LOWER EAST SIDE — The MTA continues to snub repeated pleas from commuters and local politicians to address exorbitant wait times along a highly trafficked bus line serving the Lower East Side, according to a group of fed-up critics.
Riders of the M14A line said they often wait up to a half-hour for a bus while watching clusters of M14D buses roll by, and State Sen. Daniel Squadron says he has been fielding these complaints for more than a year while asking the MTA to act — but the agency has insisted in a series of letters that the wait times are fine.
Commuters queued up at a recent Community Board 3 Transportation Committee meeting said they often hop on the M14D even though it stops farther from their homes rather than wait for the lagging M14A.
“When I’ve walked from Delancey Street back to the East River Co-ops, particularly late at night when it's dark, I don’t feel very threatened but I definitely notice there’s no one else on the sidewalks, it’s a little bit more dangerous…I still do it because I don’t really want to wait for the 14A bus,” said East River Co-ops resident Joseph Hanania, who three years ago launched a petition calling on the MTA to extend the M14D service to compensate for the shoddy M14A line.
Both bus lines run crosstown through Union Square and into the Lower East Side, but the M14A stops far lower and farther east — at Grand Street and FDR Drive — while the M14D line ends at Delancey and Columbia streets.
Squadron first raised constituent concerns about the M14 A and D lines in a January 2016 letter to New York City Transit President Veronique Hakim, in which he asked the agency to look into increasing the fleet.
Hakim in April replied that the MTA performs ridership counts and plans bus service accordingly, also noting that wait times for both the M14A and D were better than average.
The following November, Squadron reached out again in light of continued commuter complaints, calling for a “full line review” as well as ridership data and entry and exit data on the lines.
The agency came back the following April reiterating previous claims that waits times for the lines were better than average, claiming that the M14A has a significantly lower ridership than the M14D.
Roughly 10,113 passengers take the M14A on an average weekday, said the letter signed by acting MTA president Darryl Irick, while roughly 20,446 passengers take the M14D. The letter also states that a full line review would be impossible.
But the agency’s math is likely faulty due to the number of commuters who find themselves in Hanania’s position, argued commuters and board members, who said the M14D ridership is probably greater because it is absorbing the overflow of passengers who are sick of waiting around for the M14A.
“It is extremely common to see 14D after 14D after 14D — many of them are empty as they go by — and just waiting incredible amounts of time for a 14A bus,” said transportation committee chair Chad Marlow.
“I think that people often take alternate bus routes — they will take the M14D either to Delancey or to 14th and A and get off there and walk, which makes you think more people are taking the 14D when in fact more people are taking it as a second best choice,” he continued.
A representative for Squadron at the meeting said the senator is calling for a meeting with the MTA to discuss the ongoing issues but that one has not yet been scheduled. Squadron himself issued a statement pledging to continue to push for improvements to the line.
"The M14 is a transit lifeline in many parts of my district. Unfortunately too often calls for more transparency and improvements have gone unheeded,” the statement said. “It's important that the MTA engage these concerns directly, and I'll be working with CB3 and colleagues to make sure that happens."
A spokesman for the MTA said only that the agency would continue to engage with Squadron and commuters on the issue.
“We appreciate all input from elected officials and look forward to continuing to engage with the Senator to discuss the M14,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.
The MTA has said it will introduce permanent M14 Select Bus Service during the L train shutdown.