As the city revs up plans to create express bus service between Jamaica and Flushing, residents and local politicians are throwing up speed bumps and roadblocks against the initiative.
“All they’re doing is shifting the burden of heavy traffic from one group of people to another,” Councilman Rory Lancman said. “And I can’t support anything like that.”
Across New York City there are several express lines that aim to cut down bus travel times by devoting a lane exclusively to express service, or Select Bus Service (SBS). But creating an exclusive bus lane means there is one less lane for regular traffic, a point that is a deal breaker for Lancman.
In a letter written by Lancman and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz, the officials explain why they oppose the express bus lane to the Department of Transportation and the MTA. The Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association also signed onto the letter.
“No one can tell us exactly what the plan is, and that’s part of the problem,” said Jennifer Martin, co-president of the civic association. “If they’re going to reduce a busy thoroughfare to one lane, that’s going to create a tremendous backup. There has to be a better option.”
In Queens, the city has been slowly moving toward creating SBS along Woodhaven Boulevard. And the same might be happening to northern parts of Queens and Jamaica. The city will be holding a community workshop on Jan. 22 in Townsend Harris High School to engage with communities that would be affected by the bus plans.
But Lancman and others are not buying the city’s claims that express buses decrease traffic for everybody.
“We are opposed to removing any lane of traffic or parking in our district,” said Lancman, whose district covers Pomonok, Hillcrest and Utopia, which includes parts of Parsons Boulevard and Kissena Boulevard, two of the city’s candidates for the bus lines.
City officials originally met with residents in October 2014 at York College to get the community’s input on several proposed paths.
The DOT is considering two routes between the neighborhoods for SBS. The first would travel along Main Street where the Q44 and Q20A/B run. The second route under consideration is Parsons and Kissena boulevards, currently serviced by the Q25 and Q34.
Advocacy groups argue that adding SBS between Jamaica and Flushing would reduce traffic for all drivers, not just buses.
“By reducing congestion, speeding up travel times, and making busy avenues safer, BRT [Bus Rapid Transit] is a win-win for riders, drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike,” said a spokeswoman for the advocacy group BRT for NYC. “The continued growth of Jamaica and Flushing – two of the borough’s most significant downtowns – depends on the type of improved transit access that provides.”
In addition to dedicated lanes, the express bus service includes other features to speed up service. Passengers would pay their fare at sidewalk kiosks before the bus arrives to reduce boarding times.
“The bus trips are long and slow,” a spokesman for the Department of Transportation said. “And with Select Bus Service we think there’s a solution to improve things.”