Tag Archives: Bus Rapid Transit

Queens is ground zero for Mayor de Blasio’s plan to create affordable housing


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photographer/Mayoral Photography Office

Queens is at the center of a sweeping plan to create affordable housing unveiled by Mayor Bill de Blasio in his State of the City speech on Tuesday, including a push to create more than 11,000 new homes above the Sunnyside Rail Yard — a project as large as Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town.

In his second State of the City address, de Blasio reviewed his top accomplishments, including creating full-day pre-kindergarten, doubling the enrollment in after-school programs,  and enacting living wage and paid sick leave. There was also a 75-percent reduction in the use of stop-and-frisk by the NYPD.

Looking forward, de Blasio focused on the issue of housing that remains one of the major obstacles to what he described as opportunity inequality.

The mayor, who called the effort to create affordable housing a “profound challenge,” turned repeatedly to Queens as a large part of the answer. He pledged to write new rules, “ones that mandate affordable housing as a condition for development.”

Two of six neighborhoods in the city he has slated for mandatory affordable housing requirements are Long Island City and western Flushing. Each of the four other boroughs will have one such zone. The city will begin work on rezoning these neighborhoods this spring.

“In every major rezoning development, we will require developers to include affordable housing. Not as an option. As a precondition,” he said, citing another Queens project as an example of how the mandate works.


“Want to see this approach in action?  Look at Astoria Cove in Queens. As a result of this administration’s framework — and the City Council’s tough negotiations — 465 units of affordable housing will be created at this site alone,” de Blasio said.

“That’s 465 families who no longer have to choose between living in the city they call home, or finding another city they can afford. It means that hundreds of kids will live and learn and grow in our city.”

But de Blasio said his “game changer” for new affordable housing would take place at the Amtrak-owned rail yard in Sunnyside, where he is proposing building above the tracks to make use of the massive swath of land while allowing rail operations to continue.

“Right now, there are 200 acres of land in the heart of Queens, land that exists in the form of a rail yard — and only a rail yard. But the fact is, those tracks could easily exist underground — allowing us to build housing — much of it affordable — above them.

“At Sunnyside Yards, we envision a plan that incorporates what diverse and dynamic neighborhoods need — access to transportation, parks, schools, retail stores and job opportunities,” he said.

The mayor compared the potential at Sunnyside to other affordable housing built in the past, including Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town, which has 11,250 apartments. He said Sunnyside should include the same amount of affordable units as the Manhattan complex.

However, according to Patrick O’Brien, chair of Community Board 2, although the goal is admirable, the plan raises some concern because of the lack of infrastructure to support an incoming population. He added the surrounding area would need updates in transportation options, medical services, such as hospitals, and schools.

“Long Island City and western Queens is so densely populated and we’ve gone through and are in the midst of a huge population increase,” O’Brien said. “To have an enormous additional increase on top of a previous increase, that really doesn’t have the full infrastructure support that it needs, is really a matter of concern.”

While de Blasio said he wants to build 80,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade, he insisted that it would not be to the exclusion of market-rate housing. He projects the construction of 160,000 new market-rate units over the same period.

De Blasio said the growing shortage of affordable housing has occurred over more than a decade of housing construction that focused on luxury or market-rate construction. The result, he said, is that 56 percent of New Yorkers are paying more than 30 percent of their salary for rent, up from 46 percent a decade earlier.

“Part of the problem is that the city has for decades let developers write their own rules when it came to building housing. Sometimes projects included affordable housing…but far too often, they did not,” he said. “As the city expanded, our growth was guided primarily by the developers’ bottom lines.”

The mayor also unveiled a stunning proposal to create a new citywide ferry service reaching far flung neighborhoods, particularly the Rockaways, and for expanded express bus service, including a line along Woodhaven Boulevard.

He said that by 2017, residents of neighborhoods like the Rockaways and Astoria, would be able to take a ferry to Manhattan.

“New ferry rides will be priced the same as a MetroCard fare, so ferries will be as affordable to everyday New Yorkers as our subways and buses,” he said. “[S]o residents of the Rockaways and Red Hook and Soundview will now be closer to the opportunities they need.”

The mayor predicted that the new ferry service would also be an economic boon to neighborhoods, spurring new commercial corridors in the outer boroughs.

“We will also expand Bus Rapid Transit — or BRT — serving 400,000 New Yorkers along key thoroughfares like Utica Avenue in Brooklyn and Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens…completing a network of 20 routes over the next four years,” he said.

The new Bus Rapid Transit lines, he said, would cut transit time on existing routes by 15 to 24 percent. “That means New Yorkers spending less time in transit and more time living their lives.”

The mayor insisted that expanding affordable housing could work, and he cited a similar effort by former Mayor Ed Koch.

“But we know now that Koch’s plan was realistic… in fact, it worked,” said de Blasio. “And it had a transcendent impact on our city.“

Photos from the mayor’s speech and of the officials attending the event (By The Queens Courier Staff):

 

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Queens pols and residents tell city to scrap plans for new express bus service


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Department of Transportation

As the city revs up plans to create express bus service between Jamaica and Flushing, residents and local politicians are throwing up speed bumps and roadblocks against the initiative.

“All they’re doing is shifting the burden of heavy traffic from one group of people to another,” Councilman Rory Lancman said. “And I can’t support anything like that.”

Across New York City there are several express lines that aim to cut down bus travel times by devoting a lane exclusively to express service, or Select Bus Service (SBS). But creating an exclusive bus lane means there is one less lane for regular traffic, a point that is a deal breaker for Lancman.

In a letter written by Lancman and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz, the officials explain why they oppose the express bus lane to the Department of Transportation and the MTA. The Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association also signed onto the letter.

