It was supposed to lead to a “carpocolypse.” The 14th Street Busway, a long-delayed pilot program in New York City to expedite service by creating bus-only lanes on a major east-west street in the lower half of Manhattan, was predicted to be a disaster for drivers.
Ever since the new thoroughfare was opened in mid-October, with red paint clearly marking lanes as bus-only, reports have shown that the new busway not only met its goal of making bus travel faster—9.7 minutes for the entire route, according to a city analysis released in December—but it also had minimal impact on car trips. Surrounding streets saw trips increase by 3.5 minutes at most.
The 14th Street Busway in New York City is a great case study in why drivers shouldn’t fight funding for transit—but should support it for their own good. Traditionally, transportation politics at a local level has been viewed as a zero-sum game; giving space to cyclists or other car-free means of transportation results in less room for drivers and longer trips, which many believe will bring more painful commutes.
But the Busway’s early success suggests that’s the wrong framework for evaluation. Investing in better transit creates a virtuous cycle that can help everybody’s commute. Better and speedier transit options mean more people ride in densely packed buses, meaning fewer cars on the road, resulting in faster drive times, even for those who still take a car to work.
“Drivers who themselves are not going to ever use public transit benefit from less people taking up space with their cars,” says Joe Cutrufo, communications director for Transportation Alternatives, a New York advocacy group. “If they want to maximize the effect of that phenomenon, they should support more bus lanes”
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