L Train Crisis? Let’s Get Real; It’s Mostly Hype
BY JOHN WETHERHOLD | The closure of the L train is indeed a huge problem if you live in Brooklyn. Not so much In Manhattan.
Extremist groups — who want to achieve a vision that only they want — take advantage of this supposed “crisis” to promote a radical agenda. Are they part of the city government? I think not. We saw that in the recent workshops that were organized by the local politicians. The workshops’ format was not a presentation or facts but a phony discussion of major changes that could take place on 14th St.
The role of Transportation Alternatives (transalt.org) in pushing its “PeopleWay” plan should be of major concern to all who want their voices to be heard. This group had salted the tables with their members, of course, who want to throttle or eliminate all traffic on the street, and they presented alternatives that reflected their own views. At each table, notes were recorded on all of the comments on bicycles and pedestrian malls — on other suggestions, not at all.
Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and state Senator Brad Hoylman should not have allowed the participants to be treated this way. The answers that come out of this process are foreordained and do not reflect the views of the residents and taxpayers of the Village.
The real increase in traffic, in terms of buses and cars — including taxis — that this plan would cause are not known. Numbers were batted about, including 50,000 riders on the L train in Manhattan, but no one really knows if these counts are correct. They are designed to put people in a panic mode. Something must be done.
We should prioritize traffic on the basis of velocity, capacity and density. No Select Bus Service is needed. Here are some ideas:
First, replace all buses with stairs with fast-loading low-entry buses.
Second, bring traffic agents back from ticketing to traffic direction at key intersections.
Third, put bus dispatchers on 14th St. routes.
Fourth, increase the frequency of buses on 14th St. route — but, again, not Select Bus Service.
Fifth, for the duration of the extra-ridership period, eliminate all street fairs, holiday markets and similar uses that impede pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
Sixth, close the following streets to reduce cross traffic: University Place between 13th and 14th Sts.; Union Square West between 17th and 14th Sts.; Irving Place between 15th and 14th Sts.
Seventh, do not allow left turns at major avenues, except for emergency vehicles and buses.
These suggestions should allow traffic and buses to flow easily. The problem with Select Service Buses is that they demand a dedicated lane that cannot be used for parking or delivery for businesses. It throttles the street traffic. If that happens, the parking will spill over to residential streets. Of course, eliminating traffic on 14th St. will create a traffic crisis on the parallel streets. This plan to close 14th St. is both impractical and harmful to the residents and taxpayers in this corridor.
Our local politicians who are pushing this or some version of it have a great deal of contempt for the “sheeple.” They seem driven by visions and ideas that come from ideology not practical experience. Another amusing aspect to this is that these people represent these changes as temporary. If anyone believes that, I have a bridge to sell you.
None of the larger pieces fit together. The mayor wants to increase density. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is throttling traffic on the major avenues. The governor is defunding mass transit.
Meanwhile, people are avoiding the subways as undesirable and unreliable. Buses on these deliberately crowded avenues are slow. More and more, average people are using services like Uber (approved by the City Council) and Lyft.
The answer from the ideologues is to remove all traffic, so no one has any choice about how to get around; congestion is deliberately created. This passive-aggressive approach is designed to make people give up on using cars at all. It won’t work and DOT should stop trying. The only thing we will face with these proposals is misery for the average taxpaying resident of this area. The “PeopleWay” plan should not move forward.
Wetherhold is a W. 13th St. resident.