BY JOHN RASKIN
I was saddened to read Councilman Rory Lancman and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz’s recent “Seeking Solutions for Traffic Congestion in Eastern Queens” letter. By attacking public transit improvements, they are attacking basic changes that have been proven to make streets safer, make buses more reliable and help more New Yorkers spend time at home with their families instead of sitting in frustrating traffic.
Lancman and Simanowitz write that plans to bring Bus Rapid Transit to Main Street are in “direct opposition to Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero intiative,” which is making streets safer. In fact, the opposite is true. Dedicating lanes for bus use, together with other street changes, have been proven to make the street safer; in Manhattan, parts of 1st and 2nd Avenue that were redesigned in a similar way saw a 21 percent decrease in traffic injuries.
And Lancman and Simanowitz, in criticizing the idea of a bus lane, don’t offer an alternative solution for an important group of constituents: the 68,000 people who take the bus each day between Flushing and Jamaica.
These days, job growth is not happening in Manhattan. It’s happening in Queens, and in the other boroughs, and people need more than ever to be able to travel quickly within the boroughs. Unfortunately, without improvements in bus service, it just means people’s commutes are getting longer: there are almost 900,000 New Yorkers who commute more than an hour each way to work. And it’s the poorest New Yorkers who suffer: more than 2/3 of those “extreme commuters” earn less than $35,000 annually.
Eastern Queens has lacked good transit options for many years. And with the lack of available funding, it’s not realistic to build more subway lines or add LIRR routes. If we’re interested in helping people access more jobs, get to work faster and spend more time at home with their families, we have to use innovative solutions to make buses better. Bus Rapid Transit does just that, and I urge everyone expressing reservations about these proposals to take a careful look, keep an open mind, and work constructively toward solutions for 68,000 daily bus riders who need better service.
John Raskin is the Executive Director of Rider’s Alliance.