Even More Data Shows That City’s ‘Car-Ban’ on 14th Street is Making Buses Work

The car-free busway on 14th Street is still the gold standard (mostly because there's only one other like it). File photo: Dave Colon
The car-free busway on 14th Street is still the gold standard (mostly because there's only one other like it). File photo: Dave Colon

The Busway is a speedway.

Data from the MTA shows that the M14 bus — once among the city’s slowest — is moving with the grace and speed of a gazelle since the debut of Select Bus Service on the route on July 1, coupled with the ban on cars for most of the day between Third and Ninth avenues that began on Oct. 2.

According to new data from the transit agency, ridership is up and travel times are down (and though it isn’t officially measured by the agency, romance is in the air all along the route, too).

First, bus speeds are up.

In September, 2018, it took an M14 an average of 15.1 minutes to travel between Third and Eighth avenues in either direction between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.. Preliminary data for October shows that the same trip now takes just 10.6 minutes, a 30-percent decrease in travel time.

Second, buses are more likely to be on time.

That increased travel speed has also meant an increase in on-on-time performance for both the M14A and M14D lines. In September, 2018, only 45.3 percent of M14A and 46.2 percent of M14D buses showed up on time. But in the week after the busway launched, 63.3 percent of M14A and 73.1 percent of M14D buses have arrived at their scheduled stops on time, a 40-percent and a 58-percent increase respectively.

Lastly, ridership is up.

Weekday ridership, which averaged 26,350 passengers per day in September, 2018, surged to an average of 31,031 riders between Oct. 2 and 11, a 17-percent increase. There’s also been a spike in weekend ridership. On Saturdays, ridership has increased from 17,806 riders per day in September, 2018, to 24,337 riders in September, 2019 (a 37-percent increase even before the busway car ban is factored in). And on Sundays during the same time period, ridership has gone from 14,890 to 19,266 people per day (a 29-percent increase).

You don’t have to be a bean counter to know that the Busway has improved transit performance on 14th Street. The day after the busway debut, Streetsblog’s test ride between First and 10th avenues that took 17 minutes and 58 seconds — a significant decrease compared to a pre-Busway time of 25 minutes for the same trip.

The latest data comes one day after traffic firm INRIX Research released an independent study showing that restricting car travel on 14th Street did not lead to the massive gridlock on the streets surrounding the Busway, countering claims by opponents of the bus priority project that it would unleash a traffic “hellscape.” The same study revealed that travel times for drivers on the side streets adjacent to 14th Street were basically unchanged.

“We’re seeing hugely positive results,” New York City Transit President Andy Byford told reporters on Thursday. “That bus is sailing along 14th Street now.”

And then he added something to quicken the heartbeat of all transit advocates: “I’d love to replicate that elsewhere.”

Alas, Byford avoided specifics for now, adding that the MTA had “a number” of future bus-only streets in mind.

“I want us to do the homework first before we announce it,” he said.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has said pretty much the same thing — both on her desire to replicate the busway and on her lack of desire to tell the public where the next one will be.

Stay tuned.