BY DANIEL OFFNER
According to the MTA, a trip from Jamaica Center to Midtown Manhattan takes only 28 minutes via the E train, while a trip half the distance – from Jamaica Center to Flushing – takes more than 40 minutes by bus.
In an effort to remedy this commuter nightmare, the Department of Transportation has been working with the MTA and New York City Transit since January, on a proposed plan to bring a collective 23 miles of faster bus service to one of its highest ridership corridors.
Similar to recently announced plans for Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards, the proposal would implement Select Bus Service between Jamaica and Downtown Flushing, thereby improving travel time and increasing comfort for more than 90,000 daily riders.
To achieve this goal, the DOT and MTA are mulling whether to implement curbside bus lanes, which would place bus-only lanes on the right-hand-side of Main Street and restrict parking during bus lane hours, or offset bus lanes, which would put bus-only lanes in the middle of the thoroughfare while keeping existing curbside parking and bus stops.
The proposed Select Bus Service route would replace the existing Q44 and Q25 routes, with a new route running from Merrick Boulevard in Downtown Jamaica, with stops in Briarwood, Kew Gardens Hills, Flushing, Whitestone, and Parkchester and Bronx Park South in the Bronx.
“Eastern Queens is in need of transit solutions that will provide relief for the thousands of riders whose livelihood depends on mass transit,” Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) said. “The Flushing to Jamaica SBS proposal would fill a tremendous service gap felt in our neighborhoods while improving safety for drivers and pedestrians. I am pleased that DOT and MTA are leading this collaborative effort. I encourage them to continue engaging with the community to achieve a long-term solution that will foster positive community growth for bus riders and drivers alike.”
Gene Kelty, chairman of Community Board 7, said the proposal for a bus-only lane could shave as much as 20 minutes off a commuter’s travel time.
“It’s only during rush hours,” Kelty said. “So there shouldn’t be an impact.”
According to Kelty, restricting SBS lanes to rush hour traffic is critical, to allow for others to use the lane during off-hours. He said that the implementation of a new SBS route would also help save time by having travelers pay before boarding.
“We haven’t taken a formal position on it,” Marie Adam-Ovide, district manager of Community Board 8, said. “It’s still in the works.”
Ovide, whose district includes Kew Gardens Hills, Briarwood and parts of Jamaica, said that while the board has not made a decision, as of press time, members of the community have expressed that they do not want to see a dedicated bus lane along Main Street.
“There are other things that they can do,” Ovide said.
Although Borough President Melinda Katz said she supports plans for SBS service along Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards, she hasn’t taken a position on the Main Street plan, due to concerns from members of the Kew Gardens Hills and Briarwood communities about parking.
Despite opposition for a designated bus lane, the MTA said it also received a lot of support for the proposal.
“We’re working on figuring out the best solution,” Amanda Kwan, an MTA spokesperson, said. “SBS is proven to improve travel time, with 95 percent of riders satisfied.”
According to a DOT spokesperson, while costs have not been finalized, it is estimated to cost anywhere between $7-$27 million.
The MTA and DOT will also meet with members of CB 8 later this Spring, to review any updates to the proposed SBS route.
Reach Daniel Offner at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, email@example.com, or @DanielOffner.