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DOT’s Jamaica Plan: Unclog Queens Transit Hub With 1.4 Miles of Bus Lanes

3:20 PM EDT on May 16, 2011

We missed these when they were first released in late March, but DOT has come out with its preliminary recommendations for improving bus service in downtown Jamaica [PDF]. The plan calls for adding roughly a mile and a half of new bus lanes and beefing up an equal amount of existing lanes. It would also redesign two intersections and create new pedestrian space.

Anything that helps buses move quickly, smoothly and reliably through downtown Jamaica would be an enormous boon to Queens transit riders. Jamaica is both a subway hub and a job center unto itself, with 47 different bus routes running through the area. Archer Avenue carries more local buses than any other road in New York City, according to the DOT, with a staggering 180 buses per hour in each direction.

Along Archer, the existing bus lanes between 150th and 160th Streets will be visually strengthened, getting a coat of terra cotta paint and new signage. The eastbound lane will be extended on both ends, from Sutphin Avenue to Merrick Boulevard.

Similarly, along Jamaica Avenue the existing lanes (serving 90 buses per hour in each direction) will get the new paint and signage as well as expanded hours of operation and some new turn restrictions. The westbound lanes will be extended from Parsons Boulevard to Sutphin.

New dedicated lanes on Merrick Boulevard and 165th Street will help buses enter and exit the 165th Street bus terminal.

Currently, camera enforcement is not an option for these bus lanes, since the state law which enabled bus cams on Fordham Road and First and Second Avenues only applies to officially designated "Select Bus Service" corridors.

Some of these bus lanes will be offset from the sidewalk, leaving room for curbside parking, while most will run next to the curb. Queens merchants opposed to the loss of parking killed a bus rapid transit route along Merrick Boulevard in 2007, and similar complaints could crop up again.

For this project, DOT has incorporated several measures to address concerns about curb access. New truck loading zones are slated for 146th Street and 91st Avenue to ensure that businesses can receive deliveries, and the bus lanes may not be in effect during off-peak delivery windows. DOT would also set aside certain areas for livery vehicles and commuter vans.

Intriguingly, DOT's proposal identifies the need to "relocate placard parking." Placard users clog Jamaica's streets, according to the recent Transportation Alternatives report "Totally Bogus." Asking placard users to park somewhere else may not be too effective, however. Right now, 59 percent of placard users are using their permit illegally, according to that report.

In addition to adding and strengthening bus lanes, DOT's preliminary plan calls for redesigning two intersections. Right now, buses traveling south on Home Lawn Street are forced to turn onto 169th Street just north of Hillside Avenue. DOT calls for straightening out Home Lawn so that buses can move south directly, eliminating the extra turn. As part of that plan, added pedestrian space would be carved out of the street, creating a small public plaza. Another street redesign, not shown in the March powerpoint presentation, would be implemented at 168th Street and Jamaica Avenue.

The local City Council Member, Leroy Comrie, is hosting an open house on the project tomorrow evening, co-sponsored by colleagues Mark Weprin, James Gennaro, Ruben Wills and James Sander Jr. DOT will have some new findings to present from outreach to local businesses.

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