By Mark Hallum
Despite community opposition from the beginning, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) is calling its Select Bus Service plan on Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards a success a year after it rolled out.
Not everyone, however, is buying it.
The Q52 and Q53 bus routes brought dramatic redesigns for south Queens commuters by creating a dedicated bus lanes and improved curb space for waiting.
A report from the agency released Nov. 20 claims that commute times have been cut along the 11-mile stretch — while traffic injuries and deaths have been greatly reduced.
“On the first anniversary of the rollout of SBS on the Q52 and Q53 lines, we can take pride in the fact that Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards have truly been transformed,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “This project was a massive group effort by staff at DOT – as the project combined innovative planning and engineering with extensive repaving, street marking, expanded sidewalk and median work, which have together made buses faster and more reliable.”
“While we were also relieved to see that overall traffic injuries have declined, two recent pedestrian fatalities along Woodhaven prove just how much more Vision Zero work we have to do to make this crash-prone street safer,” Trottenberg added.
In 2016, DOT went through a series of public comment sessions which saw fear and frustration from both motorists and straphangers who feared one of the new waiting zones at the corner of Woodhaven and Jamaica Avenue would be dangerous, being the setting of rollover accidents.
Community leaders, including state Sen. Joseph Addabbo, criticized the DOT for its unwillingness to accept input from residents and in November 2017, after the rollout, motorists could be seen in gridlocked traffic along the thoroughfare.
According to the report, 129 people, including 34 pedestrians, were killed or seriously injured between 2012 and 2016. But two recent deaths at Jamaica Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard indicate more traffic calming measures need to be applied.
Commute times have been cut by about 9 to 10 percent and about 80 percent of people prefer the new service to the old, the DOT reported.
City Councilman Robert Holden, however, called the recent study on the success of the SBS route biased in the way it confirms the agency’s conviction that the initiative would bring improvements.
“The complaints I receive from my constituents, as well as my own personal experiences driving on Woodhaven Boulevard, directly contradict the claims in this report. There is no doubt that the DOT could fudge the numbers to fit its narrative, so we deserve a report that is conducted without bias,” Holden said.
“The DOT has created a traffic nightmare on Woodhaven Boulevard. It took me months to convince the DOT that traffic lights along the route were not synchronized properly,” Holden added. “The project has also created several dangerous curves and slip lanes, and pedestrian safety has barely changed. To spin this report and claim that Woodhaven Boulevard has been improved is laughable.”
Holden claimed his office has received an increased number of requests for speed bumps on residential side streets along the route, indicating a displacement of motorists away from the boulevard.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall