Bus lane backers want faster service 1

Raul Ampuero, whose 9-year-old son was killed crossing Northern Boulevard in 2018, was one of several speakers calling on the city to fast-track dedicated bus lanes and bike lanes for Northern Boulevard to improve bus speed and reliability, as well as traffic safety.

Advocates for bus and bike lanes as well as traffic safety are appreciative of city statutes mandating new bus lanes each year.

But they gathered on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights Tuesday just to give the city a push to speed things up.

Jolyse Race, senior organizer for the Riders Alliance, said under the Streets Plan law passed in 2019, the city is committed to 20 miles per year of new bus lanes; and that only five have been delivered with two months left in 2022.

“They’re moving more slowly than the buses,” she said.

Race and other speakers said bus lanes will speed up bus service and increase traffic safety by reducing vehicle congestion. She also said the funding already is available.

Jim Burke of Jackson Heights said it is not uncommon for the bus stop where the rally took place, at the intersection of Northern and Junction boulevards, to have 30 or 40 students backed up waiting for buses on school days.

“And we have a school that is about to open with 3,000 students,” he said.

He then asked the Adams administration to apply one of the mayor’s favorite expressions.

“Let’s get stuff done,” he said.

Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas (D-East Elmhurst) was more than just an interested observer at the rally.

“I’m a parent. My children go to school here,” González-Rojas said, adding that she has had enough of the calls from her children awaiting slow bus service; and their schools calling to say that her kids are late.

Raul Ampuero, a member of Families for Safe Streets, said bus lanes, bike lanes and other measures are necessary not only for speed and convenience, but for safety.

His 9-year-old son Giovanni was killed crossing Northern Boulevard in April 2018 when he was struck by a driver making a left turn from a side street.

“A reckless street like this is the reason my son isn’t here,” Ampuero said.

Juan Restrepo, senior organizer for Transportation Alternatives, said the city already has a proven example that upgrades can improve safety on Northern Boulevard.

“We remember what they did with Queens Boulevard, ‘the boulevard of death,’” he said.

A number of speakers drew a parallel to the announcement by the city last week that it had met goals for improving safety at intersections. They said the city must have the same dedication to bus lanes and bike lanes.

Other speakers included Jaqi Cohen of the Tri-State Transportation Committee and representatives of the New York League of Conservation Voters, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.