DCP Sketches Out Waterfront Transit and Safer Streets for Western Queens

DCP is recommending expanded pedestrian space and redesigned streets at complex intersections like the one of Vernon Boulevard, Main Avenue, and 8th Street.
DCP is recommending expanded pedestrian space and redesigned streets at complex intersections like the crossing of Vernon Boulevard, Main Avenue, and 8th Street.

A new transitway from LaGuardia Airport to Downtown Brooklyn is the most ambitious recommendation in a draft report [PDF] from the Department of City Planning on transportation in Western Queens, which also includes a raft of smaller changes that would make the streets of Astoria and Long Island City safer and more livable.

While the transitway is the report’s leading recommendation, DCP doesn’t go into much detail other than recommending future study of curbside bus lanes or center-running light rail that would hug the East River between Downtown Brooklyn and the Grand Central Parkway before jumping onto the highway to LaGuardia Airport. The report is more specific about changes to existing transit service, recommending a realignment of bus service and bringing back express subway service to Astoria.

The report is mostly devoted to the potential for traffic calming, recommending curb extensions and crosswalks for both Crescent Street and 21st Street, which has been a priority of Transportation Alternatives. At the complex multi-leg intersection of 21st Street and Astoria Boulevard, the authors recommend curb extensions and pedestrian islands, and the intersection of Astoria Boulevard, Main Avenue, and Vernon Boulevard would also get a major redesign with large sidewalk extensions and plazas.

“None of the streets there carry a lot of traffic, but the traffic movements there are just insane,” said Steve Scofield, a TA volunteer who attended a meeting DCP hosted on Monday to present its draft findings. “Clarifying that [intersection] could help everybody.”

In a bit of a surprise, the report suggests installing a pedestrian plaza at Newtown and 30th Avenues in Astoria, a plan that Community Board 1 rejected two years ago in favor of curb extensions. Scofield said one CB 1 member at Monday’s meeting was not happy to see the plaza concept revived by DCP.

The plan also recommends pedestrian-activated flashing traffic signals on Vernon Boulevard, where crosswalks are currently up to 2,000 feet apart. At the southern end of Vernon Boulevard near Jackson Avenue, DCP suggests expanding the existing “greenstreet” to add more pedestrian space and crosswalks. A second option for that location would create a large plaza and protected bike lane.

The report suggests a two-way protected bike path on the Roosevelt Island Bridge with direct connections to greenways on the island, as well as a protected bikeway along 36th Avenue from the bridge to the subway. Scofield said he hopes DCP would extend the recommended bikeway east, to connect with bike lanes on 28th and 29th Streets.

DCP also suggested signage to remind pedestrians at Queens Plaza that they are crossing a two-way bike path, and the introduction of PARK Smart adjustments to meter prices at retail areas along Vernon Boulevard and Steinway Street.

While the recommendations are coming from the Department of City Planning, most of the implementation relies on DOT. First, DCP must finish its report. “In the coming months, DCP planners will continue this public engagement process to work with community residents and stakeholders to further refine the recommendations and issue a final report and action plan,” said DCP spokesperson Peter Schottenfels. “We hope to have finalized the recommendations by the end of the year.”

  • BBnet3000

    I dont get the obsession with two way protected bike paths recently in NYC. They force people to cross to the other side of the street, often twice, and can exacerbate the existing turning conflicts built into our bike lanes.

    We have yet to build a two way street with protected bike paths on both sides anywhere in New York that I know of, which is the most common configuration for widespread and comfortable cycling worldwide.

    I’m not saying that they are not suitable for certain situations such as along waterfronts and other natural boundaries (like the Brooklyn Navy Yard).

  • J

    The allure of 2-way protected bike paths is that they allow for a protected lane using significantly less space. Typically, you need 8 feet for a one-way protected bike lane inside of parking, which is 16 feet for lanes in each direction. With a 2-way path, you can squeeze a 2-way protected lane into around 11 feet of space. Usually, 11 feet will only get you a striped bike lane in each direction, which often has little effect on the number of people who feel comfortable biking. But if you can create a protected facility in that same amount of space, it can get a LOT more people out on bikes, even if they have to cross the street extra times. Montreal is an excellent example of this, where almost all protected lanes are 2-way on one side of the street, and they get a TON of use.

    I’m NOT saying that this is always a good or safe approach, only that it can have a strong appeal, given the alternatives and political realities in many locations.

  • JohnDoe

    21st Street in Queens definitely needs traffic calming. I cross that street every day to get to and from work and not a week goes by where I don’t see someone blatantly running the red or speeding. It’s only a matter of time till I see someone get hit by a car.

  • lop

    They want to get bikes off the ramp on Roosevelt island, looks like they are taking them inside the atrium on the north side of the bridge, I guess they’ll put a ramp inside for them? If they do then a two way bike path on the north side of the bridge makes sense – how many cyclists will wait for a break in traffic to get to the south side for the eastbound path?. Extending that along 36th doesn’t seem too bad, it keeps bikes from having to wait on the north side of the street for a break in traffic just past the bridge. Sharrows to make clear to drivers that bikes are allowed on the eastbound roadway would be good though so that nobody is forced to cross the street if they aren’t coming from RI, or if they have a red light and want to take advantage of it to cross to the other side. The path would only run until the subway, so crossing the street twice to bike a few blocks would be annoying for those not coming from RI, so complince would be low, sharrows might reduce conflicts with motorists.

  • CheshireKitty

    I thought bikes are allowed on the helix ramp. If not, then there should be another ramp for them, considering the smallish size of the elevators and their already heavy use. Maybe the escalators could be “reincarnated” as ramps for bikes.

  • CheshireKitty

    Clearly, a lot more street parking has to be removed to achieve protected bike lanes, which means many more municipal parking facilities need to be constructed – which could also include bike parking. Biking is still very dangerous; bikes and cars don’t mix. Pavement markings aren’t enough – protected bike lanes, maybe including decorative planters with the barriers separating cars from bikes, are needed.

  • lop

    They are allowed on the helix. The planning documents (page 50) show the bike lane going inside, with a comment about a multipurpose escalator.

  • CheshireKitty

    Really? That would be great. Could you post the link to the planning documents?

  • lop
  • CheshireKitty

    Thanks a lot, lop. Very interesting. I wonder if they’ll ever fix those escalators – I think making them multi-use – so that bikes could use use them – is a great idea. I think those escalators have been down for over 20 years.

  • I think there needs to be signage telling pedestrians (and tourists staying at hotels in the Queens Plaza area) that the bike path between Crescent and 29th Street is not a shared greenway corridor, and that pedestrians have a very usable sidewalk five feet over. It’s frustrating to have these people ambling in and out of the bike path, but the DOT’s poor design and construction of the bike path, shared bike/ped lane after Crescent, and the bridge entrance (unnecessarily sharp turn, poor signage, etc) is by far the biggest culprit in why pedestrians seem confused by what’s going on in that area. Aside from that, it looks gorgeous over there – especially compared to what it was like five short years ago.

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