Some transportation advocates are envisioning a carless 14th Street.
Taking a lead role, the non-profit Transportation Alternatives is suggesting river-to-river limits on automobiles in the wake of the L train’s planned shutdown, set for 2019.
Thomas DeVito, the director of organizing at TransAlt, said the upcoming, extended closure is one of the biggest transportation challenges the city has seen. An estimated 50,000 people every day in Manhattan alone use the L train.
The organization’s proposing what it calls a “PeopleWay,” limiting access for private cars and constructing bus lanes, protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks.
“This requires bold solutions, so we prioritized the most efficient modes of transportation,” DeVito said. “The PeopleWay came from this recognition that when the transportation system below ground isn’t working, the surface level really needs to accommodate and fit people.”
He said that the subway and bus are the top two most efficient forms of transportation respectively, and the city simply does not have enough room for private vehicles. DeVito said that if commuters drove instead of taking the subway, it would take a highway of over 50 lanes to accommodate the amount of people the L moves every day.
Earlier this summer, many elected officials, including Councilmember Corey Johnson, sent and signed a letter addressing the L Train closure. DeVito said that Johnson is one of many who support the PeopleWay concept.
“Right now we’re in the information-gathering phase, where we need to explore every option to mitigate disruption caused by the shutdown,” Johnson said. “Plenty of people travel between Chelsea and Brooklyn or the East Side every single day, so we need to ensure they’re not left behind during the necessary construction work.”
Johnson said that at such an early stage, officials are exploring all their options and having a public discourse about the merits of each one.
Although Manhattan Borough President Gayle Brewer also endorsed the PeopleWay, she said that there needs to be more discussion before any decisions are made. Throughout her discussions about the L Train shutdown, Brewer said that she has been focusing on Manhattan and the people in Manhattan who are concerned about this issue.
“One of the issues is once you get to Manhattan, how do you get to your place to visit or for leisure or for school?” Brewer said. “I think the idea would be very innovative about working with 14th Street. Working with the businesses is incredibly important, working with people who live there, working with the community board. We’ll come up with something that makes sense.”
The MTA announced on Sept. 14 that it would evaluate and consider the PeopleWay as an alternative to the L Train. Brewer said that she is impressed with the work that the MTA is doing on the case. She also said exploring the notion of making 14th Street bigger for longer than just the 18 month-shutdown is also an option.
Brewer attended a Manhattan forum to discuss the issue and was excited that many people showed up.
“We have met with different agencies, we have met with the different advocates and we’re going to work with the different officials in the community board to host lots of meetings to try to figure out what will happen when people get to Manhattan,” Brewer said. “The fact is that there’s a group of people who are interested in the L train and its future. When they come together it is most exciting.”