Officials, riders praise Flushing SBS in first week, but some concerns raised

Photo courtesy of the DOT

It’s so far, so good for the Q44 Select Bus Service (SBS) route through Queens during its first week of operation.

Officials and community members have expressed their approval at the roll-out of the SBS from Flushing to Jamaica on the Q44 route. The new routes were implemented on Nov. 29; the Q44 SBS marks the ninth SBS route in the city.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), design elements along this route include off-board fare collection and dedicated bus lanes. To provide safer crossings for pedestrians, the agency will build pedestrian medians at certain intersections throughout the route and the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) will construct widened sidewalks in downtown Flushing.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said this route is part of his administration’s pledge to increase the Select Bus Service and utilize it on 20 routes citywide.

“This community has some of the highest bus ridership in the whole city, and it’s long past time we got these buses moving,” de Blasio said.

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic said northeast Queens had too few transit options to connect the growing neighborhoods.

“This new route will go a long way in improving how New Yorkers experience mass transit by providing accessible service that aims to cut down travel time, eases the flow of traffic through the use of dedicated bus lanes, and focuses on pedestrian safety,” Rozic said.

Councilman Rory Lancman, once a critic of the change, applauded the MTA and DOT for using community feedback to create a plan that works for bus riders, pedestrians and drivers.

“[The] Q44 Select Bus Service will speed up commutes for thousands of riders every day,” Lancman said.

Public transit advocacy group Riders Alliance gathered for a celebratory bus ride on Nov. 29 to mark the first day of the new Q44 Select Bus Service. According to the organization, riders noted faster commute times and substantial improvements to the bus riding experience.

Riders Alliance organizer and Queens resident Josselyn Atahualpa said the implementation of the Q44 marks an important time for bus riders who worked for a year to make it a reality.

“For Riders Alliance members who ride the Q44, SBS isn’t just about better commutes,” Atahualpa said. “It also shows that when bus riders speak up, we can make change happen.”

Although many are in favor of the new route, Councilman Peter Koo of Flushing has expressed concerns about some aspects of the service, noting that questions still abound about when drivers are allowed to travel in the bus lanes. According to Koo, NYPD officers are currently issuing tickets to cars driving in the bus lanes, although his office had been told by the DOT that there will be a grace period as SBS gets off the ground.

“I have repeatedly asked the DOT to work more closely with the local precinct so that all enforcement agencies are on the same page, and that the public can know what to expect,” Koo said earlier in the week. “Unfortunately, two days after the implementation of SBS, these questions still persist.”

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