THE COMMUTE: Last Thursday, I attended the first of three Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) / Select Bus Service (SBS) Woodhaven / Cross Bay Boulevard workshops and asked a Department of Transportation (DOT) consultant a few simple questions, including: “Your report states that cars will maintain a ‘reasonable speed.’ What is a ‘reasonable speed’?” He said he would have to find out. Then he asked me what the current speed limit is and replied, “Well I guess that would be a reasonable speed.” So does that mean that cars will be able to travel on Woodhaven Boulevard at the speed limit during peak hours after SBS when they can’t do that now? I don’t think so. He is involved in the planning process for DOT and has to ask me what the speed limit is? Is this why we pay consultants?
I also asked why it was decided to use a six-year period for the purposes of disclosing the numbers of road fatalities. When and if they would release the results of the MTA transit forecasting model. Where it is written that it is MTA policy to allow passengers with SBS receipts to board local buses if the SBS bus does not arrive. All these questions were responded to with an “I don’t know. I will have to find out.”
When I asked why B15 riders will not be able to use the Q52 or Q53 SBS when coming from or going to JFK Airport, I was referred by the MTA to their “bus expert” who was not familiar with the B15 bus route and didn’t think of bringing a bus map with him. The answer again: “We will find out.”
I asked if local bus riders will be able to transfer to the SBS and then to a train or bus. I was told that it was not MTA policy. So then I asked why local S78 riders in Staten Island are able to transfer to the S79 SBS and then again to the B1 for a single fare. I was told that it was a special deal that was worked out for those riders. Has our fare system evolved into a series of special deals that are not even publicized anywhere, like the one where you can transfer from the B11 to the B6 and then to a third bus route for one fare, or the B61 to the B62 and a third bus? The MTA official also told me that the fare was the last thing they were going to worry about. Well, it is the first thing that passengers worry about.
I was also told that no one from the MTA’s Operations Planning was in attendance, which is a crucial department involved in SBS planning. These workshops were supposed to answer questions from the public. Yet the easiest of questions could not be answered. What if I asked more difficult ones, such as what the additional $200 million for BRT is being spent on that we were not getting with the $28 million SBS plan. These workshops are nothing but a charade in public participation, as is the entire SBS process.
The Queens Chronicle has taken a position against Woodhaven BRT. You can read more of what I have to say on the topic here. I learned at last week’s workshop that the first half of the sentence in my explanation for Myth #8 is incorrect. That is because the diagram shown on page 24 of the MTA’s March 26th report was incorrect. It showed a continuous bus lane from Queens Boulevard to Rockaway Boulevard, when there will be two breaks where Woodhaven crosses the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Main Line and Montauk Line. However, since two general traffic lanes on Cross Bay Boulevard with a dedicated left turn lane is being considered as an option, three general traffic lanes throughout the corridor may still be a myth.
When I informed the DOT/MTA of their error, their comment was “It’s only a diagram.” Are we supposed to trust these people to accurately analyze computer models when they can’t accurately draw a diagram, correctly measure the width of a street or maintain pavement markings? They have already revised their initial estimate of one year for construction, to 18 months. Here is the position of five members of the City Council on SBS. It appeared side by side with my position. You decide who makes a more compelling case.
On The Home Front
I first asked our elected officials to hold a series of town hall meetings last December so we can get some real answers from the MTA and DOT regarding bus and train service, as well as the condition of the roads, right here in our neighborhood. The first meeting would be to ask questions and the second one is where they would come back with some real answers. The MTA needs to be more responsive.
One question would be how much longer will we have to wait for the B44 SBS first year assessment review, which is now almost five months late.
Now that spring is here and more people are likely to attend a town hall, which one of our elected officials will step up to the plate? Anyone?
The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).
Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work. Their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at]sheepsheadbites [dot]com.