‘We have a lot of skin in the game’: Board 5 committee hears early bus lane concept for Fresh Pond

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Photo courtesy of GlamourGals Foundation Inc.

The Transportation Committee of the Queens Community Board 5 is a rare place to see high turnout, but residents and business owners from along the Fresh Pond Road corridor packed into the small office to speak their minds about dedicated bus lanes along.

City Department of Transportation officials presented a plan to the committee they claimed adds a net increase in parking between Metropolitan and Myrtle avenues while projecting better traffic flow above the 3 mile per hour average on Fresh Pond.

“We’re all invested in this project and together we have to find solutions to make it better,” Banrey said, explaining that the project has been presented to many organizations in the area. “The magnitude for projects of this size, we don’t typically do that kind of outreach. But the deputy commissioner’s office wanted to make sure that we tapped into folks. Of course we can’t always get to everybody – the census can’t even get to everybody.”

But many residents were not convinced with the plan to add a dedicated southbound bus lane between 2 and 8 p.m. claiming the expansion of paid parking would limits space for their personal vehicles and entertaining negative business prospects.

“It’s very unpopular,” said Giuseppe Palmeri, a business owner who has collected over 1,500 signed petitions opposed to the bus lane. “That being said, the merchants were not informed. We have a lot to lose. If this plan does not work the way you think it will work, we have a lot of skin in the game.”

After the plan is complete, DOT expects 70 parking spaces to change designation. Jason Banrey with DOT said these will be converted to 55 metered spaces on Fresh Pond and into the side street as well as 15 alternate side parking spots.

Although the metered parking will be two hours, DOT provided a breakdown of the use patterns of existing paid parking spots with only 15 percent of motorists using a spot for a full hours and 41 percent, the majority, taking space for less than 15 minutes.

No standing zones on Grove Street will be converted to loading zones for trucks.

Since bus traffic is the main concern of the initiative announced by the mayor’s office earlier this year to speed up buses across the city by 25 percent, DOT will be removing at least one of the five stops.

The bus system is currently undergoing a boroughwide redesign, but the agency expects there to be four total after the consolidation.

Fresh Pond Road receives high bus traffic due to the fact that there is a depot nearby that sees the overnight storage of not only the Q58 and other Queens lines, but also many that circulate Brooklyn.

The agency expects a 22 to 31 percent increase in bus speeds during peak hours after modeling Fresh Pond ofter Utica Avenue, among others, in Brooklyn.

But DOT also claimed that the bus lane will help vehicular traffic, offering cars making a right turn a place to allow through traffic to pass by. Only 22 percent of visitor to Fresh Pond Road get there by personal vehicle, the majority walking and taking transit.

Agency officials said they chose 2 to 8 p.m. as the period for bus priority because those are the slowest hours on Fresh Pond Road where it can take up to 20 minutes to get from Metropolitan to Myrtle.