It was not the 60 miles that transit advocates and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority asked for, but the city on Monday announced plans to add 20 miles of bus lanes plus five car-free busways by the end of the year.
The sites in Queens include a 0.3-mile busway on the northbound side of Main Street in Flushing between Sanford Avenue and Northern Boulevard, with work to begin this month.
Future plans also call for a busway of nearly one mile on Jamaica Avenue from Sutphin Boulevard to 168th Street and 6.4 miles of bus lanes on Merrick Boulevard from Hillside Avenue to Springfield Boulevard.
“As New Yorkers head back to work, they’ll be relying on the bus more than ever — and I’m proud to offer them faster and more reliable options,” Mayor de Blasio said in a press release issued by his office.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg called the plan transformational.
“As New York City emerges from the difficult days of COVID-19, our commitment to faster and more reliable bus service has never been more important, as buses serve a critical role — both in communities hit hard from the pandemic and by essential frontline workers,” she said.
In an accompanying statement, Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens) also supported the move.
“Well known as a transportation desert, our busy hubs of Merrick Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue carry our community to and from home,” she said. “I look forward to working together to increase the reliable service in the area.”
In an email from the Straphangers Campaign, Campaign Director Jaqi Cohen also applauded the decision.
“We’re encouraged to see this significant step towards improving bus service on our streets — what it signals to riders is that as our city reopens, better transit is on the horizon,” she said.
But Cohen also said her group is counting on the city to commit to the remaining 20 to 40 miles this year.
Numerous businesses line both sides of the street along the 0.9-mile stretch of Jamaica Avenue. A spokesman for the DOT said businesses will have no issue with the busway impacting their deliveries.
“Each new busway will be a one-year pilot, and all will allow buses, trucks, and emergency vehicles to travel through and along the entire corridor,” he said in an email to the Chronicle. “Local access for other vehicles will be allowed, but with some changes that will restrict travel along the entire corridor.”
He said the success of the 14th Street Busway in Manhattan — which has been made permanent — has shown that providing priority for buses and trucks can have a tremendous benefit for bus riders, while allowing deliveries and pickups and drop-offs to still happen effectively.
He added that the existing southbound bus-and-truck-only regulations on Main Street in Flushing has shown similar benefits.
“DOT is in communication with community leaders on each project, and that outreach will continue throughout implementation and the pilot duration,” he added.