With the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city is moving ahead with plans to develop an express bus service between Flushing and Jamaica.
Despite calls from community members and politicians in neighborhoods like Kew Gardens Hills, the transformation of the Q44 and Q25 into a Select Bus Service (SBS) line is set to begin as early as this fall, according to a Department of Transportation spokesman, but no official schedule has been announced. The transformed Q44 would continue along its path on Main Street. Residents in Kew Gardens Hills are worried that an express bus through their neighborhood would increase traffic or reduce parking along the route.
The city claims that an express bus line would help thousands of commuters going between the two neighborhoods every hour and allow people in areas without trains to quickly travel to Flushing for the 7 train. And in his State of the City Address, the mayor also pushed for express buses.
“[Bus Rapid Transit] will cut transit time on existing routes by 15 to 25 percent. That means New Yorkers spending less time in transit and more time living their lives,” he said.
Public transportation advocacy groups lauded de Blasio’s support for express buses, which are sometimes referred to as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).
“Bus Rapid Transit could transform New York City by providing faster, more reliable bus service for residents in the outer boroughs who need it most,” the group Riders Alliance said.
And elected officials representing Flushing and Jamaica have also expressed their support for the plans.
“Flushing and Jamaica are two rapidly growing economic centers that require a transportation system and infrastructure to serve its increasing population and activity,” the officials wrote in a letter to the city. The letter was signed by Queens representatives, including state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Councilman Peter Koo and Congresswoman Grace Meng.
But people who live between these two transportation hubs claim that their needs are being sacrificed and made their thoughts clear to city officials during a recent workshop held in Townsend Harris High School. Those in the middle tend to rely on cars instead of bus service, making parking and open lanes a priority for them.
New York City has several express lines that aim to cut down commutes by devoting a lane exclusively to SBS lines. But creating an exclusive bus lane means there is one less lane for regular traffic, a point that is a deal-breaker for Councilman Rory Lancman, who represents Kew Gardens Hills and other areas.
“All they’re doing is shifting the burden of heavy traffic from one group of people to another,” Lancman said. “And I can’t support anything like that.”
Officials from the transportation department haven’t responded to questions to see if the city will still install a dedicated bus lane that would run through Kew Gardens Hills.