Busways planned for Flushing’s Main Street corridor will finally be implemented after months of delay and pushback from local business leaders in northeast Queens.
A letter sent Friday to Queens Community Board 7 informs the advisory entity that the city Department of Transportation is pushing ahead with the plan to prioritize buses in the already transit heavy corridor with the next two weeks and will follow-up with more feedback near the end of November.
“We are writing to provide the group with an update on implementation. After completing some additional reviews and outreach, NYC DOT plans to start implementation in the next two weeks for the Main Street Busway. This work will include street marking changes, sign installations as well as parking mitigations,” the letter from Andrew Arcese, borough planner at DOT, stated.
The Flushing Chinese Business Association and Randall Eng, an attorney and retired judge representing the group, have opposed the busway plan based on the claim that the majority of shoppers hitting storefronts throughout the bustling, congestion-choked business district come by personal auto.
According to Eng, they fear motorists may forego shopping in the area altogether due to the number of detours that will be required during the hours the corridor is exclusive to buses operated by New York City Transit.
These business advocates found an ally in Councilman Peter Koo, who, to the criticism of some, coined the term “business lives matter” at an event over the summer. He later issued an apology.
“We asked the DOT to delay the implementation of the busway while our community continues to suffer disproportionately from the pandemic, however we recently received confirmation that the DOT has decided to implement the busway over our community’s objections,” Koo said. “
DOT has ultimately chosen to prioritize 155,000 bus riders who pass through the interchange of 11 bus routes as well as connections to the 7 train and the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington line.
The average bus speed through this zone, however, has been logged at about five miles per hour during weekdays. Similar conditions have been found in other sections of the city such as 14th Street where there is now a successful busway and Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood, Queens where DOT installed bus lanes in 2019.
Both proposals were fought tooth and nail by business leaders in respective areas.
The section of Main Street between Sanford Avenue and Northern Boulevard has been under a constant state of transformation for a number of years that place heavy emphasis on mass transit users. In October 2018, the MTA finished up on modernization of the LIRR’s Flushing – Main Street station which was part of a $5.6 billion modernization effort across the commuter line network.
The station renovation coincided with the development of a new affordable housing complex adjacent to the station, a pet project of the late Borough President Claire Schulman who had hoped that the proximity of the two would mean future Flushing residents would be less car dependent.
Throughout 2016 and 2017, DOT invested $7 million and began widening sidewalks on Main Street as increasingly crowded conditions made the need apparent.