And we are talking about, no, railing against, the tunnel vision that turned 14th Street into a busway. The tunnel vision that makes having a faster commute the priority, no matter how it harms the community along the way – the community at large.
“Getting there as fast as possible” is all that matters to the MTA and the City’s Dept. of Transportation – and city leaders just go along, forgetting about “the community good.” That’s where people live. Say that again, please. And to have limited access now to these homes is not only an inconvenience, but for many a hardship and a danger!
Now is the Time to Protest
And of course the elders and others with mobility problems who depend on buses especially suffer, and are ignored. Disability advocates are suing to restore the 12 bus stops removed from 14th Street. Human rights groups are involved and if ever protest marches were needed, now is the time – marches with wheelchair and others needing assistive devices in the majority, and very visible and very angry at long last. The whole community matters!
That includes the small business that meet commodity needs, who also suffer, and they are already an endangered species due to failure to pass any commercial rent controls. If ever protests were needed ... Indeed, every lane that blocks access to the sidewalk hurts access to these stores and eateries which meet the community needs.
As for small biz drastically affected by the busway, a call to Coppella’s restaurant on 14th street brought a very worried response. “Yes, this busway will hurt business a lot – more than we can afford!” And I recall in my Upper East Side neighborhood when the First Avenue bus lane was first installed, Nick the manager son of family-owned Eva’s Garden florist on First between 78th and 79th, said angrily “Our business is down 30 - 40 percent now!” Unlike too many bus lane-affected small stores, this exceedingly popular florist has managed to survive.
Commuters Favored at the Expense of Neighborhoods
Of course, traffic must be controlled – it must move better, but there’s too much of it surely – too many people too, maybe? But there is an inordinate concern for commuters at the expense of the neighborhoods – the community at large. And the Second Avenue Subway wreaked havoc with the stores, restaurants and homes when the rejected design ( for above-ground light rail) would have taken only a few years to build, at a fraction of the cost, and immeasurably less community disruption. It was rejected because it wouldn’t serve as many commuters and riders.
But should there be so many riders? Oregon state once pushed for zero population growth. A place can become too crowded not only for comfort, but for health and safety. And speaking of safety, speeding up the buses now also makes them potentially less safe, says this longtime safe traffic and public transit advocate.
The Big Picture is Being Ignored
The big picture is being ignored, and when starting this column I had no idea busways might be the future of other crosstown routes and other street lanes, adversely affecting the community.
Surely the neighborhoods, the places we live, stores that meet everyday needs, are a foremost concern. Now it seems “getting there” is government’s number one priority. That has to change. “Getting there” must always be secondary, to the health and welfare of the neighborhoods they pass. And tunnel-visioned policymakers unable or unwilling to see that have got to go! And we must see that they do.
We can start by contacting officials and community boards whose numbers are found in this paper’s Helpful Contacts column. And as Ed Koch once said about solving the then water shortage, “Keep talking about it.” And go online to get more particulars on this city boondoggle of the very first kind. It can be done if enough of us try