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Queens Chronicle

Fighting the DOT’s (S)BS on Woodhaven

Advocates rally against bus lane plan, seek to educate general public

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Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2016 10:30 am

Although close to 200 people last Saturday rallied against the Department of Transportation’s Select Bus Service plan for Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards, advocates on both sides of the issue said the average commuter is still unaware of what the proposal entails.

“I think 85 percent of people don’t know what SBS is,” said Allan Rosen, a former director of bus planning for NYC Transit. “The DOT hides all this information about SBS on their website so that you need to know about it to find it.”

Rosen spoke on the southeast corner of Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue during the rally, which saw people raise their voices against the plan to put a dedicated bus lane in both directions from Park Lane South to the Rockaway Boulevard/Liberty Avenue corridor and have commuters wait on revamped medians.

“This is the most ridiculous plan,” Patricia Hodges, a Woodhaven resident for 14 years, said.

The public demonstration took place right by a bus stop that sees thousands of commuters get on and off the Q52 and Q53 buses everyday.

The rally was planned in part to educate those people, and others passing by in their cars, of what will happen to the road should the DOT’s proposal go ahead as planned.

“They see something is happening here,” said Alex Blenkinsopp, communications director for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. “It’s about public awareness. Tons of people are now informed.”

Another reason for hosting the rally, the civic activist added, was to display the number of opponents who showed up compared to a pro-SBS rally held by transportation advocacy groups on the steps of City Hall late last year.

“We had a much bigger turnout than they did,” Blenkinsopp said. “And nobody here was on any type of payroll.”

Speaking of ridership statistics on bus lines, Rosen argued that DOT is misleading the general public by saying ridership on the B44 in Brooklyn, which was made an SBS route last year, has increased when, according to him, it has actually fallen by about 2 percent.

But it wasn’t only those who disagree with the plan who said bus riders are unaware of what SBS is.

Peter Beadle, chairman of Transportation Alternative’s Queens Activist Committee and a supporter of the proposal, said in a Monday interview there is a “sample bias” at town hall meetings on the topic.

“A lot of the people who I have spoken to at meetings were all car drivers who were mad that they’re taking away a lane of traffic and concerned of how the SBS proposal would affect them,” Beadle said. “You don’t have a lot of the average bus riders aware that this is going on.”

The transportation activist noted the DOT has held public meetings on the matter but added the agency and the MTA need to conduct “deliberate outreach” to the people it will affect the most.

“It’s one thing to say we’re having a meeting,” he said. “The people need to be aware of how SBS will benefit them.”

Those at the rally agreed with some parts of the plan — such as paying the fare on the sidewalk before boarding — but continued to blast what they called the more dangerous components.

Charles Jusino, a 25-year resident of Woodhaven who describes himself as a regular bus rider, expressed concern with the median bus stop idea.

“That seems kind of dangerous to me,” said Jusino during an interview.

Concerning that plan, Jusino noted the time given to cross from one side of Woodhaven to another is not enough for the community’s elderly residents.

“There’s not much time,” he said.

The longtime Woodhaven resident also worried about being “totally exposed” to vehicles and the elements of nature on the median bus stops.

Others said making one lane just for buses would force traffic onto the community’s side streets.

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) told the crowd they have already made progress in pushing the timeline for SBS back a year, but added that more work needed to be done.

“We will change this plan,” Addabbo told the crowd.

Woodhaven residents also scored a victory earlier this summer when the DOT announced it would not eliminate left turns from the corridor onto Jamaica Avenue, a plan it previously considered.

However, it is still planning on getting rid of the turn at Union Turnpike, a proposal many at the rally called ridiculous. Drivers looking to access Union will have to turn down 81st Road.

During his speech, the senator pointed out that the city took three days to clear snow from Woodhaven side streets earlier this year and argued it would lag in removing the white stuff from the center medians during future storms.

In an interview after his speech, Addabbo echoed the remarks of the other speakers in saying the event was, in part, an “educational” effort.

“It’s about raising awareness of the plan,” he said.

The senator said the DOT is in the process of “digesting” the community’s input on its proposal.

A DOT spokesman said in an email the agency has already listened to the community’s concerns.

“As acknowledged by the organizers of Saturday’s event, DOT made multiple changes to the original plan after listening to the community and working with stakeholders to address their concerns,” said the spokesman. “This extensive community outreach process yielded alterations asked for by residents such as not banning left turns at Jamaica Avenue (the site of Saturday’s event) in both directions, while still offering safety enhancements along the corridor that will benefit the thousands of pedestrians, drivers, and bus riders who travel, work and shop on the corridor every day. DOT will monitor the impacts of these changes, as it does for all projects.”

Community Board 9, which represents Woodhaven, is set to hold a hearing on SBS at its September meeting and will hold a vote on the matter the following month, Transportation Committee Chairman Kenny Wilson told the Queens Chronicle.

