DOT’s Design for Woodhaven Blvd Raises the Standard for Select Bus Service

Image: NYC DOT

NYC DOT has selected a design for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards, and it goes further than previous SBS projects to keep bus lanes clear of cars.

Under the proposal, buses would run in dedicated lanes set off from local traffic by concrete medians. While the bus lanes wouldn’t be physically separated from through traffic, the design avoids conflicts that have limited the performance of other SBS routes. In the Woodhaven design, buses won’t operate in a lane that attracts drivers trying to access the curb. Turning conflicts at intersections will also be minimized, with motorists turning right from Woodhaven merging across the bus lane mid-block to access the service road.

DOT said it expects the project to improve travel times 25 to 35 percent for the 30,000 daily bus passengers on the corridor.

“This is the kind of ambitious overhaul New York City’s bus riders deserve. This project means faster trips for tens of thousands of riders,” Mayor de Blasio said in a press release. “It means safer streets that save lives. And it means that communities from the Rockaways to Elmhurst that have long been underserved by public transit will see real improvements in their daily commute.”

The design is the same as “Concept 2” revealed at public workshops last fall, where bus riders and advocates gave it high marks, along with “Concept 3,” which called for a center-running busway [PDF]. The city says the central 6 miles of the 14-mile Woodhaven/Cross Bay project will have the Concept 2 configuration, according to the Daily News. The project will also feature standard SBS ingredients like off-board fare collection and traffic signals that hold green lights for buses. More details may be revealed at a Queens Community Board 5 meeting scheduled for tonight.

Image: NYC DOT

Several elected officials along the corridor — including Republican Eric Ulrich and Democrat Donovan Richards — have called on DOT and the MTA to act boldly to prioritize transit and safety on Woodhaven, where crosswalks in some sections are 160 feet wide. Since 2010, dozens of people were seriously injured or killed on the Woodhaven/Cross Bay corridor, which runs from the Rockaways to Woodside. The design calls for substantial pedestrian medians at intersections to break up the daunting crossing distances.

The project will involve a full reconstruction of the street. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the Daily News the project is expected to cost $200 million, and the city will be seeking federal support. Construction would begin in 2017 (when Mayor de Blasio is up for reelection) and wrap about a year later.

Without physical separation from through-traffic, one crucial missing element for the 30,000 daily passengers on Woodhaven buses will be camera enforcement of the bus lanes. State legislation currently limits the number of routes where bus lane cameras can operate, so an update to the law will be needed to get bus cams on Woodhaven.

  • Niles

    This is really disappointing. So much for “bold” street design. When will we get center running BRT?

  • The center-running configuration looks great too, but would it be better than this one? This configuration actually seems to be better at reducing conflicts with turning cars than Concept 3.

  • Niles

    Maybe you are right, I hope so. I just believe the city needs to commit to physically separated lanes, and was hopeful that this was the project to illustrate the benefits of that type of design. Of course 34th would have been ideal, but that ship has sailed, and we don’t even have all our bus bulbs yet.

  • snobum

    Will the select buses need to go into the general traffic lanes in order to get around a local bus with concept 2? At least in concept 3 you can see the dedicated bus passing lanes.

  • J

    I just don’t see how this is this better than center-running. In a center-running alignment you have one conflicting movement: left turns. In the proposed configuration, you have two conflicting movements: left turns from the opposing direction and vehicles wishing to exit the center lanes to turn right. The proposed configuration opens the BRT lane up to vehicles merging into and across the lane to enter/exit the service lane. This seems dangerous and unnecessary.

    If you can point me to a good example of this configuration working well, I’m all ears. I can easily point to dozens of examples of center-running configurations that are world-class. I really have a hard time understanding why we’d want to reinvent the wheel here.

  • J

    Every single example of “World Class BRT” I’ve ever seen is center running. Somehow, the NYC version is not. What gives?

  • ahwr

    What’s a full reconstruction of the street entail? How much of the work would’ve been done if there was no bus lane coming to the corridor? It would help to put the price tag in perspective.

  • Henry

    You’re not permitted to turn right from the center lanes now, anyways. Left turns are actually easier to accommodate since you can just give a separate signal cycle to them where buses can’t go through.

  • sbauman

    The complete streets objective has been forgotten in all the plans. A pedestrian friendly street has been sacrificed on the altar of slightly faster bus service.

    Look at the pictures in the article. There are cross streets that dead end into the service roads. Where are the crosswalks and traffic lights for pedestrians to safely cross Woodhaven Blvd? There are none. Pedestrians are expected to act like cars and cross Woodhaven Blvd only at a few widely spaced major intersections. It’s a sure prescription for another Boulevard of Death.

  • AnoNYC

    The people want mass transportation improvements. Unfortunately the changes are getting stuck somewhere. I largely blame community boards.

  • Hopeful, tonight.

    This is great, but I’d still love to see the Rockaway Beach line turned into an extension of the R train. That one already has grade separation.

  • J

    yes, but to make right turns from the center lane, you must use slip lanes to access the service lane. With BRT, that will mean crossing the bus lane. If there are low frequencies and low volumes of cars making the movement, it might not be a big problem, but as ridership grows or in heavier traffic, it could become quite disruptive to bus service and/or dangerous.

    Left turns in both configurations are handled the same way.

  • chekpeds

    It is strange that turn lanes are in the through traffic section. The turn movements are normally done from the service road and no left turns are allowed. Will the left turn lanes be equipped with a red arrow ( split phase) ?

