BY BROOKE SMITH
The overwhelming opposition to the Select Bus Service (SBS) plan on Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevard took center stage during Tuesday night’s Community Board 9 (CB 9) meeting at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.
Representatives from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and MTA NYC Transit were on hand to explain how the plans would unfold and to answer questions and concerns from the public.
“This is not just about buses. This is what we call a complete street project,” said Taylor Gouge, a representative from DOT. “It’s about how do we make it safe for people to cross the street. How do we make it comfortable for people waiting for the bus?”
According to Gouge, the plan will be broken into phases starting with a short-term project in 2017 to implement improvements, followed by a monitoring process ending with a larger capital project that will expand upon improvements. This will allow a period analysis of EZ Pass data and travel times, as well as feedback from bus riders and drivers.
The short-term project will include the launch of the Q52 and Q53 SBS, with an off-board fare payment system and the implementation of median bus stations. Designated bus lanes have already been made on the northern end of Woodhaven Boulevard, and designs for bus lanes further south are going to be presented in the spring. The DOT indicated they will be able to continue design discussion with community boards and members before implementing them in 2017.
Some in attendance raised concerns about increased traffic should a driving lane in each direction be designated exclusively for buses.
According to the DOT, three lanes of traffic on Woodhaven Boulevard in each direction will be maintained even when the SBS plan is implemented.
Other concerns were voiced about the safety risk the plans pose. Under the current SBS plan, bus riders would have to wait for and board buses from medians to be created in the center of the boulevard. Bus riders in the audience who spoke at the meeting cited safety risks this would cause, especially when riders are running to catch a bus.
Residents also feared potential left turn bans from Woodhaven Boulevard onto Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven and other local roadways that might be implemented under the SBS plan.
“This plan will devastate the neighborhoods surrounding Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards,” said Giedra Kregzdys, vice president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. “No left turns off these main roads will destroy the local businesses and cause dangerous traffic conditions as delivery trucks barrel down residential streets.”
“You’re going to hurt anybody that might walk out their door and get hit by a van that should have been making a delivery on Jamaica Avenue, but can’t do it because they couldn’t make a left turn,” CB 9 member Maria Thomson added. “The human element has been left out of this.”
DOT officials indicated that there is no confirmed plan to restrict any left lane turns.
Both parties seem to be working toward the same purpose: increasing the reliability and efficiency of buses. Alternative proposals from attendees at the meeting varied from restoring rail service on the abandoned Rockaway Beach rail line to simply boosting existing bus service.
“The course of the Queens Rail in reality is about the same as Select Bus Service, Vision Zero and QueensWay,” said Philip McManus, founder of the Queens Public Transit Committee. “When you think of the Queens Rail it will generate more benefits like attracting more people out of their cars with lower emissions because it’s faster. Select Bus Service will hurt the bus community by closing bus stops and traffic lanes.”