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  • Allan Rosen posted at 10:52 am on Thu, Aug 25, 2016.

    Allan Rosen Posts: 19

    The efforts are educational because DOT's outreach was geared to bus riders only, not to drivers of automobiles who DOT wants to keep in the dark. If you read all the DOT materials, you will not see a single word about losing two lanes of general traffic. If DOT wanted to inform drivers, they would have rented the huge billboard at Liberty Avenue.

    The community knows more about how Select Bus Service works than you do. The benefits of SBS you speak of are all general and non -specific to Woodhaven. Jus because it may work elsewhere does not mean it is appropriate for Woodhaven Boulevard especially when a better alternative exists under a half mile away whose costs and timeframe are in the same league when you consider full fledged BRT which is what is being proposed, with non of the disadvantages to cars, trucks and pedestrians.

    And median stops will not shorten round trip walking distances by 29 to 30 feet, but will add additional crossings when none are presently required, increasing dangers as pedestrians try to catch a bus without checking for cars. And a fence won't prevent pedestrians from getting hurt. The week before this event, there was an accident on the main roadway where a car veered into the median. Had it been a bus stop, pedestrians would have been injured or killed.

  • BaysideBob posted at 4:25 pm on Thu, Aug 18, 2016.

    BaysideBob Posts: 3

    This article is kind of slanted, to say the least. The headline seems like it was taken verbatim from the protestors.

    And how exactly are their efforts "educational." They clearly don't know much about how Select Bus Service actually works, and their views seem like garden variety knee-jerk NIMBYism. "Fear mongering" effort would be a more accurate description.

  • BaysideBob posted at 12:40 pm on Thu, Aug 18, 2016.

    BaysideBob Posts: 3

    NYC has a limited amount of space. Nobody would disagree with that statement. People need to ask themselves if we should be using huge amounts of road and parking space to promote the single-passenger automobile mode of transportation, which also causes air pollution and large numbers of accidents.

    Services like Select Bus Service, which provides a dedicated lane for buses, will promote a more efficient mode of transportation and attract new riders who might otherwise drive. It has many of the features and benefits of a light rail line, but with lower capital costs. A single articulated bus can carry over 150 people, taking roughly that many cars off the road.

    SBS or "Bus Rapid Transit", has been successfully implemented in many other cities. It works. It's safer than driving. It will reduce air pollution and accidents on Woodhaven Boulevard.

    Support SBS. Not just on Woodhaven, but on other major routes around the city, including Northern Boulevard, Jamaica Avenue, and Hillside Avenue. They will make the city a better place to live.

  • QueensWatcher posted at 5:45 pm on Wed, Aug 17, 2016.

    QueensWatcher Posts: 19

    It is really unfortunate to see so many people being manipulated by fear in to opposing an SBS plan that is desperately needed along this corridor. And the opposition points are just so transparently false. Exposed to the elements because of a median bus stop? How is it any different than a bus stop on the sidewalk? You are already exposed to the elements. Unsafe on the median? Why? Have you seen the designs? Metal fences protect the back side of the station and the front side is just as exposed as it is on the other sidewalk. Not enough time to cross? On every round trip you already need to cross the street at least once. In fact median stops will shorten that trip by 20-30 feet. Not only that, but the dedicated bus lane will better organize traffic and slow it down, making everyone safer. Really the hysteria that is being fomented is absurd, and highlights the need to get bus users out to these meetings so that this lot doesn't rob them and the region of a much needed transit fix.

  • Pres100 posted at 12:51 pm on Mon, Aug 15, 2016.

    Pres100 Posts: 36

    If we don't get the Queensrail were all losers period!

  • VBarbour posted at 11:19 am on Fri, Aug 12, 2016.

    VBarbour Posts: 50

    Once again the DOT is trying to mislead the public. When you "reach out" to a community you have discussions about what might work, what might not, and why. In every case since the beginning of this ill-planned process the DOT made decisions behind closed door and then came to communities along the Woodhaven-Crossbay Blvd corridor and shoved it down residents throats. That is not outreach.

    And to say “.... while still offering safety enhancements along the corridor that will benefit the thousands of pedestrians, drivers, and bus riders who travel, work and shop on the corridor every day. DOT will monitor the impacts of these changes, as it does for all projects.” is a lie in the making.

    There is absolutely no way the current proposal can be considered a safety enhancement- by having people dart into the middle of Woodhaven Blvd to catch a bus. It also does nothing for pedestrians other than clog side-streets where, inevitably, traffic will flow to in an effort to get passed the increased back-up on the boulevard.

  • pvaldezriverajr posted at 3:25 pm on Thu, Aug 11, 2016.

    pvaldezriverajr Posts: 292

    A major transportation borough civil war is brewing as we speak between: 1) The Queensbus - or SBS; 2) The Queensrail; 3) The Queensway - or a linear park; 4) The NIMBY's. We will find out which group will be the victor or possibly victors and which one will be the loser or losers next year. [sad]