Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Steal" These Ideas to Improve Transportation in Council District 23

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    In my previous two posts, I looked at improving bicycling and parks in Council District 23. Today, I'd like to focus on improving the transportation in the district. This is one of the most difficult problems to solve, since the district is completely devoid of subway access. Access to rapid or commuter transit is through a bus/subway transfer, MTA Bus Company express bus service, or the nearby LIRR Bayside and LIRR Queens Village stations.

Improve Rapid Transit Throughout the City So The Area Benefits Long Term

    A candidate might expect some of the population of District 23 to oppose subway expansion to the district - however, part of being a leader is anticipating tomorrow's problems today and taking positions that protects your constituents' interests tomorrow. Recently the Daily News reported that as the population of the NY Metro region has exploded, the stress on transit and commuter railroads has reached a peak. Yet our city has not built a serious upgrade to transit infrastructure in some time. Of all the transit starved regions in the city, perhaps none stand out like Staten Island and Eastern Queens.

    The unfortunate reality is that there won't be a subway line to the district soon - but if the local representatives are advocates that strategically find funding and cajole the MTA to build the capacity for future expansion to our area, then one day decades from now we can talk about expansion of rapid transit to our district - and it won't be a pipe dream.


    Advocate for a 2nd Avenue subway that allows future expansion to Queens: If phase 3 and 4 of the 2nd Ave Subway are built as a four-track subway, then it could be connected to the Queens Super-Express tracks (see below) and along the Atlantic Avenue LIRR to serve Eastern and South Eastern Queens respectively. (This idea was first proposed by former MTA chairman Elliot Sander - see the image on the below right).
Phases of the Second Avenue Subway
Done right, the Second Ave Subway can serve as the backbone for a new subway to Queens.

    Advocate for the Queens Super Express: The Queens Super-Express was a bypass of the Queens Blvd line proposed by the MTA in 1968. It would have allowed faster service to Eastern Queens along the LIE or Jewel Avenue. Of course these plans died a quick death due to the fiscal crisis of the 1970's. However, building these tracks will ensure that there is better service for residents of Eastern Queens as well as better service to the transit hubs that they use (Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Jamaica).
The 1968, Super Express proposal bit.ly/1mnkwDn

    Advocate for the Lower Manhattan-Atlantic Terminal-Jamaica-JFK Rail Link as an opportunity to help develop downtown Jamaica: The JFK Rail Link was first proposed after 9/11 and would link JFK, Jamaica, Brooklyn, and the Financial District and could spur economic development. It would make getting from the LIRR Main Line to Downtown Manhattan a one-seat-ride. It would also help in the economic development of Downtown Jamaica and Brooklyn, so any councilmember pushing for this would find natural allies throughout the council and state legislature.
Link JFK, Jamaica, Downtown Brooklyn and Financial District. 

    Advocate for 24/7 City Ticket fares on LIRR: Right now, LIRR customers in Queens pay a fare well in excess of the cost of the ride. A ride from Queens Village Station to Jamaica costs $10.00 - that is not a fare most residents will be willing to pay and it far exceeds the actual cost of that trip for the LIRR. The fare structure of the LIRR subsidize riders who are traveling from further out in Long Island and penalizes city residents. There is one time of the week when taking the railroad is affordable — the weekend. On weekends, the LIRR charges a fare of $4.25 per trip using the City Ticket program. The council should see if the City Ticket program could be extended to 24/7.

Improve Express Bus Service

    Build Dedicated Bus Lanes on Queens Boulevard: The QM1, QM5, QM6, QM7, and QM8 all run down Queens Boulevard for at least part of their route and are essential to our community for the connectivity that they provide - since they provide a one-seat ride to Manhattan. Recently, as part of the 'Great Streets' Vision Zero initiative, the New York City Department of Transportation announced that it would completely transform Queens Boulevard. There will be bike lanes and pedestrian facilities along the whole length of the boulevard. The first phase of this transformation will begin this August. While improving the safety for thousands of pedestrians and cyclists is great and long overdue, there is one thing glaringly missing from these plans - and that is the complete lack of dedicated bus lanes. A dedicated bus lane would obviously speed up trips for busses that might otherwise get stuck in traffic along the Boulevard and anyone representing District 23 should make advocating for this a priority.

    Build a 34th Street Busway: Many express buses from eastern Queens travel down the 34th Street Corridor, and invariably get stuck in traffic. As my friend Jessame recently remarked, "you have a ten minute ride to Manhattan and then spend over 20 minutes getting to Macy's." A dedicated busway, which was first proposed by the DoT in 2008 would reserve space for the busses attempting to cross-town and improve the speed and travel times for riders from District 23. Unfortunately, local opposition in Manhattan killed the proposal; however, this idea would directly benefit residents of District 23 and who ever represents this district should strongly advocate for it.
Parts of 34th St would have been closed to cars (NYC DOT
Parts of 34th St would have had a dedicated bus lane (NYC DOT

Improve Local Bus Service:

    Redesign Bus Service to Queens Community College: Bus service to and from Queens Community College is too complicated - the busses that serve the campus (Q27, Q30) have to make complicated turns to serve the campus (see the image below) and the bus stop dedicated to facilitating loading/unloading of passengers is to the periphery of the campus. There are three problems with this: (1) all those turns slow down the busses; (2) it's inequitable - students who use public transportation are left on the periphery of the campus while those who drive are much closer to their classes; and (3) it is not the fastest way to load and unload passengers. Recently, the city began a complete reconstruction of the Fordham bus plaza in the Bronx to address very similar concerns. Done right, a bus plaza would speed up service, reduce the inequity between drivers and those who take transport, and beautify the campus and/or neighborhood.
    Screencap from MTA Queens Bus Map


    Fund a Study to Examine Effectiveness of Staggered Starts: Since outer-borough residents are so far away from their subway stops - the majority of bus riders ride the bus between their stop and a subway station. During the AM commute, by the time the bus reaches the midway point on many routes the bus is completely full. A friend and neighbor Corey Bearak explained to me once that the bus unions had long ago suggested deploying busses mid-route to avoid bus bunching and crowding. I think it's a great idea and ought to be studied. 

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