CB 7 votes against proposed Q44 Select Bus Service route

By Madina Toure

Community Board 7 voted against the implementation of the Q44 Bronx-Flushing-Jamaica Select Bus Service route at its monthly board meeting Monday night in Flushing.

A total of 32 board members voted to deny the city Department of Transportation and the MTA’s proposal. Two voted for the proposal and one member abstained due to a conflict of interest.

Opposition centered on the loss of parking spaces, confusion over what would happen if machines broke down and worries about people having to cross over the bus lane to find a parking spot, among other issues.

CB 7 chairman Gene Kelty said the MTA has a history of ignoring the board’s concerns.

“I think we’ve got to make sure that elected officials know that (about the vote) so that it is not a done deal,” Kelty said during the meeting at Union Plaza Care Center at 33-23 Union St.

Kelty said the agencies were just seeking feedback from the board and that their goal is to launch the route in November.

The Q44 SBS would replace the Q44 limited bus, following its route from Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica to the Bronx Zoo.

The CB 7 Transit Committee met with the MTA twice to discuss the proposal, according to Warren Schreiber, the committee’s chairman.

“We had some concerns about the service,” Schreiber said. “We had some concerns about the loss of parking, about the ways fares were going to be paid on the bus.”

The DOT and MTA said features include improved fare collection at every SBS stop, bus lanes where appropriate, transit signal priority, passenger information, pedestrian safety amenities and improved curb regulations.

Patrick Dougherty, a DOT transportation planner, said the agencies will be onsite during the first two weeks to help customers.

He noted that 83 percent of 753 individuals interviewed on Main Street between Northern Boulevard and 41st Avenue in October 2014 said they take transit or walk.

“What Select Bus Service is is our way to cost effectively bring better bus service to heavily used corridors throughout the city,” Dougherty said.

Riders would pay with a MetroCard or coins before boarding, take the ticket from the machine and board the bus through all three doors. MTA New York City Transit will conduct random fare payment inspections.

The route will remove four stops in CB 7’s coverage area: the Whitestone Expressway/Center Drive, Parsons Boulevard/17th Avenue, Parsons Boulevard/21st Avenue and Main Street/Northern Boulevard. These stops will be served by the Q20.

There will be offset bus lanes northbound from 60th Avenue to downtown Flushing and southbound from downtown Flushing to 60th Avenue.

There will also be curbside bus lanes with midday parking at northbound Main Street from Reeves Avenue to 60th Avenue; westbound Hillside Avenue from Sutphin Boulevard to Queens Boulevard; Sutphin Boulevard from Hillside Avenue to Archer Avenue; and eastbound Archer Avenue from Sutphin Boulevard to 150th Street.

CB 7 First Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian criticized the DOT for abandoning a plan introduced by the board about five years ago calling for a one-way pair in which Union Street would be one-way south from Northern Boulevard to Sanford Avenue, while Main Street would be one-way north from Sanford Avenue to Northern Boulevard.

“This plan was ready to go and it had bus lanes like this,” Apelian, said.

DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia said the plan could not be implemented but that the agency will revisit it. She said the SBS proposal will be efficient.

“This we think can deliver safety and delivery benefits,” Garcia said.

Kim Ohanian, chairwoman of the budget committee, asked if the project was a “done deal.” Representatives at the meeting told her they are soliciting community feedback. “You’re not making anybody’s lives better,” Ohanian said.

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