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.
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.