The city Department of Transportation (DOT) and the MTA came to the meeting of Community Board 9 meeting on Tuesday night in Ozone Park and presented a revised plan for Select Bus Service (SBS) along Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards. The plan was met with much skepticism.
The DOT took into consideration much of CB 9 and the local community’s input and made some tweaks to the plan, which included reinstating the left turns on Jamaica Avenue, parking at the Forest Park Co-Ops and adding slips between center lanes and service roads. But to the dismay of CB 9 members, the DOT kept bus stops along the medians in the plan.
“We heard you and we made some changes that the community requested,” said Jessica Kuo, the DOT’s project manger for the SBS plan.
SBS would be initiated for the Q52 and Q53 bus lines, which are already limited routes. The Q52 runs from Arverne to Elmhurst, while the Q53 connects Rockaway Park to Woodside. Both routes pass through Glendale, Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Rego Park and Woodhaven along the way.
Here’s what the revised plan would include:
- Longer, two-section articulated buses would be added to both routes and new stops would be added at 101st and Pitkin avenues.
- The Atlantic Avenue stop will be moved to 91st Avenue to allow the Q52 and Q53 to use the Atlantic Avenue overpass and bypass the intersection.
- The northbound left-turn lane on Woodhaven Boulevard at Jamaica Avenue will be moved to the west side of the elevated train column from where it is, allowing a separate lane and reducing conflicts with southbound traffic making lefts.
- Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards between Forest Park Drive and 103rd Avenue will be altered to allow for median bus stops, and bus lanes will be installed all the way to Conduit Boulevard.
Though board members were thankful that some of their requests were considered, some still opposed the proposal for median bus stops.
“I am glad that the DOT restored the left-turn lane on Jamaica Avenue, but I still oppose putting people on the median,” said CB 9 member Maria Thomson. “It is dangerous.”
Several members of the public also spoke on the plan, including Paul Capocasale, a Woodhaven resident and longtime opponent of the plan. He argued that putting passengers on the medians would lead to tragedy.
“You put teenagers in the middle of the street, they’re going to get killed,” he said.
Several residents and board members suggested that, regardless of how much fencing or how strong the barriers are protecting the bus stops, a bad accident could lead to waiting passengers being struck by vehicles. The DOT itself acknowledged that the corner of Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue is among the most dangerous intersections in the city.
CB 9 member Alexander Blenkinsopp asked DOT and MTA representatives several questions about SBS service elsewhere in the city. Notably, Blenkinsopp asked about dysfunctional fare collection machines along other SBS routes citywide, including on the M34 SBS route on 34th Street in Manhattan.
“Are you aware of the number of fare-collection machines that were not working at SBS stops?” he asked.
But a representative from the MTA at the meeting said less than 1 percent of fare-collection machines were not working as of Tuesday and typically problems with the machines were caused by power outages. He also said the policy of forcing passengers to get off the bus at the next stop to buy a ticket was discontinued in March.
Despite the concerns, some in attendance suggested that the city press on with its SBS proposal.
“Most people who use the boulevard to get to work take public transit,” said Stephanie Veras, who wore a T-shirt from the Riders Alliance that supports SBS. “I understand we are all trying to get to work, but we need to support and build public transit.”
If the DOT and MTA move forward with the project, it is slated to be implemented next spring, but alterations at the Jamaica Avenue-Woodhaven Boulevard intersection, including the movement of the northbound left-turn lane, would occur before the winter, Kuo said.