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Queens Chronicle

OPINION SBS will not solve beach commuter’s headaches

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Posted: Thursday, June 15, 2017 10:30 am

Sunday, June 11 was the first 90 degree weekend of the season. It seemed like everyone decided to go to Rockaway Beach. That is great for the Rockaway economy but getting there and back was like a trip to hell.

Traffic on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards was bumper-to-bumper south of Atlantic Avenue from early morning until at least 3 p.m.

Buses were jam-packed all the way from Queens Boulevard. The 1:15 p.m. Q53 that left Woodside did not arrive at its Beach 116th Street stop until nearly 3.

That is almost a full hour behind schedule. In the evening, the buses were packed until 9 p.m., with Cross Bay Boulevard traffic inching along.

I drove from Astoria to Howard Beach, which took about an hour, and then took the bus from there. The first five buses, between 2 and 2:30 p.m., were too full to board. We boarded the fifth bus for the 30-minute ride to Beach 105th Street.

My total trip time from Astoria to Rockaway was about two hours.

The only bright spots were the bus operators — who did the best they could under horrible conditions, even allowing passengers to board through the rear door instead of stranding them, though that is against policy — and the passengers, who were all well behaved and politely assisted other passengers needing assistance.

At the beach we met two women who took the new ferry from Wall Street.

They loved the ferry ride, which took about an hour. However, because the ferry can only hold 150 people, they had to wait an hour for one. Total trip time from Pier 17 — also two hours. The ferry wait can be excused this time because it is still going through its growing pains.

But there is no excuse for the abominable bus service. Ask the Department of Transportation and the MTA, and they will assure you that everything will be fine once the Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevard Select Bus Service starts this summer.

Will it improve transportation to the Rockaway beaches?

The answer is a resounding no and this is why.

On heavy beach days, the traffic congestion is south of Atlantic Avenue, while most of the exclusive bus lanes are north of there, so the two-door boarding and bus lanes between Atlantic and Liberty avenues will only save about 15 minutes.

So, instead of buses being one hour behind schedule, they will be only 45 minutes behind schedule. And what about the general traffic lane that will be lost? The bumper-to-bumper traffic between Atlantic Avenue and the Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge will now be bumper-to-bumper from about Jamaica Avenue or Myrtle Avenue.

The present one-hour car trip from Astoria to Howard Beach will take between an hour and twenty minutes and an hour and a half after SBS is implemented.

So even if we assume half of the beachgoers along Woodhaven and Cross Bay are on the bus, the average trip time after SBS will still be greater than it is today on a 90-degree summer weekend if you consider all modes of travel in the corridor.

If SBS is not the answer, what is? It is to properly match service to demand. That means that no one should have to wait an hour because a ferry is full.

It means operating sufficient numbers of buses and additional buses from points like Metropolitan, Jamaica or Liberty avenues instead of all Q53 service from Woodside.

When demand is heaviest closer to Rockaway, there is no good reason to have the same level of service on the entire route.

During these times of peak travel, some buses could also deadhead in the nonpeak direction and some buses could be designated as a zone express.

For example, after achieving a standing load between Woodside and the Queens Center mall, they would operate non-stop all the way to Rockaway.

These are not revolutionary ideas, but methods widely practiced in the industry. The traffic problems along the southern portion of Woodhaven Boulevard and on Cross Bay Boulevard can be improved, not by an exclusive bus lane, but by banning curbside parking on summer weekends between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. going south and between 3 and 9 p.m. going north to create an extra lane of traffic.

Buses could save additional time if there was a state law requiring all traffic except emergency vehicles to give the right of way to buses pulling out of bus stops.

We do not need false panaceas like SBS where the data does not support the alleged success of the program.

The service costs more to operate and most SBS routes now have lower paid ridership than they had before.

We need common sense, short-term and long-term solutions such as the QueensRail.

In a city like New York, a two-hour or more trip to the beach is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

Allan Rosen is a retired director of bus planning for MTA New York City Transit and a member of the Queens Public Transit Committee.

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Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • pvaldezriverajr posted at 5:02 pm on Fri, Jun 16, 2017.

    pvaldezriverajr Posts: 292

    I am certainly agree Allan: Several decades of bureaucracy, corruption, deception and underinvestment from the past NYC mayoral and NYS gubernatorial administrations and their respective legislators have made the transportation agencies like the MTA and the NYC DOT they did created apolitical, cronies, dysfunctional and mismanaged. I'm not surprised that the MTA operations for SBS will be implemented this Fall. However, for the NYC DDC capital portion - That's DOA because of the era of Trump. [wink]