For years, the Q58 bus line between Ridgewood and Flushing has been deemed Queens’ slowest bus line. Even the introduction of limited stop service hasn’t made much of an impact with regards to wait times and speed.
But things could change very soon for commuters who rely on the Q58 to get around, as the route is one of eight bus lines in Queens now under consideration for Select Bus Service (SBS), according to an announcement Mayor Bill de Blasio made on Friday.
De Blasio introduced “Bus Forward,” a plan involving the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) and the MTA to expand SBS to 21 different bus corridors across the five boroughs over the next 10 years. SBS – a bus rapid transit system that involves dedicated bus lanes, off-board fare payment and elongated buses designed to move more riders, more quickly to their destinations – is in place on the Q44 route between Jamaica and the Bronx, and will be launched on the Q52 and Q53 lines between the Rockaways and western Queens in November.
“Bus riders deserve faster, more reliable service – and the growing number of riders on SBS buses has found that they are getting to work on-time, and getting home to family faster,” de Blasio said. “With even more Select Bus Service routes coming on-line in the years ahead and a commitment to bring SBS-style treatments to other routes, more communities in every borough will see their bus service improve.”
The city says that SBS ridership has dramatically increased as new SBS routes were introduced over the last four years. Travel times have “improved by as much as 30 percent,” according to the Mayor’s Office; while 12 percent of all bus rides are on an SBS route, that number will increase to 30 percent with the full implementation of the Bus Forward plan.
The Bus Forward plan identified eight new SBS routes in Queens, including a line between Ridgewood and Flushing. That would likely involve converting the Q58 route, which operates between both neighborhoods, into an SBS line. The Q58 primarily winds its way along Fresh Pond Road, Grand Avenue, Broadway, Corona Avenue, 108th Street, the Horace Harding Expressway and College Point Boulevard.
Over the last decade, the nonprofit Straphangers Campaign has repeatedly given the Q58 line its “Pokey Award” for being the slowest bus route in Queens. According to a 2015 report, the Q58 checked in at an average speed of just 7 mph.
Other new SBS routes that the city wants to create in Queens would cover the following points:
- between Flushing and Springfield Boulevard in southeast Queens;
- along Hillside Avenue between Jamaica and Queens Village;
- along Union Turnpike between Forest Hills and Glen Oaks;
- along Northern Boulevard between Long Island City and Flushing;
- multiple routes through southeast Queens, a notorious transportation desert;
- along Kissena Boulevard between Flushing and Jamaica; and
- a Kennedy Airport link to Jamaica similar to the Q70 LaGuardia Link that operates between LaGuardia Airport and Woodside.
Additionally, de Blasio said that the city and MTA would work together to find other ways to improve bus service along lines that are notoriously slow and unreliable. They will consider using various tools to speed things up such as dedicated bus lanes, transit signal priority, improved bus stop spacing and off-board fare collection.
Transit advocates expressed their optimism that the Bus Forward plan would dramatically improve service and draw riders back to their local bus routes.
“Buses are notoriously slow and unreliable, and the consequences are severe: when we surveyed bus riders this summer, we heard from people who missed work, lost wages and sometimes even lost jobs because of poor bus service,” said John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance. “But Select Bus Service works: riders know it from experience and the data shows it’s true. It’s time to apply lessons from the successful Select Bus Service experiment to the rest of the city.”
“The DOT’s new Bus Forward plan shows a real commitment to improving bus service for over 2 million daily riders,” said Nick Sifuentes, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “We’re glad to see the mayor and the DOT committing to additional Select Bus Service routes — but we’re most excited to see the expansion of SBS treatments like bus lanes and transit signal priority to local bus routes.”