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Manhattan Community Board Five

34th Street Transitway Project

In September 2010, Vikki Barbero, Chair of Manhattan Community Board Five, established a five-member task force to examine the potential impacts of the New York City Department of Transportation's (DOT) proposed 34th Street Transitway. The 34th Street Transitway project proposes to create a set of fully protected bus lanes from the FDR Drive to 12th Avenue, as well pedestrian crossing islands and sidewalk expansions to address pedestrian safety needs. Task force members were drawn from CB5's Transportation and Environment Committee.  With Nancy Goshow as chair, the team includes Joe Ferrara, Michael Keane, Joel Maxman, and Brendan O'Malley.   

Over the foregoing months, the CB5 task force has participated in several DOT proposal presentations; outreach meetings; and public forums.  Members also met with Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione and the 34th Street Transitway project team to present our list of concerns.  These concerns are divided into six (6) substantive areas of analysis:

§     Property owners

§     Business owners

§     Residents

§     Pedestrians

§     Existing public transit and infrastructure

§     Vehicular traffic in and around the 34th Street corridor.


These six (6) areas of analysis each contain all or a portion of the following 17 critical issues:



Deliveries; loading & unloading; building operations; construction and repairs


Access and accommodations for the elderly and/or physically challenged


Air and noise impact


Tour, commuter, jitney buses


Pedestrian safety and mobility


Building access


Quality of life


Economic development impact


Emergency vehicle access and mobility




34th Street Pedestrian Plaza (between 5th and 6th Avenues)


Cross-town truck traffic & local traffic via the Lincoln and Midtown Tunnels


Bicycle traffic


Existing transit routes and stations


Private vehicular speed and efficiency


Car and taxi pick-up & drop-off


Impact on adjacent streets due to vehicular traffic displacement


At a November 22, 2010, the CB5 Transitway Task Force held a public forum to present the list of critical issues as well as gather additional input from District Five stakeholders, including property and business owners; and residents. 

The following section discusses in greater detail the critical issues identified by CB5 34th Street Transitway Task Force. It should be noted here that these recommendations are a "work in progress"; some issues will require further analysis.

Pedestrian Safety and Mobility

DOT should examine pedestrian safety issues related to the various lane configurations proposed.  For example, how does opting for a median-aligned busway instead of a side-aligned busway impact pedestrian safety given that the former requires pedestrians to cross the street to reach boarding points, and alighting passengers to the street to reach the sidewalk.

Access and accommodations for the elderly and/or physically challenged

All buses and stations must be designed to be ADA compliant.  At-grade boarding and alighting should be implemented at all stations. Also, the final design must provide for bus driver visibility of waiting passengers; safe and secure transit stop waiting pads; adequate and strategically located curb cuts; sufficient drainage; and easy sidewalk maintenance at bus stations. 

Air and Noise Impact

Air and noise pollution should be alleviated by requiring all buses permitted to use the Transitway to be clean air hybrid type buses with significantly reduced carbon emissions and reduced noise engines.

Tour, Commuter, Jitney Buses

The plan must also include a master plan that demonstrates sufficient accommodations for tour, commuter and jitney buses.  Existing stops and boarding/alighting areas for private bus companies along or in close proximity to 34th street should be identified on a map to show areas where there is the potential for higher pedestrian volume along sidewalks and at crossing points. 

Emergency Vehicle Access and Mobility

Consideration should be given to Emergency vehicle access and mobility. The DOT should examine how the proposed lane re-configuration might impact emergency vehicles.

Building Access and Quality of Life

Review on impacts to building access and quality of life reveal problems that could be created by the proposed 34th Street Transitway.  This is an underlying theme throughout all components of the project.

Economic Development

DOT should analyze closely potential economic development impacts associated with the proposed 34th Street Transitway project. Changes in traffic patterns carry with it a potential impact on the nearby businesses. For example, a convenience store located on the side of the proposed bus lane might enjoy an increase in pedestrian traffic, while a competitor located on the opposite side might suffer from a decline in foot traffic.  Moreover, the impact on non-ground-floor commercial activity will likely require higher operating costs and inconvenience based on restricted access.  Some businesses will suffer from higher delivery or servicing costs based on locations that do not offer ready curb-side access from 34th Street.  There will also be isolated instances in which non-ground-floor businesses serve customers with special-access needs, and mitigation under such circumstances may only be achieved through relocation.  Community Board Five urges that these businesses be identified through the community outreach process to understand the scope of relocation assistance that might be necessary.

Such impacts should be analyzed by size of operation, type of establishment, and customer base. We thus request that a full economic impact study be conducted to measure the likely impact on the retail trade.  We request that the economic impact study consider the changes in pedestrian traffic flow quantity and quality by block (north and south sides), and mapping of each of the existing retail establishments by size and type of retail activity (e.g., food, convenience, clothing, pharmacy, etc.).  We believe that different variables will drive the overall increase or decrease in retail activity for each type of store depending on where they are located relative to changes in pedestrian traffic flow. 

The environmental impact study needs to fully engage an economic analysis that segments the retail trade by type of establishment and traffic flow.  The CEQR guidelines are too generic, consider impact in the aggregate, and do not look at the type of retail that will flourish or diminish under the new pedestrian traffic flow.  Community Board Five would like to see real input from the retail community and from retail experts as part of a robust economic impact study.  Regarding non-ground-floor uses, Community Board Five urges that all businesses dependent on special access be identified and that a mechanism be created to mitigate negative impacts on a case-by-case basis.  Many of the negative impacts for non-retail can be mitigated through planning and possible limited relocation, however, the lack of planning and analysis with regard to the impact on retail trade is of high concern.  Targeted outreach to retailers by segment must be undertaken and studied.

Vehicular and Bicycle Traffic

CB5 agrees with DOT that a comprehensive traffic study must be undertaken. DOT has suggested a three-part traffic analysis that would include:

§    Local detailed simulation for 34th Street and the nearby street network (14th to 59th Streets, river to river), including how the 34th Street truck route would be diverted;

§    Citywide analysis such as diversions from the George Washington and the Verrazano Narrows Bridges;

§    Regional traffic impacts including mode shifts.


CB5 would like to see an expanded and more comprehensive DOT traffic study that would include the following:

§    An enlarged study area to include 60th Street, river to river, including the 59th Street Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel and Queens Midtown Tunnel

§    Analysis of both peak and off-peak times during all seasons of the year

§    The impact of the bike lanes being implemented by DOT on every street in the enlarged study area and a thorough analysis of existing and future bike traffic safety rules, regulations and enforcement

§    Safety and protection of students arriving and departing from schools located in the study area and the potential impacts of traffic diverted from 34th Street on their safety.  This is especially important in light of certain high accident areas such as Park and 32nd Street just outside of Norman Thomas High School.



Community Board Five applauds the Department of Transportation's extensive community outreach efforts in association with the proposed 34th Street Transitway project. We are confident that such inclusive community-based planning will result in a transitway system that benefits the District's residents, business-owners and visitors alike. Looking forward, we welcome further collaboration with the DOT Transitway project team to address the concerns and recommendations raised herein, and are committed to maintaining a healthy partnership as we fulfill our respective civic duties.                                   

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