Streetfilms and a Sock Puppet Ride the 14th Street Busway

©. Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Where have I seen this movie before?

Most people (especially those who don't drive) have declared the 14th street Busway in New York City to be a huge success. This makes transit nerds in Toronto, where I live, very happy; it is modelled on our King Street pilot that was also a huge success and is now permanent, and which was pushed by a certain Andy Byford who headed the Toronto Transit Commission until he was exported to New York City.

The Smashing Success of NYC's 14th Street Busway (featuring Zardoz) from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

It also appears that Clarence Eckerson Jr. has imported another Toronto institution, Ed the Sock, now named Zardoz and, with his language and schtick all cleaned up, to be the the star of his latest video. Ed/Zardoz rides the bus and does a running commentary. He even buys a ticket, which is something sock puppets don't actually have to do.

Zardoz puppet

Streetfilms/Video screen capture

Clarence claims that his "kid found and starting playing with this sock puppet from over 10 years ago. And, well, Zardoz, our fun and enthusiastic sock puppet correspondent was born." But back in YYZ we suspect that Andy brought Ed with him from Toronto, he is such an enthusiastic straphanger. It's all kind of silly, but straphangers get kind of giddy when they see such dramatic improvements in their commute. As was found out with the King Street Pilot, it is amazing how much better things get just with paint, signs and a bit of enforcement. Unlike the billions and the decades it takes to build subways, this kind of improvement is fast and cheap and delivers immediate relief. But then as Mikael Colville-Andersen notes [and I paraphrase], “Car-centric cities build metros [subways] and people-friendly cities build tramlines [or busways]”.

14th street panorama

© Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Clarence describes the change on 14th:

From 6am thru 10pm only buses, trucks, delivery vehicles and EMS/FDNY are able to use it as a thru route. All others must turn off after only traveling one block. This still allows for drivers and car services to access the entire street, but they need to exit which has led to a vast improvement of bus speeds. But not only that but a more human environment. It can be very quiet at times. You can hear birds sing, people talk to each other. With due care you can easily cross the street almost anywhere on the corridor without fear of being killed.
CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter/ People instead of parking

Lloyd Alter/ People instead of parking/CC BY 2.0

Next spring New York has to bring in some of the other amenities that have made King Street so fun in Toronto. Take back the streets in style.