November 14, 2022
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“Get Buses Done”: DOT Begins Work on Northern Boulevard Bus-Priority Project and Announces Three Busways Will Be Permanent
Northern Boulevard has been a priority for both Vision Zero and MTA Queens Bus Network Redesign; the 4.6 miles of bus lanes stretching across Central Queens will serve 15,000 weekday riders
Success of busway pilots on 181st Street in Washington Heights and along Jamaica and Archer Avenues in Downtown Jamaica has led to them being made permanent, speeding commutes for 250,000 daily riders across 30 bus routes
NEW YORK — NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez today announced that work had begun this week on new bus-priority lanes along Northern Boulevard in Queens, the latest project in the Adams Administration’s continuing collaboration with the MTA to improve bus service Citywide. Simultaneously, DOT today announced that busway pilots installed during 2021 along 181st Street, in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, and along Jamaica Avenue and Archer Avenue in Queens will become permanent.
“We are working every day to achieve the Adams Administration’s ambitious commitment to deliver an unprecedented number of bus lanes,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “The changes to Northern Boulevard will not only make bus service faster and more reliable to thousands of riders, but they will also help us make this street much safer, enabling us to meet our Vision Zero goals. We understand that strong bus infrastructure is a necessity; that is why we have also made busways permanent on three critical arteries in Manhattan and Queens. We will continue collaborating with the MTA and our community partners as we tackle these important projects.”
“When buses have dedicated space on the street separated from general traffic, they move faster,” said MTA New York City Transit Senior Vice President for Buses Frank Annicaro. “And when buses move faster riders benefit and more people choose buses. The MTA is extremely pleased to be working closely with the Adams Administration to improve bus service for the millions of New Yorkers who rely on buses every day, and to attract more riders to this environmentally friendly, congestion-busting form of transportation.”
The Northern Boulevard bus-priority project will deliver 4.6 miles of bus lanes from Woodside to Corona, offering proven street improvements along a Vision Zero priority corridor. The affected bus routes – Q66, QM2, QM3, QM20, and QM32 – also connect to the M, R, and 7 subway lines with 17,000 weekday riders. The project came about through a robust public engagement process with dozens of stakeholders and community groups over the last four years. DOT has hosted an online feedback portal as well as conducted surveys at on-street pop-up sites, building on years of public outreach for safety improvements. DOT has also held three public workshops in 2018 with discussions and visioning for Capital Project and, in February 2020, DOT and State Senator Ramos solicited feedback from businesses on Northern Blvd. Most recently, DOT presented to Queens Community Board 3 this past summer.
Through public meetings, the agencies heard major concerns about Northern Blvd, including the need for faster, more reliable service, as well as better connections to local transit and bus service.
The project will compliment a suite of pedestrian safety improvements DOT previously installed along the corridor, including pedestrian islands, Lead Pedestrian Intervals, and painted curb extensions. The benefits of this design will:
- Improve bus speeds and travel times
- Prioritize public transit, a sustainable transportation mode
- Offset bus lane allows bus priority while preserving curbside uses:
- Commercial loading
- Traffic calming, pedestrian refuge (i.e. curb extensions)
- Allows buses to pass a stopped bus in the stop
- Maintain outdoor dining setups
DOT will continue the outreach process for capital improvements to Northern Boulevard with support from Borough President Donovan Richards.
DOT expects to finish the Northern Boulevard bus priority project in the spring of 2023. To date this year, DOT has completed 6.7 miles of bus lane projects. The agency just finished 1st Avenue in Manhattan last week, and is continuing work along bus-priority projects along Westchester Avenue near Pelham Bay Park Station and University Avenue north of Tremont Avenue in the Bronx.
DOT also announced its plans today to make permanent the busways along 181st Street in Washington Heights as well as along two busy streets in Downtown Jamaica: Jamaica and Archer Avenues.
The five MTA bus routes along 181st Street serve 68,000 weekday passengers, where bus riders comprise 62% - 72% of roadway users. Pre-busway average speeds were 3.7 miles per hour. After implementing the busway, speeds improved up to 32%.
