Eric Ulrich Flip-Flops on Woodhaven Boulevard Redesign

After coming out strong for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard, City Council Member Eric Ulrich has done a 180.

Eric Ulrich
Eric Ulrich

“The plan that they proposed, it stinks,” Ulrich told the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, according to the Queens Chronicle. “I don’t think it’s good. I think we have to go back to the drawing board.”

The Woodhaven redesign, which calls for dedicated bus lanes and pedestrian safety infrastructure, enjoys widespread support from elected officials — a roster that once included Eric Ulrich. In April 2014 Ulrich and Joan Byron co-authored an op-ed for the Daily News that called for “world-class” bus rapid transit on Woodhaven, with dedicated lanes and signal priority:

Taking this opportunity to incorporate even more advanced Bus Rapid Transit features will benefit not only those who ride the Q52/Q53, but everyone who drives, walks or rides on this congested and dangerous artery.

Later that year Ulrich told Streetsblog that something has to be done on Woodhaven to prevent traffic deaths and injuries, because “whatever we’re doing now obviously isn’t working.”

So what happened?

Well, the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, which Ulrich was addressing, has been raising a stink about the project for all the usual reasons — that it will slow down traffic and divert motorists to side streets.

According to the Queens Chronicle, Ulrich said he became disillusioned with the plan in part because it would eliminate left turns at Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue. But the left-turn ban helps achieve two goals Ulrich said he supported: faster buses and fewer injuries. It lets buses proceed without waiting for left-turning drivers, and it prevents conflicts between turning drivers and people crossing the street.

At the intersection with Jamaica, 38 traffic crashes resulted in 52 injuries and two fatalities from July 2012 to December 2014, according to Transportation Alternatives.

TA found that more people lost their lives on Woodhaven from 2011 to 2013 than on any other Queens street. A major benefit of the Woodhaven SBS will be physical improvements, like pedestrian islands, to prevent injuries and save lives.

Instead of helping his constituents understand how the redesign will improve transit and pedestrian safety, Ulrich is folding under the pressure and pointing fingers at DOT. Per the Chronicle:

“Now they’re under attack in all the newspapers and they’re coming to me and I said, ‘Why are you calling me? I told you about these things a year ago and you didn’t listen to me,’” he said. “It doesn’t happen from the top down, it has to happen from the bottom up. I think they’re starting to realize that now, which is why they delayed the implementation of the SBS.”

Back to that op-ed, which lauded DOT and plugged an upcoming workshop:

DOT’s planners have learned to listen to local concerns, problem-solve alongside stakeholders, and come up with customized solutions that respect each neighborhood’s unique challenges and character.

Years’ of engagement with residents, community boards and elected officials in the Congested Corridors Study has laid the foundation for the bold approach that the agencies now need to bring to bus planning. The April 23 workshop is an opportunity for everyone who cares about safety, mobility, and our community’s quality of life to demand the world-class Bus Rapid Transit system we need.

Back then, Ulrich said it was “imperative” to “improve [bus] speed, safety and the riding experience.” But now it seems what he’s really interested in is preserving the status quo.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Ulrich Back on Board With Woodhaven SBS After DOT Waters Down Turn Bans

|
DOT has halved the number of left-turn restrictions and cut about a mile of bus lanes from its plan to enhance bus service on Woodhaven Boulevard. The changes will dampen the expected improvements in bus speeds and pedestrian safety but have won over Council Member Eric Ulrich, who’s back on board supporting Woodhaven Select Bus Service. Most of the street […]

First Look: Woodhaven BRT Could Set New Standard for NYC Busways

|
NYC DOT and the MTA have developed three design concepts for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard in southeast Queens, and two of them go further than previous SBS routes to keep cars from slowing down buses [PDF]. All of the options include some measures to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians […]

A 90-Second Appeal to Fix Woodhaven Boulevard With BRT

|
The BRT for NYC coalition recently released this short video that succinctly makes the case for change on Woodhaven Boulevard in southeast Queens. If you haven’t personally experienced Woodhaven as a pedestrian or bus rider, it’s a good introduction to what’s at stake as NYC DOT and the MTA move forward with a project to […]
The new center roadway bus lane and SBS station on Woodhaven Boulevard just south of Jamaica Avenue. Photo: David Meyer

Select Bus Service Launches on Woodhaven Boulevard

|
Select Bus Service is live on Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard in Queens. As of Sunday, the SBS package - off-board fare collection, camera-enforced bus lanes, and other transit-priority treatments - is speeding trips for tens of thousands of people who ride the Q52 and Q53 each day.