On Climate Week: Environmental Groups Call for 14th Street Busway

New York League of Conservation Voters
Contact: Shachar Sharon, ssharon@nylcv.org

For Immediate Release: September 25, 2019
212-361-6350 Ext. 206

On Climate Week: Environmental Groups Call for 14th Street Busway

Transit Priority Can Help Fight Climate Change, Improve Air Quality & Reduce Pollution

New York, N.Y. – The New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) today gathered with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and the NYC Chapter of Climate Reality to call for urgent implementation of the NYC Department of Transportation’s planned busway pilot program on 14th Street in Manhattan.

They emphasized the pilot’s environmental benefits and called for it to serve as a model for more busways throughout the city to benefit the more than 2.4 million daily bus riders. Prioritizing transit and pedestrians over vehicles could improve bus speeds by 30% and decrease congestion from cars, which will result in better air quality for New Yorkers. Faster bus service also means New Yorkers are more likely to opt for public transportation over a private vehicle and could reduce emissions from cars. 

This winter, Mayor de Blasio included transit prioritization for the M14 as part of his Better Buses Action Plan. In April, the NYC Department of Transportation formally announced the busway pilot program to prioritize transit traffic and pedestrians. The busway would make travel on this busy thoroughfare quicker for straphangers during the L-train tunnel repair. However, the program has been delayed twice so far due to last-minute legal efforts by a coalition of Manhattan block associations. This type of delay of bus prioritization also occurred in other neighborhoods, showing that there is a growing threat and pattern of obstruction of modern streetscape upgrades. 

The 14th Street pilot is an opportunity to demonstrate that better bus service is good transportation policy and climate policy. Currently, New York City is lagging far behind other cities and suffering from the slowest buses in America. The M14 is the city’s slowest bus route. These slow speeds affect bus ridership – between 2017 and 2018 ridership fell by almost 6%. Solutions like a busway would help address both the City’s bus speeds and fight the climate crisis.

Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “New York City cannot drive its way out of the climate crisis. In order to address the climate crisis and meet our future transportation needs, the city will have to adopt a more diversified mobility strategy to create a more sustainable and livable city. We need to implement common sense, proven solutions to improve bus speeds. That’s why NYLCV supports NYC DOT’s 14th Street busway.  The busway pilot can be a model for similar programs elsewhere in the city. Policies like this will help New York become a greener city and fight against climate change.”

“As world leaders gather at the United Nations to discuss solutions to the climate crisis, there’s much that we can do right here in New York City to curb global warming emissions.  The place to start is by rebuilding and enhancing public transit and advancing the 14th Street busway is a broadly beneficial step in the right direction,” said Eric A. Goldstein, New York City Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  

“In addition to subways and buses, public transit includes Access-A-Ride paratransit for 150,000 New Yorkers who cannot use buses or subways.  All three modes are essential to accessing jobs, education, and healthcare, especially for low-income New Yorkers. To function with any reliability and speed, both buses and paratransit vehicles require functional, dedicated bus lanes in a city overwhelmed by congestion.  With decreased L train service and increasing congestion on the 14th street corridor, it is critical that both buses and paratransit vehicles have a dedicated busway to improve service and reliability,” said Justin Wood, Director of Organizing and Strategic Research at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. 

“The Sierra Club stands with allies across the city in calling for the implementation of the 14th Street busway pilot. Expanding public transit and ensuring that it is an efficient and enjoyable option is critical to reducing our reliance on fossil-fuel burning vehicles and reducing emissions across our transportation sector,” said Allison Considine, New York Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club. “We know that Complete Street improvements and busways like this are necessary to transforming our transportation system to combat climate change, and we urge action without delay.” 

There is a history of successes for busways in other cities. After implementing a busway on King Street in Toronto, residents experienced an improvement in transit travel time and an increase in rush-hour ridership of 25%.

The Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act requires economywide carbon neutrality by 2050, including the transportation sector. Transportation is the #1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in New York State. There is no way to effectively fight climate change without a focus on making mass transit more reliable and efficient. When public transportation is more attractive and streets are more conducive to walking or biking, it will make it easier for New Yorkers to opt-out of driving.

Council Member Keith Powers also expressed support.  He said, “The Department of Transportation has put forward an innovative solution based on traffic data and modeling that would allow tens of thousands of New Yorkers to take advantage of better bus service. There is no legitimate reason to continue the delay of the busway pilot program, or to prioritize cars over public transit. I remain hopeful my constituents and I will be able to ride faster and more efficient buses across 14th Street soon, and thank NYCLV for their focus on this during Climate Week.”


The New York League of Conservation Voters is the only non-partisan, statewide environmental organization in New York that takes a pragmatic approach to fighting for clean water, healthy air, renewable energy, and open space. For more information, visit www.nylcv.org.