By Marissa Collado
The New York City Department of Transportation launched the new Q44 Select Bus Service this week.
The service covers the almost 14-mile Q44 route from Jamaica to the Bronx Zoo and will serve 42,000 commuters daily. The Q44 is the ninth select bus service route in the City and will also provide service to difficult to reach areas in Flushing and Jamaica.
“This community has some of the highest bus ridership in the whole city, and it’s long past time we got these buses moving. The Flushing Select Bus Service is going to pull buses out of traffic, and ensure tens of thousands of riders every day have a safe, affordable and quicker commute,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a press release.
The bus route will be a major improvement for senior citizens who depend on the Q44 bus service, supporters say.
“I’m a senior, so it’s hard for me to board older buses, and standing during long waits is difficult. SBS means newer, faster buses that get me to my destination more quickly,” said Jeanne Majors, Jamaica resident and Riders Alliance member. “The fast implementation of SBS on the Q44 is great for Queens riders. SBS will help thousands of riders like me, and I hope we see more throughout New York City.”
The launch of the SBS Q44 comes after many meetings with local communities and a petition circulated by the Riders Alliance, which garnered over 2,000 signatures. The bus route will include off-board fare collection and dedicated bus lanes. The DOT will build pedestrians medians throughout the bus route and the City’s Department of Design and Construction will work on widening sidewalks in Flushing. As part of improvements made for the launch of the bus route, the DOT resurfaced 3.5 miles of lane roadways at Main Street to provide smoother service.
According to the DOT, previous select bus service routes have improved bus speeds by 15-23 percent.
“I work long hours at Jamaica Hospital. days that are only made longer by long bus rides—so I’m really excited about SBS on the Q44,” said Celine Paul, Riders Alliance member and Jamaica resident in a press release by the Riders Alliance.
The responses to the new SBS have not all been positive. Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), has concerns about miscommunications regarding new bus lanes. According to Koo, the DOT has stated restrictions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in offset lanes and during rush hours for curbside lanes. Koo was told by the DOT there would be a grace period for driving in those lanes as the SBS is launched. However the NYPD informed Koo’s office that tickets are being issued to cars driving in bus lanes.
“This sort of conflicting information further marginalizes and frustrates the driving public who must now navigate Main Street as a one-way street in both directions. My office is still waiting for clarification to this discrepancy, but to be safe I advise drivers to steer clear of the bus lanes unless making a right turn or parking,” said Koo.
The launch of the Q44 is the latest step by Mayor de Blasio towards reaching 20 SBS routes citywide providing faster, more reliable and better transit options to retail and employment centers.
Another controversial SBS proposal is still being explored for the Woodhaven-Cross Bay boulevard corridor. That plan is likely not to come to fruition until 2017.