A local judge has blocked the implementation of the 14th Street busway, less than three days before the city was set to roll out private vehicle restrictions on much of the busy corridor.

In a temporary restraining order issued on Friday, New York Supreme Court Justice Eileen Rakower ruled that the Department of Transportation had failed to provide sufficient evidence that the new street design did not warrant an environmental review.

The 18-month pilot program, which had broad support from transit advocates, would have restricted private through traffic in both directions between 3rd and 9th Avenues, with the goal of speeding up the notoriously slow 14th Street buses. Paired with the long-awaited arrival of Select Bus Service in the area, the city estimated that bus speeds would improve by as much as 30 percent for 27,000 daily riders.


Homeowners and block associations in the West Village, Chelsea and Flatiron, meanwhile, raised concerns that the redesign would divert traffic onto their residential side streets. Last week, they sued to postpone the July 1st launch date, claiming "the government [was] thumbing its nose at the views of residents and the character of three neighborhoods." (The suit also demands that the protected bike lanes on 12th and 13th Street be ripped out immediately, though that was not addressed by the judge on Friday).

The complaint was filed by Arthur Schwartz, who serves as treasurer of the New York Progressive Action Network, and is a frequent opponent of bus and bike lanes. He told Gothamist on Friday that he was "feeling happy for my kids who aren't going to have traffic jams outside their windows every day, and for me. I guess my lungs matter too."

Schwartz added that the city should be happy about the restraining order, as they "actually now have an opportunity to see if bus speeds increase just by the implementation of SBS, as opposed to SBS plus no cars, which is a much more rational way of addressing impacts."

The decision will not impact the launch of SBS service on the M14A/D lines, which is scheduled to begin on Monday.

The two parties are due back in court on August 6th. A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation confirmed the ruling, but did not have an immediate comment.

In a statement, Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, blamed the small group of Manhattan residents for slowing down hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.

"When people look at our streets and wonder why we can’t fix them, this is why," he said. "At every turn, smart decisions by experts that will help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers get derailed by handfuls of know-nothing NIMBYs with deep pockets and time on their hands. This is what holds New York back: self-styled ‘progressives’ whose belief in fairness stops on their block.”

UPDATE: A spokesperson for the DOT has provided Gothamist with the following statement:

"Our plans for 14th Street are a centerpiece of our Better Buses plan, with the important goal of increasing bus speeds. Today’s disappointing ruling will affect tens of thousands of M14 bus riders each day. We understand from MTA that M14 Select Bus Service will be moving forward this Monday, but the ruling means that for the first time ever, SBS will operate without the trademarked dedicated lanes that have dramatically increased bus speeds and reliability on SBS routes around the City. We will provide the information the court has requested. We are confident in both our traffic analysis, and that the court will recognize that we followed all correct procedures—allowing this critically important safety and mobility project to proceed."

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