“We understand that we need streets to work for bus riders, we need the streets to work for businesses, and we need the streets to work for the residents and communities, so the open house tonight is really our opportunity to share our proposal,” said Nicole Garcia, Queens Commissioner of the DOT, during the open house.
The proposal was presented in an informal open house, in which different components of the plan were printed out onto large posters and displayed on easels. Officials from the Department of Transportation (DOT) were on hand to explain each poster to community members and answer any questions, and attendees were encouraged to post their reactions onto a comment board for collection.
Event participants were largely supportive of the proposed changes, which include repavement of the general traffic lanes, as well as the installation of dedicated bus and right turn lanes alongside a curbside parking lane. Pedestrian sidewalks are also set to be made wider to accommodate dense foot traffic in the district.
“I want to see improvement for the Q44,” said Samuel Santaella, a community member who said that he thinks off-board fare collection is one of the most important upgrades to be implemented upon the arrival of SBS along the Q44 bus route connecting Flushing to the Bronx. “To kill two birds with one stone, I want to see improvements to Main Street too, on the pedestrian side.”
The DOT will meet with community boards again in June to continue the feedback process and create a finalized street design. The new SBS service is projected to be implemented in fall 2015.
Although there is widespread anticipation among commuters looking forward to improved bus service from Jamaica to Flushing and the Bronx, the creation of an SBS line was initially met with some contention from some officials and local business owners who feared the designated bus lane would cause a displacement of parking resources and additional traffic congestion for private vehicles.
But even among those who had been initially skeptical, there was a feeling of some compromise being reached.
“They really meant it when they said they wanted to engage the community and hear what the community had to say,” said Don Capalbi, president of the Queensboro Hill Flushing Civic Association and a vocal advocate for the preservation of local parking resources. “I really feel that they’re listening to the concerns of Joe Sixpack and his neighbors in our community.”