BY JORDAN GIBBONS
The City Department of Transportation, joined by the MTA, held its second meeting last week to get community feedback on the proposed Select Bus Service for the Q52/Q53 route coming to Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards.
DOT representatives at the meeting said nothing is set in stone for the plan, so they are having four meetings in different neighborhoods along the route to learn how residents and stakeholders feel about the project, which will turn the right lane into a dedicated bus lane in each direction on the main road along with two lanes for vehicles and a two-lane service road separated by a median.
“I think we’re getting a lot of terrific feedback,” Eric Beaton, DOT’s director of transit development, said. “It’s much better to get this kind of discussion going early and get a project that fits the community.”
Attendees were split into small groups with MTA Bus Company facilitators, who explained the plan, answered questions and took notes on any concerns or advice.
Jessica Cignarella, a facilitator from the MTA, said the entire route, which has about 300,000 bus riders, is about 14 miles long and has had a double digit number of fatalities along the corridor, with the majority of those involving pedestrians.
“It’s a dangerous corridor… so creating some improvements for the area is something that we’re really looking into and we really want to hear input on,” she said. “We have made a pretty strong effort to keep all the community members and different stakeholders involved.”
Josselyn Atahualpa of Corona, who works with the Rider’s Alliance and takes the Q23 and the Q53 along Woodhaven Boulevard, said that crossing the boulevard is dangerous, and buses sometimes will be late, and a few will show up at once, clogging up the bus stops.
“It’s also a scary place to take the bus in the middle of the night,” she said. “I’m really excited about the bus station improvements.”
The plan aims to create shorter wait times and provide safer access to bus stations, with larger wait stations and better lighting. There would be off-board fare collection machines at all SBS stops and riders can board at any of three doors.
All of the express and local routes would also use the bus lanes, but there will be different stop poles and riders will still have to pay on the bus.
Although the route in the northern portion will not be changing much, the Atlantic Avenue stop will be discontinued and stops will be added at 91st, 101st and Pitkin Avenues in Woodhaven and Ozone Park, respectively.
Vance Barbour, a member of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, has been taking the QM15 on the corridor everyday for 15 years, and said that he did not like the plan because of the left hand turns that will be taken away along the route.
“You can’t not have left-hand turns off of this,” Barbour said. “It’s going to kill the businesses in all of the communities. We don’t need a highway, we don’t want a highway.”
Barbour was not opposed to the SBS plan as a whole. He said he preferred for the bus lanes to be in the middle of the boulevard.
“This is not a good idea,” Barbour said. “Where the turns are now, you can’t get rid of any of the turns.”
Toby Sheppard Bloch of Glendale said that he is excited about the project, because the current conditions on Woodhaven Boulevard require a change, and he wishes buses were a more viable mode of transportation.
“I think Woodhaven’s broken for all travelers. It’s disorganized, it’s frustrating and it’s dangerous,” he said. “The only thing worse than a long commute is someone getting hurt or killed. I feel like this eliminates a lot of conflict.”
Reach Jordan Gibbons at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 123, email@example.com or @jgibbons2.