A planned express bus service that will run between Flushing and Jamaica is set to launch this year, according to city officials, who have included some measures to appease several communities that resisted the idea of designating lanes for buses only.
“Flushing and Jamaica are two of our key commercial centers, but traveling between them by subway means going in towards Manhattan and doubling back – and forget making the trip from the Bronx on the subway,” said Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the Department of Transportation (DOT). “There are many destinations along this route not served by the subway system, such as Queens College and other key locations in the Bronx.”
During a City Council hearing on the citywide expansion of express buses, also called Select Bus Service, Trottenberg laid out a timeline to create a bus line that would connect the downtown areas of Flushing and Jamaica. She also said that in areas between the two destinations, bus-only lanes wouldn’t be created, respecting the wishes of many community members in areas like Kew Gardens Hills.
But Mike Sidell, a Kew Gardens Hills resident and community activist, remains skeptical because Trottenberg did not specify which communities would be spared the bus lane.
“We should hold them to the fire and get them to name all of the communities that won’t have the bus-only lanes,” Sidell said. “It looks like they’re giving us lip service, but it worries me that [Trottenberg] didn’t specifically name Kew Gardens Hills.”
Exclusive bus lanes are a common element of express bus lines, but residents in communities that live between Flushing and Jamaica resisted this idea because they feared it would create traffic back-ups by squeezing all the other traffic into only one lane.
The city appears to have responded to these residents by suggesting that bus-only lanes will be limited to areas where they are most needed, like the congested downtown Flushing area.
“Downtown Flushing and Jamaica are very different than places in between those neighborhoods,” Trottenberg said. “We’re going to have a long period of community engagement.”
The city plans to transform the Q44 into a Select Bus Service that will cut travel time, much like those that have already been created in Manhattan and Staten Island. Plans for the Q44, which runs mainly along Main Street, include off-board fare collection, traffic lights that will stay green for buses and general infrastructure upgrades.
The City Council hearing was held for testimony over a proposed bill that would require the DOT to develop a network of express buses that would stretch across the city and connect neighborhoods that have limited or no access to subways. The DOT already initiated express bus service plans on several routes, including Woodhaven Boulevard. And the hearing came soon after Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed for the expansion of express buses in his State of the City address.