Nov. 21, 2018 By Christian Murray
The Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that the Select Bus Service that links the Rockaways with Woodside–via Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards–has decreased travel times for riders since its introduction last year.
Travel times for bus riders have improved by nearly 10 percent on the Q52/Q53 SBS route, which was rolled out amid controversy on Nov. 12, 2017. Meanwhile, travel times for all other modes of transportation along Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards have stayed the same since the introduction of SBS, the agency said.
The DOT, as part of SBS, removed a travel lane along the boulevards for the sole use of buses, which critics say has increased congestion. Furthermore, there have been parking bans in sections of the corridor that many argue has hurt small businesses.
But the DOT says SBS has been a success since it was launched 12 months ago.
“On the first anniversary of the roll-out of SBS on the Q52 and Q53 lines, we can take pride in the fact that Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards have truly been transformed,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in a statement Tuesday.
Darrly Irick, president of the MTA Bus Company, also said SBS has made commuting better. “When buses can move with fewer impediments, trips end up being safer and more reliable.”
The DOT made a series of changes in addition to the introduction of dedicated bus lanes. These included off-board fare collection along the whole route, median stations and all-door boarding.
Weekday ridership is up between 5 to 8 percent on the Q52/Q53 SBS route since it was launched, the DOT said, and 87 percent of riders surveyed prefer SBS over the previous service.
But State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. is not convinced by the DOT’s analysis. “It’s debatable, it’s questionable.”
Addabbo said that he has no doubt that bus travel times have improved and ridership has increased. But he argues that this positive has come at the expense of other road users.
He said that traffic congestion is far worse with the loss of a travel lane and he doubts that travel times for motorists are unchanged.
He said during rush hour periods the boulevards have become a parking lot and that it is adding to pollution. He said that he has lived in the area his entire life and he has never seen traffic so backed up.
Addabbo said residents who live on local streets near the boulevards have experienced an uptick in traffic. Many motorists are now using local streets to avoid traffic on the boulevards.
The removal of parking in many areas has also hurt small businesses, he said.
The DOT said that crashes resulting in injuries have declined on the corridor by 6 percent over the past year, while noting that there have been two fatalities at the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue in recent months.
The DOT said changes have been made to the intersection.
Addabbo said that more work needs to be done on SBS. “I would not claim it to be a success. There are many things that need to be resolved.”