Residents, advocates and bus riders gathered last week to kick off the community engagement process for Queens’ first Select Bus Service (SBS) route. The meeting was held to solicit participants’ transportation concerns along the Woodhaven Boulevard corridor and to describe the benefits of SBS.
Although the plans for enhanced bus service are not set in stone, the MTA and New York City Department of Transportation showed examples of offset and curbside bus lanes along Woodhaven Boulevard along with other SBS treatments that have been implemented on six SBS routes throughout the city: painted bus lanes, off-board fare payment, traffic signal priority and pedestrian safety infrastructure. Existing SBS routes have demonstrated that these modest changes do in fact yield benefits such as increased bus travel speeds between 5-20 percent, decreased traffic congestion, higher economic activity and improved pedestrian safety — but it’s time to raise the bar.
Woodhaven’s infamously wide corridor presents an opportunity to move SBS beyond the status quo toward full-fledged bus rapid transit (BRT). One key BRT feature not yet utilized on the existing SBS routes is center median or physically separated bus lanes.
Transportation issues along Woodhaven Boulevard have been studied by NYC DOT since 2008, and the results have shown that not only is it one of the borough’s most congested corridors, but also the most dangerous corridor for pedestrians in Queens. Its massive width — up to 10 lanes wide in some places — are a serious detriment to pedestrian safety.
To help visualize what Woodhaven Boulevard could look like with center median bus lanes, MTR came up with these potential configurations using Streetmix:
While it is true that SBS is “not full-fledged BRT,” the service has significantly enhanced bus service along six corridors in four boroughs. But, the characteristics of Woodhaven Boulevard, and the pedestrian safety issues plaguing the community, make the boulevard one of the most prime candidates for full-fledged BRT in the city. Using this opportunity to employ full bus rapid transit could finally put New York City on the map of world-class BRT systems, alongside Bogota’s TransMilenio, Guangzhou, China’s BRT system, Eugene Oregon’s EmX, and Cleveland’s Healthline.
For Mayor de Blasio to achieve his goal of a “World Class Bus Rapid Transit Network” of more than 20 routes, what better way to start a new generation of bus service in NYC than with full BRT on Woodhaven Boulevard?