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Installation of New Main Street Busway Will Begin Next Month: DOT

Main Street, Flushing (DOT).

Oct. 26, 2020 By Michael Dorgan

The Department of Transportation has officially announced that its pilot plan to convert Main Street into a busway will begin next month.

The new busway, which the MTA says will speed up bus service, will run 0.6 miles along Main Street– from Northern Boulevard to Sanford Avenue. The busway is a pilot program that will be in effect for one year.

The DOT said it will start putting down new street markings and install signage in two weeks time but didn’t reveal when the changes would be completed.

The agency said the layout will improve slow and unpredictable bus speeds for the 155,000 people who use the Main Street bus route every day. Main Street provides a connection to the 7 train and the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington line.

“This pilot is meant to tackle the problem of traffic congestion in a collaborative way while maintaining local access, with the well-being of businesses as a prime consideration,” the DOT said in a statement Monday.

Council Member Peter Koo, who has opposed the project since it was first announced in June, said today that the project will inflict further damage to a community that is already suffering disproportionally under COVID-19 restrictions.

Koo has said the plan would add to the congestion on nearby streets, which would be magnified if restaurants are using street space for outdoor dining.

“This is the wrong plan at the wrong time and could be the dagger in the heart of what was once a vibrant Flushing community,” Koo said in a statement Monday.

“The mayor has described his efforts to create this busway as an ‘urgent need,’ but he is content to ignore so many other pressing issues our community faces every day such as rising unemployment, shuttered businesses, and countless illegal street vendors overwhelming our streets who sell everything from potato peelers to parasite-filled live crabs right off the sidewalk,” Koo said.

The city plans to ban cars on Main Street from Northern Boulevard to Sanford Avenue and along a portion of Kissena Boulevard.

Only buses, trucks, and emergency vehicles would be permitted to use the Main Street busway, according to the plans. Passenger vehicles would only be permitted to use the busway for garage access and for pick-up or drop-off.

Many business owners fear that if people have difficulty driving in the area they will shop elsewhere.

On Sept. 25, the Flushing Chinese Business Association, which has nearly 1,500 members from the Flushing community, called on the MTA and DOT to postpone the installation of the busway by a month in order for the group to inform business owners about the plan and solicit feedback.

The association said last month that the outreach meetings were inadequate.

The DOT wrote to Queens Community Board 7 Friday announcing that construction was about to begin and that it had conducted additional outreach.

The agency also asked Queens Community Board 7 to convene a Community Advisory Board meeting in late November to discuss feedback on the project.

Fact sheets about the project can be viewed in English, Chinese, Korean, and Spanish.

“Better Buses” – Main Street Busway Pilot. (MTA and DOT)

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Larry Penner

Something even more important is still missing. Everyone has forgotten about the need for a new downtown Flushing Queens Intermodal Bus Terminal. There was seed money in the previous New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority $32 billion 2015 – 2019 Capital Plan to look into the possibility of the long forgotten Flushing Bus Terminal, which closed in 1954. It was originally located adjacent to the corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue near the old Woolworth Department store. To date, there is no indication that these dollars have been spent. This need has been previously documented in planning studies going back to the 1960’s. Construction of a Flushing intermodal bus terminal could facilitate a smoother transfer between bus and subway. In the early 1960’s Flushing Municipal Parking Lot 1 was thought of for construction of an intermodal bus terminal. This facility would take hundreds of buses off the surrounding streets, where they discharge and pick up riders. For 56 years, generations of public officials, on a bipartisan basis, have failed to secure any funding necessary to support environmental review, design, engineering and construction of this badly needed transportation improvement.

From the 1960s to today, there has been an explosion in the number of commuters riding buses to Flushing and transferring to the subway. This has been complimented by a huge growth of commercial businesses accompanied by the demolition of homes to support construction of apartment houses and multi family homes in the surrounding neighborhood. Just walk in any direction from the corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue in downtown Flushing and see for yourself. Buses traveling to, from and thru downtown Flushing move at slow speeds due to excess traffic not only during rush hour but also off peak. This results in a longer commute for riders and periodic bunching of buses on many routes.

Construction of a climate controlled intermodal bus terminal could assist in improving traffic and pedestrian circulation in and around the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue along with the rest of downtown Flushing. Over 60,000 rush hour New York City Transit #7 subway riders and thousands more off peak would be protected from heat, cold, rain, snow and winds. There could be a smoother transfer between the bus and subway. Opportunities would still be available for air rights above the bus terminal for parking, joint development of retail, office and/or residential units, including affordable housing.

How disappointing that no elected official has ever stepped forward to honor this commitment from decades ago. Diogenes is still looking for any NY MTA board member or public official to add this project to the MTA’s current $51 billion 2020 – 2024 Capital Plan.

In the interim, a short term improvement could be construction of bus holding lights at bus stops. This would assist riders transferring from subway to bus when a train arrives several minutes after scheduled bus departures. Missing a bus by a minute or two during off peak hours (when buses operate with longer intervals) is frustrating to riders. Why not also invest in installation of bus holding lights at other major bus to subway transfer connections as well?

(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Bus, NYC Department of Transportation along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ)

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Ralph

Unless we start knocking down buildings, the street is going to remain the same size; which is the main problem when it comes to traffic. Trying to divvy up the limited street size for usage for of buses over cars is a short term solution at best. As the population of queens generally increases, so too will ridership demands. How many more buses can our streets accommodate? What I think should be done is to explore a monorail solution along Main Street to off load some of that commuter pressure. A monorail system is relatively easy to build and can dovetail into and augment the pre-existing MTA system already in place. Moreover, since a monorail glides overhead, it won’t have to worry about traffic jams, nor would it impact the already packed streets below.

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