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Photo courtesy of Herb Wagner
Photo courtesy of Herb Wagner
The camera on the corner of Goldington Court and Woodhaven Boulevard has been controversial to local residents.

The addition of a Select Bus Service (SBS) route along Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens has been a topic of debate for months, but for residents of one tiny side street in Middle Village, it’s become a major source of frustration.

Goldington Court, a small one-way street connecting Woodhaven Boulevard and 84th Place, has been a hot spot for bus lane violations, according to Herb Wagner. A resident of Goldington Court, Wagner said that he and five of his neighbors on the block have received eight warnings in the mail between them.

“Since it took a month to get these first tickets, who knows how many more tickets are in the system being processed for us?” Wagner said.

Wagner and his neighbors’ confusion about the warnings sheds light on the lack of clarity in the rules governing the bus lane. Since the bus lane near Goldington Court is offset — meaning there is a parking lane between the curb and the bus lane — it is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Drivers are only permitted to enter or cross through the bus lane within 200 feet of making a right turn or if they are actively parking.

The one-way traffic on Goldington Court feeds toward Woodhaven Boulevard where drivers must turn right. Once on Woodhaven Boulevard, a common path for those wishing to travel west into Middle Village is to take the very next right onto Furmanville Avenue.

If drivers turn from Goldington Court into the bus lane on Woodhaven Boulevard and stay there because they know they are taking the next right at Furmanville Avenue, they are likely to get ticketed. According to Wagner, the distance from Goldington Court to Furmanville Avenue is almost exactly 200 feet. The problem is that there is a newly installed camera on the corner of Goldington Court and Woodhaven Boulevard, which Wagner said is “obviously a mistake by the engineer who decided to put the camera where it is.”

If the camera is positioned in a way that prevents it from seeing the cars turning from Goldington Court, the Department of Transportation (DOT) may be left to assume that the driver has been in the bus lane for more than 200 feet. A DOT spokesperson explained that “all bus lane violations/warnings are evaluated by our technicians to determine if a violation has occurred.”

When the SBS was first added to Woodhaven Boulevard, the DOT allowed for a 60-day grace period so that motorists could adjust to the changes. During that time, the DOT only issued warnings through the mail to drivers who wrongly used the bus lane during restricted hours.

The grace period started on Nov. 19, 2017, which was 66 days ago.

A spokesperson for the DOT told QNS on Jan. 23 that the department would issue an advisory about a week before the warnings ended and the violations began. On Jan. 24, the spokesperson confirmed that the violation period has still not begun. When violations are issued they will include fines from $115 to $150.

At a Community Board 5 Transportation Services Committee meeting on Jan. 23, Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri offered a possible explanation for why the grace period may have been extended. Arcuri said that the Transit Signal Priority systems that allow select buses to override traffic lights may not be fully installed yet.

“The question is, will they wait until that whole system is ready?” Arcuri said.

Elizabeth Smith, who lives around the corner from Wagner on 84th Place, also received a warning in the mail when she thought she did nothing wrong. While Smith understands the need to place the cameras to crack down on people speeding through the bus lanes, she said, she’s more concerned about safety. Since drivers have to make the turn onto Woodhaven Boulevard and avoid the bus lane, then switch lanes into the bus lane very quickly before making the right turn onto Furmanville, “it’s an accident waiting to happen,” Smith said.

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Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. March 05, 2018 / 05:40PM
"YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!"
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