  • chekpeds

    Where are the bike lanes ?

  • chekpeds

    The issue of center running buses is doors: you need doors on both sides of the bus and MTA claims they could not find a bus that would meet MTA standards. Indeed, the whole world has those buses running fine, but not the MTA! Part of the explanation for the $ 15 billion capital deficit.

  • Guest

    You can absolutely have side stations, which only require right-door buses. SF is planning one now.

  • J

    You can absolutely have center running BRT with only right-side doors. SF is planning one now on Van Ness.

  • Henry

    Limited/Select Bus service on Woodhaven, while frequent, is not so frequent that a few cars crossing slip lanes would disrupt bus service greatly. It helps that a good portion of the road mostly fronts parks, graveyards, or low-density residential anyways.

    (I’m assuming that local and express bus service would operate as they do now, since both stop every two blocks give or take.)

  • Len Maniace

    Ben, BRT has been a long time coming to Queens, but this has line could be the best in NYC, coming closest to replicating rapid transit.
    Should be very popular with beach goers, commuters and help make safer a very dangerous road. I had an aunt killed in a two-car collision crash there 5-7 years ago. And it will have trees!!!

  • J

    I guess this comes down to a basic question of project goals: Is this going to be a project to improve local bus service, while accommodating rapid buses, or will this be a project to improve rapid bus service while accommodating local bus service?

    Seems like the former to me, which is unfortunate.

  • ahwr

    Depends. If ten years from now the MTA is better funded and can send the M or R down the RBB then it would be better to have a bus service on Woodhaven oriented towards local trips less likely to switch to rail. If this is the only transit improvement along the corridor for the next thirty years then it would be different.

  • J

    Maybe, but we have a great opportunity here, and the RBB is still at least a decade away. Is there a good reason not to design this as the best transitway possible?

  • Guest

    This is pretty bad. For cyclists with the slip lanes always seem to result in unnecessary fatalities. And this is terrible for pedestrians who will need to cross 6 to 7 lanes without a pedestrian refuge with this plan, in addition to the two service roads. If they had gone with a more sensible center running design there would be a wide center refuge for pedestrians which doubles as bus waiting areas and they wouldn’t need the slip lane death traps. This plan will continue to leave the elerderly and the disabled, who can’t make it across 7 lanes in 20 seconds, standing in the middle of a highway when they lose the walk signal. It’s like the NYC DOT stepped into a 1960’s time warp when Ms. Trottenberg took the helm.

    What is most distressing is that we’re talking about spending $200 million dollars on a pouring concrete that will need to be torn up and replaced with something reasonably safe once we’re rid of this retrograde DOT management. $200 million could pay for a whole lot of neckdowns and other sensible street improvements.

  • Philip McManus

    The City is manipulating the people again. Why choose a busway on Woodhaven Boulevard from Rockaway to Woodside and take away numerous travel lanes from all commuters when we have an unused train track only two to six blocks east and parallel to Woodhaven Boulevard, the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, the new Queens Crosstown from south, central and west Queens to Manhattan and Brooklyn. The train plan could help millions of commuters and underserved communities with faster, safer, cleaner, smoother, and more passenger capacity, over a thousand people on one train. The restoration of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line will help reduce pollution, traffic, fatalities, vehicular, pedestrian and bicyclist accidents, reduce emergency response times, overcrowded buses, trains and roadways, reduce unnecessary transfer delays and reduce travel times and expenses. We support faster and safer transportation for all the people. Queens and the outer boroughs need railway and busway expansion just like south and midtown Manhattan. Is it fair that half of Manhattan gets at least 32 billion dollars in subway and commuter rail expansion (East Side Access, Second Avenue Subway, 7 Train West Side Extension, Penn Station expansion and Fulton Street Transit Center while the outer boroughs get almost zero? We need railway expansion first and bus expansion. Select Bus Sevice is a scam that will hurt more commuters with wasteful spending and increase travel times and discriminates and divides commuters by modes of transit. Treat commuters with fairness and equality and let’s share the road.

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  • fdtutf

    Why choose a busway on Woodhaven Boulevard from Rockaway to Woodside and take away numerous travel lanes from all commuters when we have an unused train track only two to six blocks east and parallel to Woodhaven Boulevard, the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, the new Queens Crosstown from south, central and west Queens to Manhattan and Brooklyn.

    So “all commuters” drive cars? The people on buses who will benefit from the bus lanes aren’t commuters?

    The train plan could help millions of commuters and communities with faster, safer, cleaner, smoother, and more passenger capacity, over a thousand people on one train. The restoration of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line will help reduce pollution, traffic, fatalities, vehicular, pedestrian and bicyclist accidents, reduce emergency response times, overcrowded buses, trains and roadways, reduce unnecessary transfer delays and reduce travel times and expenses.

    Will it cure cancer, too?

    Seriously, who are these “millions of commuters”? What ridership do you think the RBB would attract if it were reactivated?

  • Rafikozonepark

    What a waste of money. The entire project is just a robbery in a bight day light. Traffic cars will be tremendous we have 3 lanes now and everyday driver can see 8s not enough. Daily commute time extends by taking away speed to 30 and taking away another lane will just murder the corridor. Who are those people responsible for such a waste? They just shoulg go to jail right away for this is not goinh to prove drivwrs commute time. It will add more waste money in gas and travel time by at least 20 more minutes.

  • Andrew



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