Plans for bus lane on Q44 route in Kew Gardens Hills halted

By Madina Toure

The MTA and the city Department of Transportation announced that they have canceled plans for a dedicated bus-only lane on the Q44 bus route in Kew Gardens Hills.

At a Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association’s meeting last week, DOT and MTA officials said Kew Gardens Hills was not an area targeted for dedicated bus lanes, although bus lanes may still be considered on other parts of the corridor, according to a DOT spokesman.

But plans for a Select Bus service route between downtown Flushing and Jamaica will proceed, the DOT spokesman explained, noting that the SBS will still run through Kew Gardens Hills in mixed traffic.

City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) said the agencies were looking at other options such as off-board fare collection, synchronizing lights and moving bus stops to more appropriate locations.

These options would speed up bus service without negatively affecting automobile drivers and businesses along Main Street that rely on parking for their customers, he said.

“We’re very gratified that the city and the MTA really listened to the community’s concerns and saw that putting a dedicated bus lane in Kew Gardens Hills really wasn’t the most efficient use of the streetscape,” Lancman said in an interview with TimesLedger.

State Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing), U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) also praised the agencies’ decision to cancel the plans.

In January, the DOT and the MTA held a forum at Townsend Harris HS to provide more information about their proposal and get community feedback for an SBS route between Flushing and Jamaica on Main Street, Kissena and Parsons boulevards and 164th Street.

The proposal drew some support but significant opposition from area residents and civic and community leaders present at the forum, including Lancman and Simanowitz, both of whom voiced their aversion to the proposal.

Criticism stemmed from the possibility that a travel or parking lane could be eliminated to accommodate the service, adversely affecting motorists, residents and small businesses.

Last fall and winter, the DOT and the MTA went to all the communities along the Main Street corridor with a proposal for a Q44 SBS route.

At the time, the agencies stressed that even though SBS improvements such as on-street fare payment and limited stops would apply to the entire Q44 route, the DOT was still evaluating where it would make sense to put the bus lanes.

In the coming weeks, the DOT will share more details with communities along the Q44 route on the areas where bus lanes would be beneficial and how they would operate on a block-by-block basis, the DOT spokesman said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.