The 26 unique bus routes on Jamaica Avenue and Archer Avenue connect to the E, J, and Z subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road. Due to traffic congestion and vehicular conflicts, buses along Archer Avenue previously had average speeds of 5.7 to 6.1 MPH during the afternoon rush. On Jamaica Avenue, buses moved even slower, with speeds of only 4.7 to 4.9 MPH, due to traffic congestion on heavy curb demands as a busy commercial thoroughfare. Following implementation of the busway, bus speeds along Jamaica Avenue increased up to 34%. Commuters DOT surveyed have noticed the improvements. On Jamaica Avenue, where 61% of visitors travel by bus, more than half of those surveyed said bus service has felt faster and more frequent.
The busways will be enforced by the NYPD, alongside DOT and MTA automated enforcement cameras. Now permanent, Archer Avenue’s busway will remain in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Jamaica Avenue’s busway will operate between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week. The busway along 181st Street will operate between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week. Bus lane cameras are activated on all corridors, issuing fines starting at $50 and progressively increasing to $250 for subsequent violations.
"Because my district is the home of many essential workers and commuters, we need safe and reliable public transportation. I'm proud of the work my office did to solicit input from small businesses and community members,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos. “My neighbors have been asking for improved bus service since long before I became an elected official, and it is a good feeling for all of us that our needs are being prioritized. MTA ridership and small business recovery is happening at an accelerated pace in Queens post-pandemic, and I am excited to see these improvements to a central transit artery sustain that recovery.”
“The Northern Boulevard bus-priority project will ensure that our neighbors in Woodside have access to faster, safer, and more reliable bus service,” said Council Member Julie Won. “Thousands of New Yorkers take these buses every day, and building 4.6 miles of new bus lanes along Northern Boulevard will provide more alternatives to driving and help us to create a greener city. Thank you to DOT, MTA, and Mayor Adams for prioritizing Queens riders.”
"With 9 pedestrian deaths since 2015 and an average 13 people killed per mile, Northern Boulevard has sadly become Queens' new ‘Boulevard of Death,’” said Council Member Shekar Krishnan. “Stopping these needless deaths starts with safe streets and safe, reliable transit. I applaud Commissioner Rodriguez and the Department of Transportation for launching the Northern Boulevard bus improvements, which will improve transit times for our neighbors while saving lives."
"Busways are essential democratizers of our most important public spaces," said Riders Alliance Senior Organizer Jolyse Race. "Faster bus trips restore valuable time in the lives of millions of riders, who are overwhelmingly low-income New Yorkers of color and have long endured the slowest bus service in the nation. Speeding up bus service also makes the MTA more efficient; the Citizens Budget Commission projects that 15% faster buses would save $268 million annually, money which could be invested in more frequent service for riders. Riders are grateful to the Department of Transportation for overcoming NIMBYism, getting work started on Northern Boulevard, and making the Jamaica, Archer, and 181st permanent fixtures of our cityscape. We are also eager for continued progress on the New York City Streets Plan. In order to keep Mayor Adams' promise of 150 miles of busways or bus lanes in four years, it will be essential for the administration to complete landmark projects on Fordham Road and Flatbush Avenue next year."
"New Yorkers deserve better buses, and today's announcement from Commissioner Rodriguez is welcome news for bus riders in Central Queens, Washington Heights, and Jamaica," said Danny Harris, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. "Right now, Queens Community Board 3 is ranked last out of all community boards in New York City with zero bus lanes, according to Spatial Equity NYC. This project will bring faster commutes to 15,000 people daily. We look forward to working with DOT to build more bus lanes citywide and meet the requirements of the NYC Streets Plan before the end of the year."
"Commuting in Central Queens is about to get a lot easier for 15,000 daily bus riders," said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Policy & Communications Manager Liam Blank. "Bus service along Northern Boulevard is slow and unreliable, hampered by increasing traffic congestion. The implementation of 4.6 miles of bus lanes will provide a much-needed boost to bus service. Furthermore, we're thrilled that NYCDOT is making the busways on 181st Street, Jamaica and Archer Avenues permanent, improving the lives of thousands of daily bus riders who depend on efficient and reliable bus service. We commend Mayor Adams and Commissioner Rodriguez for their commitment to bus riders, and we look forward to many more ribbon cuttings of new bus lanes throughout the five boroughs."