Ridiculous, unreasonable, idiotic.
Those are just some of the words Ellen Young used to describe the Flushing busway.
“The concept itself was not a bad idea, but it has been designed by politicians in Manhattan with no real understanding of what it means to live here and what the people of Flushing actually need,” the District 20 City Council candidate said April 12.
Just a few days earlier, the city Department of Transportation began issuing bus lane camera violations to vehicles using the 0.6-mile portion of northbound Main Street from Sanford Avenue to Northern Boulevard, as well as northbound Kissena Boulevard from Sanford to Main. Only buses, trucks and emergency vehicles are permitted as through-traffic — all other vehicles are required to take the next available right turn, except at 41st Avenue, where left turns are permitted.
Those who ignore the rules can be fined $50 on the first offense. The rate will continue to rise as one continues to ignore the regulations to as much as $250.
Young, who lives in a Kissena Boulevard complex, said she and her neighbors are suffering from the busway. Drivers diverted from Main Street are forced to circle around the surrounding blocks, which has greatly increased traffic congestion and pollution in the area, she said.
Young called the busway a “punitive tax” on those who live in the neighborhood — they are penalized for driving down the street on which they live. Furthermore, she said the signs along the roadways are poorly marked. Young pointed to a warning sign on the corner of Kissena Boulevard and Barclay Avenue, which directs traffic but doesn’t warn about violations.
“This is simply a quality-of-life issue that has made the lives of Flushing residents dramatically harder,” she said.
In her City Council bid, Young promises to reduce the 24/7 busway hours of operation to just six hours a day during peak transit times: from 7 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Young’s plan would suspend the busway during weekends and holidays, as well.
Community members have decried the busway since plans were announced last June. Most of the opposition comes from small business owners, who believe the limited private car roadways will deter outside customers from traveling into the neighborhood.
John Lo, owner of Rainbow Bakery on Kissena Boulevard, said his business has dropped by over 33 percent since the busway was implemented Jan. 19. Most of his customers relied on street parking — they would run into the store for a quick pickup before jumping back into their cars and heading on their way, a practice Lo said the busway has terminated.
Lo’s revenue drop is higher than the average of lost business reported to the Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Business Improvement District. In an ongoing survey, small businesses reported they lost about 26 percent.
In the face of outspoken opposition, the DOT has supported the busway and its results on travel time. In the first two months, bus rides north are on average between 15 and 24 percent faster during the day and between 13 and 31 percent faster during evening peak hours, the DOT said.