What’s the fastest way to get across Manhattan during morning rush hour: the M14 bus, or a brisk walk?
Transportation Alternatives along with the NY League of Conservation Voters put the question to the test on Wednesday when a group of pedestrians set out to “race” the MTA bus, which has a reputation for being one of the slowest in the city. And the result? Basically a tie.
A group of pedestrians set off from Avenue A when the M14D bus arrived, per Joe Cutrufo of Transportation Alternatives, and headed toward the race’s finish line of Union Square West. The bus arrived there just five seconds before the walkers, he said.
The M14 has long had a troubled history in terms of reliability and efficiency in getting commuters across town via 14th Street, and when the L train shutdown was scheduled, transit activists sounded the alarm about how that trip could see even more congestion.
According to the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign annual “Pokey” awards, the M14D bus is the third slowest in the MTA system, traveling an average of just 3.9 miles per hour. It’s also the ninth busiest route, per MTA data.
“We thought the best way to sort of illustrate how slow and unreliable the M14 bus is, we would race the M14 on foot — not running but just walking,” said Cutrufo. “New Yorkers are pretty brisk walkers. We figured if the M14 can average 3.9 miles per hour, the average New Yorker can walk about that fast.”
And they did, according to the group’s morning jaunt. Though the MTA bus (barely) won, it’s still not a victory for New York City transit, says Transportation Alternatives.
“It could be the best way to get across town,” Cutrufo said of the M14 bus, “but instead it’s as slow as walking.”
The transit activists say the bus actually got off easy, as New York City Public Schools are closed this week, meaning less 8:30 a.m. traffic and fewer M14 passengers.
“With that five second difference, it’s pretty safe to assume if we had done this last week, the pedestrians would have won,” Cutrufo said.
M14 busway needed especially during L train repairs, TransAlt says
The L train was running normally on Wednesday as well — another plus for the bus — but soon, that may not be the case. Though the L train shutdown is no longer on the table, there will still be weekend L train service disruptions that could force straphangers to rely on the bus to get across town.
Ahead of the previously anticipated 15-month L train shutdown, multiple mitigation plans were put in place to accommodate commuters. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo called off the shutdown, transit activists and elected officials stressed that those mitigation plans should stay in place because the transit system is in crisis.
One such plan was for a dedicated busway down 14th Street, allowing the M14 MTA bus to travel across town unencumbered by car traffic.
On Feb. 13, MTA officials scrapped the plan to turn 14th Street into a completely car-free dedicated busway, but transit activists say a dedicated bus lane is still needed or else more commuters may opt for taxis, Ubers or Lyfts, thus adding even more car traffic to the street and surrounding roads.
“You will end up with an l-pocalypse every weekend,” Cutrufo said. “You’ll end up with gridlock on 14th Street and the surrounding areas because the transit is unreliable.”