Bus lane cameras on Q44 Select Bus Service route worry community

By Madina Toure

As the warning period alerting motorists to new camera installations along the route of the Q44 Select Bus Service is currently underway, community leaders and elected officials are casting a wary eye on the bus lane cameras.

The Q44 SBS, which replaced the Q44 limited bus route from Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica to the Bronx Zoo, started Nov. 29, serving 42,000 commuters daily. In September, Community Board 7 voted against the SBS proposal.

The route includes off-board fare collection and dedicated bus lanes. Riders have to either insert their MetroCard or coins in a machine to get a ticket.

A DOT spokeswoman said the Q44 SBS bus lane cameras are currently issuing warnings to motorists who are driving or standing in the bus lane during its designated hours, as a form of public education for motorists to be aware of regulations and avoid being issued monetary violations.

Camera enforcement will begin on the route this spring, the spokeswoman said.

Although the spokeswoman could not disclose the number of cameras on any route, she said there are 4.4 miles of bus lanes on the Q44 route, all with varying hours of operation. There are also signs that indicate the bus lane hours.

Motorists who drive or stand in the bus lane during designated hours after the waiting period, which lasts 60 days, will receive $115 violations. Since violations are issued against the vehicle instead of the driver, points are not deducted from motorists’ licenses.

Gene Kelty, CB7’s chairman said the route is commercial, with people constantly making deliveries and dropping people off and that the road is tight. He said people will be confused by the cameras.

“I think they’re going to snap a lot of pictures,” Kelty said. “I think a lot of people are going to be affected by it in Flushing.”

But he said he feels he cannot do anything about it, noting that the elected officials in the area supported the SBS proposal, which he views as support for the bus lane cameras by default. He said the route will not produce better bus service in the area.

“We got the cameras because of the bus lanes,” he added.

Borough President Melinda Katz, for her part, is still worried about impact of the cameras.

“Borough President Katz remains concerned about the details of the camera technology for the dedicated bus lanes, namely whether it effectively curbs the potential for abuse and for irregular enforcement,” her spokesman said in a statement.

The DOT started issuing bus-lane camera violations along the M60 125th Street SBS route Monday. It is the first bus lane to have cameras enforcing the regulations, following state authorization allowing the expansion of the city’s bus-lane camera program to 16 total routes. DOT also works with the NYPD to implement bus lanes citywide through long-established methods.

Camera enforcement has already been in effect on five other routes, two in the Bronx, two in Manhattan and one on Staten Island.

The DOT said that on the five routes that have issued enforcement, it has found that the average violations have dropped since the cameras were first installed.

An independent AAA report issued last summer found a significant drop in violations, with 118,646 bus lane camera violations issued on the five routes in 2015, the DOT spokeswoman said.

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