take into account the potential for massively increased bus ridership as speeds on the horrendously slow M14 improved.

Beaton called that the necessary “hard look,” and Rakower agreed. But the Appellate Division disagreed, delaying the Busway again.

Activists were outraged.

“For every day that the 14th Street busway is on hold, M14 rush hour commuters lose two weeks worth of time that they will never recover,” Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance said in a statement. “Time wasted stuck behind cars in stalled traffic is time away from family, friends, work, and New York’s civic life. “The irreparable harm to tens of thousands of transit riders that comes of obstructing badly needed bus service improvements mounts with every single day of self-serving litigation from wealthy and powerful precincts surrounding 14th Street.”

Thomas DeVito of Transportation Alternatives added, “Relief remains out of reach for New Yorkers who ride the M14 — the slowest bus in the city — thanks to yet another round of legal maneuvers from a small group of wealthy, well-connected West Siders. These so-called progressives’ effort to stymie the plan to speed up bus service on 14th Street is a bad-faith effort to preserve a cars-first status quo, and frankly, a waste of time. This tiresome, tedious effort to circumvent the democratic process delays tangible improvements to the commutes of tens of thousands of working New Yorkers. It’s despicable, and we’re not going to accept it.”

Schwartz was pleased. He said Friday’s ruling will delay the Busway for “months” as the appeal is heard.