Eastern Queens Electeds Want Bus Lanes. Will DOT Deliver?

These 11 elected officials from eastern Queens support Bus Rapid Transit, including separated bus lanes, in their districts. Does DOT?
These 11 elected officials from eastern Queens support bus lanes in their districts. Does DOT?

Council Member Rory Lancman and Assembly Member Michael Simanowitz have taken up the cause of opposing bus lanes for Select Bus Service in their eastern Queens districts. While the pair has gotten a lot of attention, they are outnumbered by almost a dozen city, state, and federal elected officials along the route urging the city to be bolder with its bus service upgrades.

“As elected officials who represent communities in Eastern Queens, we write in support of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor that would improve commuter, vehicular, and pedestrian transportation in a portion of a city that is a transit desert: the Flushing-Jamaica area,” begins the letter electeds sent last month to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco [PDF].

The letter was signed by Congressmember Grace Meng; State Senators Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., Leroy Comrie, and Toby Ann Stavisky; Assembly Members Vivian Cook, Ron Kim, Nily Rozic, William Scarborough, and David Weprin; and Council Members Peter Koo and Paul Vallone.

Many of these officials are from districts that overlap with neighborhoods represented by Lancman and Simanowitz.

The electeds ask specifically for bus lanes, including “protected lanes where physically feasible” and urge big changes to improve trips for tens of thousands of bus riders in their districts. “We believe there would be substantial public support for BRT,” they write. “Full-featured BRT can be successfully implemented in Eastern Queens.”

Citing the rapid growth of Flushing and Jamaica, they deem it “crucial that we provide the proper infrastructure needed to maintain economic prosperity. Such a plan would help bring sustainable development to Eastern Queens that could be a model for urban planning and design across New York.”

That comprehensive BRT plan won’t happen if Lancman and Simanowitz get their way. Goaded by local civic association members who believe bus lanes will snarl their car commutes — despite evidence from other Select Bus Service routes — the pair came out against bus lanes at a forum last month on Select Bus Service for the Flushing-Jamaica corridor.

The Q44, which would benefit from bus lanes, carries 28,700 riders daily. Put together, the four major bus routes between Flushing and Jamaica carry more than 90,000 passengers each day.

Opposition from people who don’t ride the bus seems to be working so far. “In places where we don’t need to do the dedicated bus lanes, which had folks so concerned in Kew Gardens Hills,” Trottenberg told Lancman at a City Council hearing on BRT last week, “we’re not gonna do it.”

With officials who support bus lanes in Eastern Queens speaking up too, what will DOT do?