The plan, unveiled by the MTA and Department of Transportation last March, calls for a number of renovations along the corridor, long cited as among the city’s most chronically congested for drivers and hazardous for pedestrians.
The most ambitious change is implementation of SBS, which would put exclusive lanes for the Q52 and Q53 buses on the main roadway. Other redesign proposals include implementing curbside payment for bus riders, more turning restrictions for drivers and new, landscaped pedestrian medians.
The DOT said the redesign could greatly reduce bus travel times for the 30,000 people who use the corridor’s buses daily, as well as increase pedestrian safety in the area, which had 37 pedestrian casualties from 2009 to 2013.
“We think Woodhaven Boulevard can really be improved,” said Eric Beaton, director of Transit Development at DOT, at Thursday’s meeting at PS 306. “Woodhaven Boulevard is one of the most dangerous streets in Queens, so we think a redesign would be safer for everybody. The need to improve services for buses, as well as the need to improve traffic flow and safety on the street, are really what came together for this project.”
At Thursday’s meeting, in which residents broke off into small groups to discuss the plans with MTA and DOT officials, most seemed supportive of the overall initiative to decrease commute times, even if many voiced concerns with specific logistics of the plan, a number of which they said failed to take into account the volume and commuting patterns of the masses who depend on the roadway.
Shanna Best, an Ozone Park resident who attended the workshop with her husband and two young children, said her biggest qualm with the project was the planned elimination of express service at the Atlantic Avenue stop on the Woodhaven route, where she catches the Q53 bus to get to her job in Harlem every morning.
“If you eliminate that bus stop, that’s only going to move huge crowds to the closest express stop,” she said. “That bus stop is very much needed. It doesn’t make sense. That would really affect me and my whole community. They need to think this through a lot.”
The current plan would have local bus service stop at Atlantic Avenue, while the SBS route would stop at 91st and 101st avenues, perhaps the most significant public transit reroute in the plan.
Stephanie Veras, 20, said she agreed that the elimination of the Atlantic Avenue stop could create problems.
“It’s a hub spot,” she said. “You have a lot of students there, a lot of schools that depend on Atlantic Avenue”
She also voiced concerns with new restricted turns that would be implemented along Jamaica Avenue.
“That’s going to put a lot of people out of their way,” she said.
Beaton said that plans for the project were still first drafts, and that community input for specific changes could be implemented into the final plans for the redesign.
“We’re going to go back and take a look at all the comments we got,” he said. “The goal is to really incorporate the feedback we’re getting here tonight.”
Phil McManus, chairman of the Queens Public Transit Committee, which has staunchly opposed the redesign since its beginning, said it didn’t make sense to take away a lane of all-vehicle traffic on the corridor.
“Don’t mess around with Woodhaven Boulevard,” he said, as he and other committee members protested outside the workshops. “They’re already getting rid of travel lanes as we speak.”
Tom Carmody, who lives across the street from P.S. 306, said that he’d happened upon the workshops with no knowledge of the project, but thus far he thought it was a solid idea.
“I came in here thinking change is bad, of course, everyone thinks that way,” he said. “But I do know Woodhaven is not safe, for pedestrians or drivers. Drivers are dangerous, pedestrians are stupid, and I’m both a driver and a pedestrian. I haven’t done my homework yet, but so far I’m convinced these are good ideas.”
The DOT plans to host three more workshops over the next two weeks in neighborhoods affected by the proposed changes.