“No one can tell us exactly what the plan is, and that’s part of the problem,” said Jennifer Martin, co-president of the civic association. “If they’re going to reduce a busy thoroughfare to one lane, that’s going to create a tremendous backup. There has to be a better option.”

In Queens, the city has been slowly moving toward creating SBS along Woodhaven Boulevard. And the same might be happening to northern parts of Queens and Jamaica. The city will be holding a community workshop on Jan. 22 in Townsend Harris High School to engage with communities that would be affected by the bus plans.

But Lancman and others are not buying the city’s claims that express buses decrease traffic for everybody.

“We are opposed to removing any lane of traffic or parking in our district,” said Lancman, whose district covers Pomonok, Hillcrest and Utopia, which includes parts of Parsons Boulevard and Kissena Boulevard, two of the city’s candidates for the bus lines.

City officials originally met with residents in October 2014 at York College to get the community’s input on several proposed paths.

The DOT is considering two routes between the neighborhoods for SBS. The first would travel along Main Street where the Q44 and Q20A/B run. The second route under consideration is Parsons and Kissena boulevards, currently serviced by the Q25 and Q34.

Advocacy groups argue that adding SBS between Jamaica and Flushing would reduce traffic for all drivers, not just buses.

“By reducing congestion, speeding up travel times, and making busy avenues safer, BRT [Bus Rapid Transit] is a win-win for riders, drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike,” said a spokeswoman for the advocacy group BRT for NYC. “The continued growth of Jamaica and Flushing – two of the borough’s most significant downtowns – depends on the type of improved transit access that provides.”

In addition to dedicated lanes, the express bus service includes other features to speed up service. Passengers would pay their fare at sidewalk kiosks before the bus arrives to reduce boarding times.

“The bus trips are long and slow,” a spokesman for the Department of Transportation said. “And with Select Bus Service we think there’s a solution to improve things.”

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Curbside bus lanes heading to Ozone Park


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

The busy traffic corridor of Woodhaven Boulevard in Ozone Park will soon be home to new curbside bus lanes on both sides to help alleviate congestion and make for an overall smoother ride for passengers.

Red painted bus lanes going southbound between 101st Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard and northbound between Plattwood Avenue and Liberty Avenue are set to be installed this fall, according to a DOT representative.

The lanes will serve the Q11, Q21, Q52, Q53 and the QM15 bus lines.

The exclusive lanes also help the buses reach subway connections more quickly without removing any travel lanes, according to the DOT.

The lanes will be “bus-only” for specific periods. Between Liberty Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard going southbound, the lane will be in effect from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

All other sections, going in both directions, will be bus-only during rush hours, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“This part of the boulevard is definitely a problem area,” said Jessica Nizar, a representative from Rider’s Alliance and an advocate for the Bus Rapid Transit for NYC coalition effort. “These lanes will help to alleviate some of the major problems that cause traffic here.”

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Op-ed: The latest attempt to improve safety and reduce aggravation on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards


| oped@queenscourier.com

STATE SEN. JOSEPH P. ADDABBO

Metal structures hanging over sections of Woodhaven Boulevard having been popping up and I continue to hear from constituents with questions as to what they are, what will be done with them and what they can expect for the future of one of the busiest thoroughfares in the borough.

The answer is the NYC Department of Transportation’s (DOT) newly-implemented initiative, Select Bus Service. Mimicking other cities’ Bus Rapid Transit, Select Bus Service is essentially intended to make riding the bus similar to riding the subway. It incorporates dedicated bus lanes, off-board fare collection and transit signal priority to offer theoretically faster and more reliable service on high-ridership routes, such as those along Woodhaven Boulevard.

The metal poles you see on your daily drives will hold “bus lane” signs, and, according to local news sources, will be activated during peak traffic hours.

Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards collectively transport 30,000 riders each day via public transportation. However, the congestion along this route, especially during rush hour, is enough to make the average driver crazy.

That is why the DOT launched a study on about three miles of Woodhaven Boulevard from Queens Boulevard down to Rockaway Boulevard, from Rego Park, to Woodside, to Arverne, respectively. The study found not only can buses be caught in congestion, creating slow service, and the layout of the street makes bus stops difficult for riders to reach, but these factors and more make Woodhaven Boulevard one of the most dangerous corridors in the city for both drivers and pedestrians.

The study hopes to convert the existing Limited-Stop Q52 and Q53 bus routes to the Select Bus Service, ultimately improving and quickening service. The idea is, if the service is more reliable, commuters will be more willing to use buses over cars. Faster and better service could then potentially reduce traffic along the congested route.

My constituents from surrounding communities have expressed concerns about losing street-side parking, traffic stemming from confusion of the new system and whether Select Bus Service would lead to a reduction of local buses. I am also aware of business owners’ concern about delivery drop-offs and pick-ups, and whether the bus lane will hinder trucks ability to stop curbside.

Along Woodhaven Boulevard between Eliot and Metropolitan Avenue, bus lanes will be offset from the curb and not affect any parking. Curbside bus lanes will run through Plattwood and Liberty Avenues, and Rockaway Boulevard and 101st Avenue.

While there has been no time frame scheduled for the start of the program, the DOT will host its next public meeting in the fall. I will be meeting with the Steering Committee of the Bus Rapid Transit and other transportation advocates to address these concerns before the service becomes permanent.

The idea of this program and a dedicated bus lane has been mentioned numerous times in local papers and community meetings throughout the past year. In early 2013, Select Bus Service was suggested as an option for Woodhaven Boulevard to alleviate the traffic nightmare. In 2012, the DOT implemented a number of short-term enhancements on the route, but Select Bus Service is the long-term answer. The metal structures now popping up are a sign of this program moving forward. I encourage my constituents to let me know of their concerns and how they believe the new system would work. Only by working together, we will see improvement on both Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards.

 

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