Tag Archives: Q44

Public transit advocates expand coalition for express bus service in Queens


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Updated March 3, 1 p.m. 

With express bus service set to be created on routes between Flushing and Jamaica and along Woodhaven Boulevard this year, a coalition of public transit advocates backing the plan is expanding its efforts to win the hearts and minds of Queens community members.

As the city moves ahead with plans to create what’s known as Select Bus Service, the Department of Transportation is holding workshops to gather input from community members living in areas that would be affected by the new bus service. Often these meetings are attended by an overwhelming majority of people who are opposed to Select Bus Service.

But a coalition of transit advocates – BRT  for NYC — recently enlisted interest groups like New York Immigration Coalition to help raise awareness in communities that would benefit from faster bus travel times. They ultimately want to influence the city’s plans to speed up travel time for commuters who depend on buses.

“People who are afraid of this are going to fight harder than people who will benefit from it,” said Joan Byron, a member of the Pratt Center, which is part of the growing coalition.

During a meeting at Kew Gardens Hills last year, city officials were barraged by people opposed to any express bus service plans that would have taken away a lane of traffic from motorists and restricted it to buses only.

“You are wrecking our neighborhoods,” one woman said to a city official during the 2014 meeting. “You’re all morons. We do not want this.”

The community members worried that the city would remove a traffic lane on Main Street to allow express buses to whiz past rush hour traffic. But for Kew Gardens Hills residents, traffic lanes were more important than fast buses.

During a City Council hearing in February, transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced that the Q44 would be transformed 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 mostly along Main Street, include off-board fare collection, traffic lights that will stay green for buses and general infrastructure upgrades. The city also plans to create an express bus service called Bus Rapid Transit along Woodhaven Boulevard.

The coalition has enlisted 10 new groups to help what they, according to Byron, see as underprivileged communities living in areas that don’t have train access and have very limited bus access.

But with some of these new enlisted groups, like the Alliance for a Greater New York, Jess Nizar from Riders Alliance and others hope the pro-Select Bus Service side will get a boost with political influence.

“Without having a coalition these plans won’t reflect the needs of the people that need this the most,” Nizar said. “Sure, the city said they’re going to create SBS, but we don’t know what it will look like yet and we want people who benefit from this to give the city their input.”

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City plans to launch express bus service between Flushing and Jamaica this year


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

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.

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City renews express bus service plans between Jamaica and Flushing after nod from mayor


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

With the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city is moving ahead with plans to develop an express bus service between Flushing and Jamaica.

Despite calls from community members and politicians in neighborhoods like Kew Gardens Hills, the transformation of the Q44 and Q25 into a Select Bus Service (SBS) line is set to begin as early as this fall, according to a Department of Transportation spokesman, but no official schedule has been announced. The transformed Q44 would continue along its path on Main Street. Residents in Kew Gardens Hills are worried that an express bus through their neighborhood would increase traffic or reduce parking along the route.

The city claims that an express bus line would help thousands of commuters going between the two neighborhoods every hour and allow people in areas without trains to quickly travel to Flushing for the 7 train. And in his State of the City Address, the mayor also pushed for express buses.

“[Bus Rapid Transit] will cut transit time on existing routes by 15 to 25 percent. That means New Yorkers spending less time in transit and more time living their lives,” he said.

Public transportation advocacy groups lauded de Blasio’s support for express buses, which are sometimes referred to as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

“Bus Rapid Transit could transform New York City by providing faster, more reliable bus service for residents in the outer boroughs who need it most,” the group Riders Alliance said.

And elected officials representing Flushing and Jamaica have also expressed their support for the plans.

“Flushing and Jamaica are two rapidly growing economic centers that require a transportation system and infrastructure to serve its increasing population and activity,” the officials wrote in a letter to the city. The letter was signed by Queens representatives, including state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Councilman Peter Koo and Congresswoman Grace Meng.

But people who live between these two transportation hubs claim that their needs are being sacrificed and made their thoughts clear to city officials during a recent workshop held in Townsend Harris High School. Those in the middle tend to rely on cars instead of bus service, making parking and open lanes a priority for them.

New York City has several express lines that aim to cut down commutes by devoting a lane exclusively to SBS lines. But creating an exclusive bus lane means there is one less lane for regular traffic, a point that is a deal-breaker for Councilman Rory Lancman, who represents Kew Gardens Hills and other areas.

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

Officials from the transportation department haven’t responded to questions to see if the city will still install a dedicated bus lane that would run through Kew Gardens Hills.

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Queens buses fare well on annual survey


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Danielle Petrovich

The NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives just gave out two awards for the poorest bus service in the city, but only a few Queens buses were cited as slow or unreliable.

The first, called the “Pokey”award, is for the slowest route and determined by volunteers who ride 34 bus lines that are renowned for their high volume of riders and history of delayed rides.

This year there was a tie for first place—the M66 and M42 buses.  Both are crosstown Manhattan routes and had an average speed of 3.9 mph at noon on a weekday.

“The M66 and M42 are excruciatingly slow,” said Gene Russianoff, attorney for NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign. “[They] would lose a race to an amusement park bumper car — and be a lot less fun! A bumper car can go 4.3 miles per hour compared to the 3.9 miles of the Pokey award winning buses.”

In Queens, the Q58 was the 25th slowest bus in the city, at 7 mph, followed by the Q44 LTD at 9.5 mph and the Q27 at 9.9 mph.

Although the Q58 is faster than many other NYC buses, some Queens riders were unhappy with its service.

“I have to leave for work extra early just for the bus. It’s so slow; it takes forever to get to my stop,” said Flushing resident Tanya, a frequent passenger on the Q58.

“The bus is always so inconsistent. It never comes at the same times every day,” said Tom of Fresh Meadows.

The second award given out, the “Schleppie,” which measures how well buses keep to scheduled intervals, and is based off of official transit statistics, didn’t include any Queens buses.

First place went to the M4, which runs from Upper Manhattan to Penn Station on Fifth and Madison Avenues and Broadway. Nearly 30 percent of  its arrivals were bunched together or had big gaps in service. Close behind it were the M101/2/3, S78 and S74  lines, all having an unreliability rating over 20 percent.