Friday, November 27, 2015

WRBA Urges DOT to Consider "Busway" Alternative to SBS

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association today urged the Department of Transportation to pause plans for Select Bus Service (SBS) and to study an alternative: running bus service along the defunct train tracks of the Rockaway Branch right of way along 98th Street.

The recommendations came in a 12-page letter (available here) to DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia.  The letter described the potential benefits of the alternative proposal—which the WRBA calls "the Busway"—and enumerated the shortcomings of the current SBS design concept.

"With SBS, DOT has been pushing a zero-sum proposition: a supposed improvement for bus riders at the expense of auto drivers, local businesses, and residents adversely affected by the altered traffic flows," the letter says.  "The Busway seems to be a different type of proposition: a win-win that has the potential to improve bus service without disadvantaging other vehicles."

The Rockaway Branch right of way, crossing over Park Lane South.
The Busway proposal arose after Assemblyman Mike Miller mentioned the idea at two WRBA town halls.  At last Saturday's town hall, the suggestion received overwhelming support.  For over three years, the WRBA's position has been that the defunct railroad should be left as is.  But the controversy over the misguided SBS concept proposal has led the community to consider alternatives and to urge DOT to study the Busway.

The Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation (GWDC) and Woodhaven Business District (BID) support the WRBA's call to consider the Busway in lieu of SBS.  Assemblyman Miller, Senator Joe Addabbo, and Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder also support exploring the possibility.

"The process that DOT used to come up with its SBS design concept was severely flawed, and if it were implemented, it would be extremely detrimental to our community," said WRBA President Martin Colberg.  "We believe the Busway would likely be much better for our community, and we hope that other neighborhoods join us in urging DOT to consider it."

The letter to Commissioner Garcia describes some of the possible benefits of the Busway: it is close to Woodhaven Boulevard and runs parallel to it, it avoids buses having to share the road with other vehicles, it would allow buses to travel safely at faster speeds because there are no intersections or red lights, it is a better option for properties abutting 98th Street than reactivating train service or converting it to a park, and it allows riders to wait for buses in relative peace and safety, among others.

The letter also enumerates the severe problems with SBS: it promises to worsen congestion by removing two lanes of traffic, it will inconvenience drivers and cause heavier traffic flow on our residential streets by eliminating left turns onto Jamaica Avenue and other thoroughfares, it will force bus commuters to wait on a median in the middle of the Boulevard, and it will encourage unsafe speeding by bus drivers, to name a few.

"The WRBA states as emphatically as possible: implementing the current SBS design concept along the Woodhaven Boulevard–Cross Bay Boulevard corridor would be yet another in DOT's long track record of mistakes in our area.  We exhort DOT not to commit this error," the letter says, listing a slew of recent local DOT failures.  "There is an opportunity for the agency to turn a new leaf—to start doing a better job to consider the community's feedback.  DOT can seize this opportunity by treating the Busway proposal, and the WRBA’s feedback on SBS, with the utmost seriousness."

The WRBA maintains that DOT should exhaustively study this alternative before implementing any aspect of SBS, especially because there has been no indication that the costs and benefits of the two options have been compared.

The letter to DOT comes ahead of a public meeting with the agency on Monday night, organized by the GWDC and Woodhaven BID in partnership with the WRBA.  That meeting will occur at 7:30 p.m. at the American Legion Hall (89-02 91 Street, at the intersection with 89th Avenue).  Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

# # #

WRBA office: (718) 296-3735