Transit advocates protest Woodhaven Blvd. SBS proposal

By Tom Momberg

More than 20 members of the Queens Public Transit Committee rallied on Woodhaven Boulevard last Sunday to raise public awareness of the proposed Select Bus Service line and redevelopment of Woodhaven and Jamaica boulevards. They claimed the proposal would benefit fewer commuters than it would hurt.

Some residents have expressed support for the proposal, while the city Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Transportation Authority are insistent the plan—to construct median bus stations, add center bus lanes, and possibly lower speed limits on Woodhaven Boulevard and eliminate left turns onto Jamaica Boulevard—will only make bus service more reliable and intersections safer for pedestrian and bicycle use.

But QPTC, a group that advocates for increasing mobility of all types of commuters by introducing more options, said the reconstruction of the two boulevards would restrict car traffic and back up gridlock problems into the residential streets surrounding them.

QPTC Chairman Philip McManus said the return of QueensRail—the integration of the former Long Island Rail Road Rockaway Beach Branch Line into the subway system—as well as the expansion of Citywide Bus service, trains, ferries and roadways, would help all commuters without taking away from others.

“We’re sick and tired of City Hall and our leaders who think they can solve our transportation crisis by eliminating railways, roadways, bus stops, left turns, parking, bus frequency, and reasonable speed limits,” McManus said. “This is madness and it’s unfair and it must stop.”

To transit planners, the SBS proposal and boulevard redesign is an answer to a lot of traffic problems in central Queens.

“It’s a phobia, a fear of the unknown,” an MTA spokesman said about concerns raised by QPTC. “However, the fact is that across the five boroughs, Select Bus Service has reduced travel times for more than 225,000 bus riders every day.”

The MTA predicts its plan would make Q52 and Q53 bus service up to 35 percent faster, and that the redesign of Woodhaven Boulevard would help prevent “bottlenecking traffic” and provide more predictable travel times for all drivers.

From 2009 to 2013, the intersection of Woodhaven and Jamaica boulevards saw 162 motorist, pedestrian and bicycle injuries in addition to three pedestrian fatalities, according to the DOT.

As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero safety goals and OneNYC sustainability goals, a DOT spokesman said the project would reduce congestion and make the intersection safer for everyone.

“The goal of the proposed Woodhaven Boulevard SBS project is to expand transit options for Queens residents by making bus service faster and more reliable, while also providing safety benefits for pedestrians and drivers, and maintaining traffic flow along a high-crash corridor,” the spokesman said.

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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