Drivers have had 80 days to get used to the new rules along Flushing’s Main Street, a stretch of which was transformed into a busway Jan. 19. Those who still don’t get it, or ignore the restrictions, can face hefty fines starting Friday.
The city Department of Transportation announced last week that it would begin issuing bus lane camera violations on April 9 to vehicles using the 0.6-mile portion of northbound Main Street and Kissena Boulevard from Sanford Avenue to Northern Boulevard. 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.
Signage was posted along the corridor on its launch date, but drivers were told they’d be given a 60-day grace period to adjust to the changes before being penalized. The adjustment period ended up being 20 days longer than originally planned.
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.
On March 19, two months after the busway was launched, the DOT revealed that bus rides traveling north are on average between 15 and 24 percent faster during the day and between 13 and 31 percent faster during evening peak hours.
Approximately 155,000 riders rely on the Main Street buses each day.
The project is nearly one-third of the way through its pilot year, which will end in January 2022. Although travel times for commuters have increased aggressively, area shopkeepers are hoping DOT officials will abandon the project because of its alleged negative affect on business.
“They mostly just sit in the office drawing. They think they know what’s good for the community,” said Timothy Chuang, co-chairperson of the Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Business Improvement District.
Chuang fears the busway has made shopping in the corridor a struggle for consumers who drive into the district — the slowed travel time and traffic jams encourage them to spend their dollars elsewhere. He said Downtown Flushing business owners often feel left behind by the city. “We pay so much tax and the city does not come do anything ... I don’t know how our city doesn’t do anything.”
The BID, which long opposed prohibiting private cars on the major commercial strip, launched a survey March 9 to investigate whether surrounding shops have seen a drop in revenue since Jan. 19, the day the busway was implemented. As of April 5, half of the responders stated they lost more than 26 percent of revenue, while 99 percent believe the busway has a negative impact and said they received customers’ complaints regarding the project.
The BID will continue conducting the survey for several more weeks.