Joe Addabbo Tells Voters to Fight Bus Lanes on Street Where He Drives Daily
The overhaul of Woodhaven Boulevard in southeast Queens promises to make buses faster and more reliable while preventing injuries and deaths on one of the most dangerous streets in the city. Naturally, State Senator Joseph Addabbo is mobilizing constituents to oppose the project and keep Woodhaven the way it is.
Addabbo has been agitating against the project most of the year, writing in the Queens Chronicle this April that “[r]ush-hour traffic would suffer significantly and, as someone who sits on that roadway every day during those times, I shudder to think it could get worse.”
In an email to constituents yesterday, Addabbo rattled off the typical litany of horrors you hear any time the city proposes repurposing street space from cars to other modes of travel: intolerable congestion, traffic diverted to other streets, plummeting sales for local business, and, somehow, even more danger for people on foot.
Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard have such a high rate of traffic injuries and fatalities because the current design is geared only toward moving as many cars as possible. On some stretches, the street is wider than 150 feet. As a result, speeding is rampant and people get hurt on a daily basis. From July 2012 to December 2014, eight people were killed in crashes along the proposed BRT route, and 1,432 were injured, according to city stats compiled by Transportation Alternatives.
The Woodhaven BRT design concept calls for pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances. The reduction in general traffic lanes and left turns to make room for dedicated bus lanes, spun as a negative by Addabbo, is expected to yield substantial safety benefits, as fewer drivers weave dangerously across lanes and try to shoot through gaps in oncoming traffic to turn left.
For the 30,000 passengers who ride the bus on Woodhaven and Cross Bay daily, trips are projected to get 25 to 35 percent faster, according to DOT and the MTA. Prior experience with SBS projects suggests this will be good for local businesses. On Fordham Road in the Bronx, bus ridership increased 10 percent and retail sales shot up 71 percent after the implementation of SBS.
In opposing the Woodhaven project, Addabbo is bucking the political consensus on the City Council. Earlier this year, seven council members called on DOT and the MTA to consider “full-featured BRT” on Woodhaven and Cross Bay. Among the signatories was Eric Ulrich, who holds the council seat that Addabbo vacated.
DOT and the MTA have been hosting workshops about the project since last year and will be launching a fresh round of public meetings this fall. Construction is currently scheduled to begin in 2017.
Here’s the full message from Addabbo’s office telling his constituents to oppose the project:
ADDABBO URGES RESIDENTS TO SUBMIT COMMENTS ON SBS PROPOSAL
Howard Beach, NY (November 2, 2015) As the city Department of Transportation (DOT) prepares to hold a series of town hall meetings regarding its proposal to bring Select Bus Service (SBS) to Woodhaven-Cross Bay Boulevard, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. is reminding residents of the importance of attending the meetings and submitting input about the project.
After much opposition to the proposal from the public and elected officials, DOT is set to begin holding public meetings this fall to collect comments about the SBS plan, which currently seeks to remove a lane of traffic from Woodhaven-Cross Bay Boulevard in both directions in order to create a ‘Bus Only’ lane for the Q52 and Q53 routes and place pedestrians waiting for a bus on the median. The Senator contends that this plan would ultimately add unnecessary congestion to a main thoroughfare that is already extremely overcrowded and would place pedestrians at serious risk, as they would be forced to cross an active roadway in a limited time in order to board the bus from the median.
“Long after DOT has decided whether to implement this plan in our neighborhoods and move on, we are left behind to deal with the outcome, whether it be good or bad,” said Addabbo. “It is crucial that we help the agency make an informed decision by providing as much input as possible before any plans are set in stone. You may think your opinion does not matter, but in this case, it could not be more important. I encourage all my constituents to take advantage of these town hall meetings, contact DOT and submit your questions and concerns while you still have the chance.”
Since the proposal was first announced, Addabbo has raised several concerns about the project with city officials, even organizing a bus tour of the route with DOT and MTA staff in August to show them first-hand some of the major problems that would be brought about by the proposed changes. The Senator has continuously encouraged both residents and city agencies to consider the interest of five key categories that would be affected by the implementation of SBS: bus riders, car drivers, pedestrians, local businesses, and residential side streets.
“This plan would affect more than just the straphangers who ride the buses or the motorists who drive behind them,” Addabbo said. “It would put pedestrians in harm’s way by moving bus stops to medians along an extremely busy Woodhaven-Cross Bay Boulevard. The removal of left turns onto major commercial roadways, such as Jamaica and Liberty Avenues, would hinder the success of local businesses located on these streets as drivers would no longer be able to access them easily. Residential streets would become busier than ever as drivers — including delivery trucks — begin to use side streets to avoid the increased congestion on the main road as a result of removing a lane of traffic. This plan would have consequences to everyone in the community, and it is important that we voice our concerns immediately.”
Addabbo intends to inform the residents of when the DOT town hall meetings will take place as soon as the dates become available. In the meantime, the Senator is encouraging residents to frequently check DOT’s website for information about the SBS proposal.