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Air Quality

Doubts About DOT Congestion Prescription in Jax Heights

streetscene.jpgCommunity activists in Jackson Heights have been complaining about congestion at the corner at 73rd St. and 37th Ave. (right) for years. A major traffic study of the area is underway, but according to a DOT spokesman, the department didn't want to wait to implement "short-term initiatives" that could ease the problem. Problem is, some of the activists--including Will Sweeney of the Western Jackson Heights Alliance--aren't necessarily thrilled with the department's solution.

A few weeks ago, the bus stop for the Q47 and Q19b at 37th Ave. disappeared, replaced by three metered parking spots. According to the DOT spokesman, the change was made to speed bus traffic and thereby "reduce congestion and eliminate honking." The spokesman said that three more metered spots didn't represent a significant increase in metered parking and shouldn't be perceived as "giving back" parking to space formerly dedicated to mass transit. In making the move, the department worked with the MTA, which determined that nearby stops--at 35th Ave. and 37th Rd.--were close enough together that the 37th Ave. stop was superfluous.

Bus_Stop_Map.jpg

Sweeney begs to differ, noting that the two remaining stops (represented by the top and bottom yellow dots on the map above; the middle dot is the eliminated stop) are now approximately 1,350 feet apart (the MTA says it tries to provide stops every 750 feet on average). Sweeney also has a problem with the way the change was made, saying the community was not consulted, and if they had been, metered parking spaces would not have been on the list of requests.

"The Western Jackson Heights Alliance has repeatedly asked for muni-meters and loading zones to be installed in the area," said Sweeney in an e-mail to Streetsblog. "If the Dept of Transportation is looking for quick and easy fixes, these two changes are it. Adding more parking spaces will not improve the situation--it will make it worse. Double parking, by trucks and cars that are loading and unloading, is the primary cause of congestion, and by extension, horn honking. Unfortunately, metered parking spaces are easily abused by motorists feeding the meter throughout the day. In 2003, Transportation Alternatives did a study of the area and noted that 39 percent of the metered parking spaces were abused by merchants feeding the meter through-out the day."

After hearing the DOT's rationale for the move, Sweeney still questions how it fits into the mayor's plan for a greener New York. "Jackson Heights must be the only place in New York City right now that is losing mass transit options and adding parking for private automobiles," he writes. "Does Mayor Bloomberg really care about congestion, air pollution and pedestrian safety outside of Manhattan? His actions are not in sync with his words."

Photo: Will Sweeney

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