Let’s examine things we’re being told about Select Bus Service and Bus Rapid Transit that aren’t true.
1. SBS/BRT is the best cost-effective solution to improve north-south travel in the Woodhaven-Cross Bay Boulevard corridor.
Actually, restoring the abandoned Rockaway Beach Line offers more advantages. It provides faster trips without removing two needed general traffic lanes. Studies have shown the public prefers rail to bus. Rail will stimulate development. The RBL is also greener and quieter because it uses electric power. It won’t impede first responders, unlike the design the city Department of Transportation has chosen.
The DOT cannot be trusted to provide truthful figures. It had been touting $28 million for SBS, then it suddenly escalated the cost to $200 million with BRT. That cost could double if any of the work has to be redone such as switching to Option 1 midstream, because emergency response times increase. Pedestrian islands may have to be ripped out, as happened several years ago in front of Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, when these islands were installed without discussions with EMS personnel.
There also are plans to destroy the RBL with the QueensWay trail, which has been priced at $120 million, and would likely escalate. The combined BRT and Queens-Way costs approach the cost of restoring the RBL, which provides a far superior level of service. Regulatory flexibility to permit shared LIRR/subway operations or an LIRR/subway transfer at Aqueduct or Howard Beach eliminates the cost of a new bridge across Jamaica Bay.
2. SBS/BRT will encourage drivers to switch to buses.
The number of transfers and fares needed to make a trip will not be reduced, a major reason why many choose to drive. Therefore motorists will not switch modes to compensate for the loss of general traffic lanes.
3. SBS increases bus reliability.
SBS buses operate no more reliably than local bus routes. SBS buses frequently arrive in bunches along Second Avenue in Manhattan and along Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn. Many passengers see no improvement over the former Limited service SBS replaced.
4. Buses traveling faster equates with faster trip times for bus passengers.
Actually, for someone to fully benefit from bus travel time savings, they must ride from the first stop until the last stop, which few passengers do. There will be no savings for the passenger of up to 35 percent as DOT’s press release claims.
5. Bus passengers will save time during the off-peak.
During the midday before 3 p.m., in the evening and on weekends, buses already travel the maximum allowable speed and would not travel any faster because of exclusive bus lanes.
6. The needs of automobile drivers will be met.
Only the needs of bus riders have been considered, though they account for only one-third of the road’s users. The DOT admits that the majority — 57 percent — of Woodhaven Corridor residents own cars, though they state the negative that 43 percent of the households do not own cars.
The DOT also plans to ban left turns at Metropolitan Avenue and Rockaway Blvd. It claims that this won’t negatively impact drivers, but that is wrong. Drivers will have to travel farther and be forced to first travel in the opposite direction of where they want to go.
7. Traffic will improve after BRT is completed.
Traffic will significantly worsen with two lanes for general travel removed, and mergers from four lanes to three will become mergers of three lanes to two. The net result is increased congestion for motorists and also commercial vehicles as there is no nearby alternative north-south route. That includes livery cabs that transit-dependent residents rely on for doctor’s appointments and shopping,
8. Three lanes for general traffic will be maintained throughout the corridor.
Although this is what the DOT had promised throughout the process, only two lanes for general traffic will be maintained where Woodhaven passes beneath and above the LIRR, and a two-lane option is being considered for Cross Bay Boulevard as well.
9. Construction will be completed within a year.
None of the DOT’s past time estimates has been accurate. Even the first-year assessment for the B44 SBS is over four months late.
10. Community involvement has been adequate throughout.
Questions asked one year ago still have not been responded to, and there has been no outreach specifically for automobile drivers, who are mostly unaware of the BRT plans, which will greatly affect them. SBS was a predetermined conclusion before the first public meeting.
Allan Rosen is a retired director of bus planning for the MTA’s New York City Transit and blogs for Sheepsheadbites.