Queens councilman clashes with Transportation commissioner over proposed Ridgewood bus lane

Photo: Max Parrott/QNS

Why did they bother reaching out to Ridgewood?

That’s the question Councilman Robert Holden asked of city Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in a letter condemning the Department of Transportation (DOT) for moving ahead with a proposed bus lane on Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood with purportedly little incorporation of the community’s input.

Holden charged that recommendations from the community to improve the plan were virtually ignored, and that the DOT’s community outreach on the plan was little more than “window dressing.”

Trottenberg acknowledge a list of concerns from Holden in an Aug. 7 letter that argued that the agency has taken some recommendations into account such as the hours of the bus lane.

“While I realize that you still have ongoing questions, I would like to report that we have heard your concerns with regard to the hours of the bus lane operation and will be reducing the hours from 2 to 8 p.m. to 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday,” Trottenberg wrote. “You can be assured that DOT will monitor the conditions along the corridor following the implementation of our proposed plan and will be ready to make adjustments, as needed.”

Holden called foul on the agency’s outreach claim Trottenberg was only acknowledging support from the community and ignoring dissent by referring to different reactions at different levels of the Community Board.

Asking the DOT to consider community recommendations as alternatives to the bus lane for a few months, Holden claimed that not phasing in the proposal will cause bedlam in the streets of Ridgewood.

“It is true that DOT engaged with the community in numerous meetings after announcing the bus lane proposal, but it is clear that these meetings were nothing more than window dressing,” Holden said. “In your letter, you mentioned the Community Board 5 Transportation Committee vote, yet you conveniently ignored the fact that the board as a whole voted overwhelmingly against the proposal, 28-6.”

Holden also believes that DOT’s higher-ups made decisions without ever visiting Fresh Pond Road and lacked an understanding of minor situations such as parking spots that are poorly placed, slowing down traffic.

“When I visited Fresh Pond Road on multiple occasions with DOT Queens Borough Deputy Commissioner Jason Banrey and Borough Planner John O’Neill, they both agreed that I offered sound solutions to the heavy traffic,” Holden continued. “Yet it seems that their input was overruled by the central DOT staff in Manhattan that has never actually visited the site to see the issues for themselves.”

The seven-block corridor acts as one of the few major north-south routes between Ridgewood and Middle Village, but average speeds of buses and likely all other vehicles on the road has a recorded average of about 3 mph.

DOT’s bus plan will consolidate bus stops to make reduce the time buses are at rest and the lane will also act as a turn lane the agency has said, which will increase flow. There will also be a net gain in overnight parking along the main road and side streets.

The bus lane will only be southbound on Fresh Pond Road between Metropolitan and Putnam avenues. Part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Better Buses” plan, the DOT projects the bus lane could help increase bus speeds by as much as 25 percent.