Updated Tuesday, March 24, 6 p.m.
Things are about to get more rapid for commuters on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards.
The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled Tuesday afternoon its Select Bus Service (SBS) bus rapid transit (BRT) system along the congested corridor between Elmhurst and the Rockaways. The proposal would transform the roadway into a “transit-oriented boulevard,” with designated bus lanes in the main roadway and special bus stops featuring shelters, seating and real-time bus information constructed at major intersections.
According to the DOT, the concept is based on the limited Q52 and Q53 bus lines that currently operate on the boulevard and shuttle 30,000 daily passengers between the Rockaway Peninsula and Elmhurst (where the Q52 terminates) or Woodside (where the Q53 ends). Studies found that 43 percent of residents in central Queens and the Rockaways do not own a car, and 60 percent of all residents rely on public transportation.
“This is the kind of ambitious overhaul new York City’s bus riders deserve,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “It means safer streets that save lives. And it means that communities from the Rockaways to Elmhurst that have long been underserved by public transit will see real improvements in their daily commute.”
“Queens deserves better public transit and we’re excited to bring this innovative design for Bus Rapid Transit to move New Yorkers efficiently while at the same time making the streets safer for all,” added DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.
The plans were unveiled days after Sen. Charles Schumer requested up to $100 million in federal funding to get the job done. In a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Schumer requested the funds through the Federal New Starts Program, claiming that the streamlined limited stop service on the corridor between Elmhurst and Ozone Park is critical toward improving both traffic flow and public safety. If approved, the request would cover half of the BRT project’s projected $200 million cost.
“The Woodhaven Boulevard corridor has long suffered from a lack of adequate transit options and the city’s innovative and exciting Woodhaven Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit plan can be just what the doctor ordered for long-suffering transit riders from the Rockaways to Howard Beach, [from] Woodhaven to Woodside,” Schumer said. “This Bus Rapid Transit plan can turn this corridor from a transportation desert to a transportation oasis for tens of thousands of Queens residents, and also be a boon for local property value and area businesses.”
Presently, more than 31,000 people each day travel on various local, express and limited-stop bus lines along the boulevards, which the DOT previously identified among the most dangerous roads in the city. Seventeen people were killed and more than 3,000 people were injured in accidents along Woodhaven Boulevard alone between 2008 and 2012, according to the DOT.
In recent years, the DOT created Select Bus Service (SBS) BRT lines in other parts of the city, such as Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. The seven SBS routes, Schumer stated, contributed to travel time reductions of between 15 and 23 percent and also sparked “significant ridership growth, customer satisfaction of over 95 percent and a 20 percent reduction in crashes.”
“The Woodhaven Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit plan has the potential to turn an arduous transit slog into a seamless, predictable and speedy ride that will get Queens transit riders from these neighborhoods to and from work, family and fun in a much more efficient way,” Schumer said.