BY LUIS GRONDA
The Department of Transportation announced its plan to implement dedicated bus lanes for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards and now local community leaders are taking the time to digest what their proposal is.
Two days after the announcement of the SBS plan, the DOT held a meeting with community leaders and stakeholders at Borough Hall to discuss the plan and hear feedback.
The meeting, which was held on the morning of March 26, was not open to the public and press. When a Queens Tribune reporter tried to sit in on the meeting for this story, he was promptly asked to leave the room.
Eric Beaton, the DOT’s Director of Transit Development, said there were no reporters allowed at the meeting so that the community leaders can speak freely to the agency about the plan without the possibility of being written about in an article.
Representatives from four community boards – 5, 6, 9 and 10 – were all present at last week’s meeting.
The DOT added that the presentation showed to community members would be available online and there will be public workshops starting on April 16, at PS 306 in Woodhaven and three other meetings in Forest Hills, Howard Beach and Rockaway.
Residents who attended the meeting said it consisted of a mixture of DOT staff presenting the plan along with some feedback from the board members as well.
Kenichi Wilson, head of CB9’s transportation committee, who attended the meeting, said that there are both good and bad aspects about the bus plan, and those concerns would be mentioned to the DOT to see if there is a solution.
The positive, according to Wilson, is that it does not take away much parking along Woodhaven Boulevard, and it should stop the issue of bus bunching, which occurs when multiple buses end up stopping at one bus stop, causing traffic behind then to slow down or come to a full stop. He said buses would be mostly confined to one lane, streamlining the pace at which they drive and make stops.
One possible drawback according to Wilson – some businesses may lose load docks in front of their stores after the streets reconstruction is complete. He said businesses along the route could lose business if they do not have an area to load supplies.
“If you build an island in the middle of the boulevard, how are the store owners going to have delivery to them?” he asked.
Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5, said one of his immediate concerns with the plan is the safety of the pedestrians crossing the street.
“Would they be running across heavy traffic to catch the bus before it leaves?” he asked.
According to the presentation posted online, this plan would reduce both bus and car travel on Woodhaven Boulevard by about 20 to 28 percent. Giordano said that would be a significant reduction if that is true.
There is also a potential issue of making left turns on Woodhaven Boulevard after the plan is finished.
One of the renderings released by the DOT last week shows how Woodhaven Boulevard and Metropolitan Avenue would look with the SBS lanes. There is no indication of a left turn lane in the graphic.
Both Giordano and Wilson said the possibility of losing left turns was brought up during the meeting but that issue would be discussed during the workshops.
Giordano said many drivers make that turn on Metropolitan and it is needed if they want to get on that thoroughfare. He added that adding a left on Cooper Avenue could be an alternative.
“It’s nearby but it’s a very acute angle,” he said.
Frank Gulluscio, District Manager of Community Board 6, said they decline to comment on the plan right now but they hope to have DOT at their May or June meeting to discuss the bus plan with the Forest Hills/Rego Park area.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.