City Council Members Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale Village, South Ozone Park) and Robert Holden (R-Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodside, Woodhaven), along with about 15 residents lashed out at last night at city and MTA officials over the Select Bus Service.
The issue was the main topic at the monthly Queens Borough Board meeting at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, which brings the borough’s community boards and elected officials together.
Around 40 people attended the meeting, although Brough President Melinda Katz was not in attendance. In her stead was Deputy Borough President Melva Miller, who moderated the meeting.
The Select Bus Service (SBS) program started in 2008 to expedite bus travel for riders. The SBS also takes away some local much need parking along commercial thoroughfares
The city’s Department of Transportation and the MTA argue the SBS provides a better service to commuters in transit-starved neighborhoods.
Since its beginning, over 330,000 residents have taken the service throughout the boroughs. In Queens, over 70,000 residents have taken the four Select Bus Service routes: the M60, Q44, Q70, and Q52/53.
Officials last night documented a few results of current services, such as improved speeds and higher customer satisfaction. In addition, both agencies are looking to add more SBS routes in Queens with a few potential areas in mind, such as Hillside Avenue route, a route to John F. Kennedy airport, and a downtown Brooklyn to Ridgewood route.
The latest route, the Q52/Q53 SBS, was launched on November 12 with over 30,000 people reportedly take this route each day. The 14-mile path begins in Woodside and ends in the Rockaways.
“Thus far, while it’s still very early, we have been seeing positive benefits for bus travel. We’ve also been very closely monitoring impacts on traffic. It does seem to have very little impact on traffic because of these changes,” said DOT Project Manager of the SBS Plan Jessica Kuo.
But Adams and several residents pushed back about both the rollout and the SBS service.
“We are paying the price for the buses in the district. It’s really no service for southeastern Queens riders,” said Adams, highlighting what she saw – low ridership on Q44 buses and a “tremendous volume” of congested traffic in her district.
A few residents expressed concerns over left hand turns being banned to accommodate the SBS routes.
DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia acknowledged these concerns and said a few left turns were restored.
“We did go out very aggressively and ban left turns,” said Garcia. “Then all the boards held our feet to the fire.”
Holden brought up how several of his constituents called him with complaints about the SBS. He asked if officials would consider shutting down the service for the weekends.
“It’s not outside the realm of possibility. This just launched, and we want to give a chance,” Garcia said.
The next meeting of the Queens Borough Board is February 13 at the Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens Hill.