BY JESSICA MILITELLO
Plans for the creation of a bus lane along Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood topped the agenda at the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association (RPOCA) meeting on June 6 at the Ridgewood Older Adult Center.
Representatives from the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) — including Jason Banrey, DOT Queens deputy borough commissioner, Kyle Gebhart, DOT project manager of transit development and Ryan Cuffe, DOT community associate — along with Matt Kroll of the MTA detailed plans for the bus lane between Metropolitan and Putnam avenues. Mayor Bill de Blasio first announced the proposal as part of the Better Buses Action Plan unveiled in April.
Gebhart explained that Fresh Pond Road was specifically chosen after studies discovered significantly slower bus speeds in the area.
“The mayor has been talking a lot about ways to speed up buses,” said Gebhart. “And [the DOT] along with the MTA have been looking at slow bus feed segments. We see buses operate at about 3 mph in the [Fresh Pond Road] segment, which is slower than walking. There’s a goal set out to speed up buses by 25 percent by the end of 2020.”
Fresh Pond Road is one of the 24 priority projects throughout the five boroughs that the city and MTA identified in the Better Buses Action Plan to increase bus speed. Studies from the DOT showed that buses are often the slowest between 1 and 7 p.m., which coincides with the same time frame when ridership is the highest, between 2 and 8 p.m. This is an issue that affects residents whether they are riding the bus, driving in the area or parking nearby.
The DOT has been in talks to implement metered spaces in lieu of alternate side parking to continue to clear up the area. RPOCA members expressed some concerns at losing parking spaces in the neighborhood because of this change, but Banrey assured they are working toward a solution that will be best for residents.
The DOT and the MTA claim that they have been working diligently with the community to zero in on solutions to clear up congestion in the area, starting with an express bus lane, as well as getting feedback from residents and businesses along the busy road.
“This project aims at increasing your mobility, addressing the congestion and making sure that you can traverse the commercial corridor safely,” said Banrey. “There are other components of the project that we’re also going to be talking about in tradeoffs when it comes to increasing mobility.”
Since the Better Buses Action Plan has been implemented, the DOT and the MTA have performed several studies and surveys pertaining to parking in the area, double parking, businesses and how well they are able to receive their deliveries. The groups have been reaching out to local community groups like the RPOCA to continue to improve their efforts in order to make the result one that works for everyone.
“We want to make sure we’re proposing something that will work,” said Gebhart. “We’ve seen good results when we’ve done this elsewhere. On Fulton Street last year we put in curbside bus lanes and we’ve been monitoring the bus speeds. We’ve seen 22 to 31 percent increase in bus speed, so it’s a treatment that we’ve seen work.”