Drivers who find themselves behind or ahead of the Q4, Q5, Q84, N4 or the N4X buses on Merrick Boulevard between Hillside Avenue and Springfield Boulevard have a 60-day warning period for bus lane violations starting Sept. 21.
The specified bus lanes are a part of Mayor de Blasio’s Better Buses initiative to improve bus speeds by expanding automated camera enforcement, according to the city Department of Transportation.
Initially, the DOT intended on having 24/7 enforcement, but after pushback from the Community Advisory Board and members who live along the Southeast Queens area, the hours were adjusted to 6 a.m. to 7 p.m Monday to Friday, according to the agency. With the activation of bus lane cameras, the mayor’s 30th Better Buses corridor will have signage indicating that the bus lanes are camera-enforced to inform drivers about the program. Since violations will be issued against the vehicle, not the driver, points are not added to motorists’ licenses.
However, a single violation will cost drivers $50 and fines will increase for bus lane violations incurred in a single year to upwards of $250 after a fifth offense, according to the agency. The DOT will work with the NYPD to enforce bus lanes citywide and will add additional camera-enforced routes over time.
”Community residents and I remain up in arms about DOT’s woefully inadequate efforts and blatant disregard for course correction,” said state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). “DOT’s wrongheaded policy has made it nigh impossible for a full flow of traffic along Merrick Boulevard particularly between Baisley Boulevard and Liberty Avenue where there are illegally long-term parked vehicles stored by auto body and repair shops.”
Comrie said that he understands that the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists are paramount, but he finds the measure to be unnecessarily punitive and that it fails to reimagine public transit granularly.
“Commuters, drivers and anyone trying to travel along the corridor are frustrated at the now lengthy time that it takes to get from one point to the next because of this unwanted restriction,” said Comrie. “Despite the adjustments made after the recently conducted review of the 24/7 Merrick Boulevard bus lane, DOT has still not made a reasonable move to peak hour traffic enforcement as suggested by many local advocates. It is truly unfair to residential drivers to have to suffer through overreaching enforcement when the bad actors are not being regulated consistently.”
There are many ways to improve bus speeds that can be implemented relatively quickly, such as increased scheduling and frequency, signal priority and all-door boarding and fare collection to name a few, added Comrie.
“With the city still continuing its recovery from the pandemic Southeast Queens residents deserve more respect than to be burdened with the threat of impending penalties. No fees or fines should be imposed until this matter is handled in a way that’s respectful to the community and until DOT completes the job to open up the entire bus lane.”