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Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
A bus lane on Woodhaven Boulevard near Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven.

Starting next week, drivers on Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards in Queens will be paying a big price for improperly driving or parking in the Select Bus Service (SBS) lanes, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced.

On Monday, the DOT released a statement to alert the public that violations will be issued starting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, for drivers who break the rules of the Q52/Q53 SBS route. By state law, the DOT was required to issue warnings for at least 60 days after the launch of the bus route.

The announcement came 86 days after the grace period began on Nov. 19, 2017, likely because of adjustments that had to be made in response to complaints from residents living near the bus lanes. A group of neighbors from Goldington Court in Middle Village, a one-way side street that feeds onto Woodhaven Boulevard, recently saw a camera removed from the corner of that intersection after they received a total of 48 warnings in the mail between seven people.

The violations that will now be issued include fines ranging from $115 to $150. Since violations are issued against the car, not the driver, they do not include points on the driver’s license.

Q52/Q53 bus lanes are in effect curbside in residential areas from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and curbside along Cross Bay Boulevard from 7 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Bus lanes offset from the parking lane or in the main road will be in effect 24 hours, seven days a week, and curbside parking will be preserved.

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo recently convinced the DOT to eliminate the bus lane restriction on Cross Bay Boulevard on Saturdays, and said that he will work to have the 24-hour lanes reevaluated in May.

The city’s bus lane rules state that “unauthorized vehicles may enter a bus lane only to make a right turn at the next city street, to access a curb cut or driveway within 200 feet, or to quickly drop off or pick up passengers.” That 200-feet rule applies to making right turns as well, meaning that a driver has to enter the bus lane within the same city block where the right turn is made. Drivers can also enter the bus lane if they are actively parking, but blocking the lane for any amount of time risks getting ticketed.

Bus lane violations can be appealed the same way as any other parking or camera violation if the accused person has compelling evidence that they are innocent.

The city was first given legislative authority to operate a camera-based enforcement system in the summer of 2010. In a DOT report to analyze the results of the program, there were 73,160 camera violations issued from April 2011 to March 2012. A total of 10,328 of those violations were appealed by the recipients, and 1,739 were ultimately found not guilty.

The report also notes that the city collected $7,567,882.94 from the violations during that year.

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