Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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Advocates Envision 'World-Class' Bus System on Woodhaven Boulevard

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As one of the busiest streets in Queens gets set for boosts to bus service, local politicians and transit advocates are pushing a plan that's taken root in other parts of the world. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

With six lanes of traffic divided by a median, Woodhaven Boulevard offers Queens bus riders a unique opportunity.

It's one unlike what exists on seven Select Bus Service lines in the four other boroughs, where riders can get speedier service by paying fares in advance and boarding from any entrance onto buses that make fewer stops.

"Bus Rapid Transit is like Select Bus Service-plus, and it can happen on Woodhaven Boulevard because of the nature of the street," said John Raskin, executive director of Riders Alliance.

That's where officials are studying how to improve service on the Q52 and Q53, lines that serve more 20,000 riders on weekdays while running between northern Queens and the Rockaways.

Transit advocates and City Councilman Donovan Richards envision what they call a "world-class" bus rapid transit system. They say it would be similar to ones set up in Brazilian and Colombian cities, with protected bus-only lanes and a center median for stations along busy streets.

"Why not have the whole pie this time instead of half the pie?" Richards said. "We have an opportunity to give them not just a slice of good transportation, but the whole pie."

"Everywhere else has got SBS or improved transportation, so I'm excited that it's about time that our needs are getting met," said Stephanie Veras, a member of Riders Alliance.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city Department of Transportation say they're committed to a series of improvements along Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards. Whether those include placing stations on the median or having bus-only lanes separated by the median, that's all still up for discussion.

Riders on the Q52 and Q53 say they'd welcome whatever eases the commute and congestion.

"Anything to make it better. Most definitely," said one rider.

"On occasions, I have seen, like, say during rush hour, it does get pretty crowded here," said another.

Whatever form the improvements take, they're not going to happen overnight. The current target date for full implementation of Select Bus Service, according to the MTA, is 2017.

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