|D.O.T Commissioner Gutman: Asshole|
A “Better Buses” busway pilot will continue on schedule in Downtown Jamaica despite backlash from a previous initiative on Merrick Boulevard that was implemented last year and led to a recent modification of bus enforcement times as a result of a petition and complaints from community leaders and elected officials.
“I saw [the announcement],” said Candace Prince-Modeste, the Southeast Queens activist who created a Change.org petition for a modified enforcement period of the bus lane on Merrick Boulevard. “It feels like they’ve moved onto the next project without fully bringing the Merrick one to a resolution. And I don’t believe that enough residents are aware of these proposed changes to the Downtown area.”
The city’s Department of Transportation, however, said it launched a community outreach process with a series of open houses and nearly 20 events with community advisory board to gather feedback on its proposal throughout 2020 and 2021, according to the Sept. 15 announcement.
Prince-Modeste’s “Demand Rush Hour Only Bus Lanes on Merrick” petition, has 875 signatures out of its target goal of 1,000 as of Sept. 16 and brought enough attention to the Springfield Gardens and surrounding Southeast area of the bus lane that elected officials have chosen not to support similar changes in Downtown Jamaica on Jamaica and Archer avenues and the DOT modified its 24/7 bus lane enforcement, which led to excessive ticketing and lack of foot traffic to small businesses in the area. Instead, there will be a 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. enforcement period.
“Despite vocal opposition from the Southeast Queens community against the Merrick Boulevard bus lane, the DOT implemented it anyway,” said Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) to the Chronicle via email. “The agency has once again ignored the voices of our community, leading to numerous issues and worsening traffic conditions along this busy corridor.”
Adams also feels that the DOT should have addressed problems with poor street lighting, ill-fitted two-way streets in dire need of one-way conversion and washed out or missing street signs throughout City Council District 28 and surrounding districts first.
“Therefore, I must oppose the new busway pilots on Jamaica Avenue and Archer Avenue,” said Adams. “Until the DOT can truly address our community’s concerns, we stand against this ill-advised pilot program.”
The DOT, however, said that is committed to installing new and improved bus lanes by fall to improve bus speeds for thousands of riders in Southeast Queens.
“Keeping New Yorkers moving is essential to getting our friends and neighbors back to work as New York City’s recovery continues, and these new busways will speed the commutes of 250,000 daily riders through downtown Jamaica,” said DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman in a prepared statement.
Drivers who find themselves behind or ahead of the Q4, Q5, Q84, N4 or the N4X buses on Merrick Boulevard between Hillside Avenue and Springfield Boulevard have a 60-day warning period for bus lane violations starting Sept. 21.
The specified bus lanes are a part of Mayor de Blasio’s Better Buses initiative to improve bus speeds by expanding automated camera enforcement, according to the city Department of Transportation.
Initially, the DOT intended on having 24/7 enforcement, but after pushback from the Community Advisory Board and members who live along the Southeast Queens area, the hours were adjusted to 6 a.m. to 7 p.m Monday to Friday, according to the agency. With the activation of bus lane cameras, the mayor’s 30th Better Buses corridor will have signage indicating that the bus lanes are camera-enforced to inform drivers about the program. Since violations will be issued against the vehicle, not the driver, points are not added to motorists’ licenses.
However, a single violation will cost drivers $50 and fines will increase for bus lane violations incurred in a single year to upwards of $250 after a fifth offense, according to the agency. The DOT will work with the NYPD to enforce bus lanes citywide and will add additional camera-enforced routes over time.
”Community residents and I remain up in arms about DOT’s woefully inadequate efforts and blatant disregard for course correction,” said state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). “DOT’s wrongheaded policy has made it nigh impossible for a full flow of traffic along Merrick Boulevard particularly between Baisley Boulevard and Liberty Avenue where there are illegally long-term parked vehicles stored by auto body and repair shops.”
Comrie said that he understands that the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists are paramount, but he finds the measure to be unnecessarily punitive and that it fails to reimagine public transit granularly.
drivers and anyone trying to travel along the corridor are frustrated
at the now lengthy time that it takes to get from one point to the next
because of this unwanted restriction,” said Comrie. “Despite the
adjustments made after the recently conducted review of the 24/7 Merrick
Boulevard bus lane, DOT has still not made a reasonable move to peak
hour traffic enforcement as suggested by many local advocates. It is
truly unfair to residential drivers to have to suffer through
overreaching enforcement when the bad actors are not being regulated