Seven months later, the Main Street busway project will finally move forward.
State Supreme Court Justice Kevin Kerrigan struck down a lawsuit by the Flushing Chinese Business Association Jan. 5 that claimed prohibition of street travel for passenger cars and lack of road parking will deter shoppers who drive into the neighborhood, resulting in a dramatic drop in Flushing business. Kerrigan was unconvinced there was evidence that the 0.3-mile stretch of priority bus travel would slow commercial activity.
“How efficacious the Busway plan will be or what precisely its impact will be upon the community, if any, is presently unknown,” Kerrigan wrote before denying the Article 78 proceeding. The judge suggested that opponents address their displeasure with their elected officials instead.
The Rider’s Alliance happily and immediately shared the news Tuesday afternoon, stating, “Today’s decision is a huge victory for 150,000 bus riders across Queens and the Bronx. Citywide, judges have now ruled decisively that when riders win well-deserved priority on busy streets, opponents can’t sue and get their way. Just as Trump and his supporters can’t overturn the vote, neither can courts ‘invade the province’ of transportation policymakers on behalf of a few rich NIMBYs.”
Mayor de Blasio also celebrated Kerrigan’s ruling, referring to the 150,000 daily Main Street bus riders who previously suffered from excruciatingly slow service because of traffic congestion.
Though the busway’s kickoff date had been originally set for June, the Department of Transportation had delayed the installation for several months in order to convene with area stakeholders who had been vocally opposed to the project. Protests and marches had taken place along the route throughout the summer, but in November the DOT moved ahead with the change.
“Bus, Truck Only” markings were painted and new signage installed, as well as new bike lanes on Sanford Avenue between Kissena Boulevard and Main Street, right off the proposed busway route, in preparation for a Nov. 16 launch date, but Kerrigan ordered a temporary halt after the lawsuit was filed just three days before.
“The middle of a pandemic is not the time to experiment with a transportation policy that will further harm our local businesses by discouraging car travel and clogging our side streets,” City Councilmember Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said in a statement. “Flushing is not Manhattan, and while I’m disappointed in the court’s decision, I am more disappointed at the mayor’s insistence to push this through against our community’s wishes.”
Koo had protested the project since it was revealed in June, siding with the 98 percent of Downtown Flushing businesses that feared reduced shopper activity, according to an August Flushing Business Improvement District study. The councilmember long argued that the success of the 14th Street busway in Manhattan might not translate to the Flushing commercial hub.
A 2015 MTA Main Street Shopper Study, however, found that under 20 percent of people arrive to the neighborhood by car compared to 27 percent who come by bus. Only 4 percent of those who do drive park their car on Main Street, the study said, while most drivers opt for garages or lots. The DOT found that the pandemic has not slowed the need for buses — 1.9 million people rode Main Street buses in October.