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Woodhaven Select Bus Service May Get Physical Separation in Some Areas

4:49 PM EDT on March 27, 2015

Image: DOT/MTA [PDF]
Cross Bay Boulevard could get a wide planted median, bus bulbs, and a road diet. Image: DOT/MTA [PDF]

After unveiling the preferred design for six miles of the Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service project earlier this week, DOT and MTA met yesterday with advocates, elected officials, and community board members to go into greater detail. The agencies are considering physical separation for bus lanes at key locations on Woodhaven, and they showed potential designs for the southern stretch of the project on Cross Bay Boulevard.

Sources who attended the meeting said DOT is looking into separating bus lanes with flexible posts, small "armadillo" bollards, or a mountable curb like the one installed on a block of the Sands Street bike lane.

Select Bus Service would run on the Q52 and Q53 lines. Click to enlarge. Map: DOT/MTA [PDF].
Select Bus Service would run on the Q52 and Q53 lines. Click to enlarge. Map: DOT/MTA [PDF].

Camera enforcement could also keep drivers out of the bus lane, but bus cams on Woodhaven will require state legislation. Either way, it appears DOT is interested in more than just cameras. "[DOT staff] seem to recognize that they can't count on photo enforcement, even with legislation authorizing it," said Glendale resident Toby Sheppard Bloch, who went to yesterday's meeting. "They said that they don't think paint is good enough."

The agency confirmed that it is looking at some type of separation for bus lanes on Woodhaven, and its presentation yesterday [PDF] shows a variety of barriers and rumble strips as options.

The presentation also shows how DOT would redesign the Cross Bay Boulevard section of the project (Woodhaven turns into Cross Bay south of Liberty Avenue). The Cross Bay designs call for dedicated bus lanes between the parking lane and general traffic lanes, which is a typical configuration on other SBS routes. The designs would also expand the center median, currently six feet wide, and add trees.

"They put a pretty heavy emphasis on placemaking, on making the boulevard more attractive," Bloch said of DOT's presentation.

One option would maintain three car lanes in each direction, creating space for dedicated bus lanes and a slightly wider median by narrowing the general traffic lanes. The better option would add bus lanes while trimming the general traffic lanes to two in each direction. In this scenario, the median would be up to 22 feet wide at some crossings and 12 feet wide at crossings with left-turn pockets.

DOT estimates the project will improve bus speeds in the peak direction 28 percent along the length of the corridor. Drivers would also see faster trips due to better traffic organization and signal timing.

Woodhaven Boulevard has two choke points where the boulevard squeezes onto bridges. On the flyover above Atlantic Avenue, DOT will convert a general lane in each direction to dedicated lanes for SBS buses, while local buses will take the at-grade service road, where riders can make a more direct connection to the Q24 bus on Atlantic Avenue (riders can still walk to Atlantic from the nearest SBS stop). To the north, bus lanes will disappear where Woodhaven crosses over a railroad between Union Turnpike and Metropolitan Avenue. Instead, DOT will likely add signals so buses can get a head-start on traffic crossing the bridge.

A typical intersection design proposed for Woodhaven Boulevard. Image: DOT/MTA [PDF]
A typical intersection design proposed for Woodhaven Boulevard. Image: DOT/MTA [PDF]

In all, there will be more than six miles of dedicated bus lanes covering the central sections of Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard. There are no bus lanes planned north of Queens Boulevard, or south across Jamaica Bay and in the Rockaways.

An extension of the Q52 bus to Far Rockaway, a longtime request of residents and elected officials there, could be part of the SBS plan. The MTA says it is reviewing ridership data and travel survey data before making a final decision.

The plan has broad support from City Council members. While opposition to the removal of car lanes has stirred State Senator Joe Addabbo Jr. and Queens Community Board 6, which both sent representatives to yesterday's gathering, advocates said there wasn't any vitriolic opposition at the meeting.

"It was a good conversation. DOT definitely thought about a lot of this stuff," said Straphangers Campaign coordinator Cate Contino. Advocates still want to see more from DOT, Contino said, such as maximum physical separation of bus lanes from car traffic and safe, comfortable bus stops.

DOT and MTA are hosting four workshops over two weeks, starting in the middle of April, to go over block-by-block designs with the public [PDF]. DOT anticipates finalizing the street design by this summer before handing it off to the Department of Design and Construction for finishing touches and engineering work. DOT said it hopes to have shovels in the ground beginning in 2017.

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