Flushing lawmaker introduces legislation to create bus depot task force to address congestion issues

With MTA buses turning 38th and 39th avenues into “defacto parking lots,” Councilwoman Sandra Ung introduced legislation to create a bus depot task force.
Courtesy of Ung’s office

With the streets of Flushing chronically congested with traffic, Councilwoman Sandra Ung introduced legislation recently to create a new task force to find potential sites for a new bus depot.

During a joint hearing of the Council’s Committee on Transportation and Oversight and Investigations on Sept. 13, committee members discussed a piece of legislation authored by Ung to create the task force to restudy plans for such a facility that were shelved in the 1970s.

Speaker Adrienne Adams brought Ung’s legislation forward for a hearing.

“We are lucky to have a transit-rich area in downtown Flushing, but that also brings with it a number of challenges,” Ung said. “Flushing streets have become a de facto parking lot for buses, and the increasing number of them laying over in the neighborhood is causing severe congestion. I want to thank the chairs of both committees, Council members Selvena Brooks-Powers and Gale Brewer, and Speaker Adrienne Adams for bringing my legislation forward for a hearing.”

During his opening remarks, NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez agreed that a bus depot would benefit the neighborhood and that he looks forward to discussing it further. The bill, known as Intro 1026,would require the city to create a task force to study the suitability of potential sites for a bus depot and provide cost estimates for land acquisition and construction.

The DOT commissioner or a designee would chair the task force. Membership would include the commissioner of the Department of City Planning or a designee, and five members appointed by the mayor. The mayor may also invite any relevant stakeholders, such as the MTA or other agencies at the city, state or federal level, to take part in the work of the task force.

The bus traffic in Flushing will grow exponentially with the long-awaited development at nearby Willets Point. Courtesy of Ung’s office

The Flushing Bus Depot Task Force will make the final determinations on potential sites, but any future bus depot should be close enough to downtown Flushing so as to eliminate the need for buses to park on public streets. There should also be an area for riders to exit and board the buses, as well as facilities for drivers to take breaks, including bathrooms for them to use.

Flushing is the busiest bus-to-train transfer hub in the New York City Transit system. Approximately 20 MTA bus routes pass through or begin and end in downtown Flushing, in addition to the NICE buses that service areas of Nassau County, where commuters then transfer to other routes, the 7 train, or Long Island Railroad.

The Flushing bus depot was originally proposed in the 1970s. Ung says it’s time to take another look at those plans. Courtesy of Ung’s office

Out-of-service buses currently park on several different blocks in downtown Flushing, either for scheduled layovers for driver breaks or shift changes. Meanwhile, idling buses in the downtown area create traffic congestion and prevent access to local small businesses.

“Building a new bus depot in Flushing will not be cheap or quick, and it will likely require funding from city, state, and federal government,” Ung said. “But we can’t begin to advocate for or allocate those funds without a pragmatic proposal, which is where the task force comes in. This hearing is the first step in making it and a bus depot in Flushing a reality.”

Until the mid-1940’s, a bus depot existed at the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, but it was replaced by a large department store. In the 1970’s, then-state senator Leonard Stavisky proposed building a bus depot on what was then Municipal Lot 1 at Union Street and 39th Avenue, but the proposal stalled. The idea was revived over the years by various elected officials and civic leaders, but the depot never materialized.

“I am not the first person to envision a bus depot in Flushing, but the fact is the need for one still exists,” Ung said. “Delaying the construction of a bus depot has only made the situation worse, as the number of buses has increased while possible locations to house a depot diminish due to development.”