Faster bus service considered for Queens’ Woodhaven Boulevard

The faster bus routes the city and MTA has rolled out over the past three years have sped up service, but were unlike the “true” bus rapid transit systems other cities have put on their streets.

But transit officials have been planning to create such a route along Queens’ Woodhaven Boulevard that would be unlike any Select Bus Service installed so far.

The congested Woodhaven/Cross Bay boulevards corridor, which sees 30,000 bus riders a day, could have a physically separate center lane for buses to zip through the borough’s major north-south road.

Transit advocates will join Councilman Donovan Richards of eastern Queens Tuesday at City Hall to show support for the project.

“Making a full-featured bus rapid transit plan certainly benefits us on a bigger scale” Richards said. On Select Bus Service routes, he said, it is “still much easier for cars to drive into those particular lanes.”

The city’s Department of Transportation has been going to the Queens communities along the route to pitch residents on improvements to Woodhaven Boulevard.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg over the summer said the multi-lane road seems to be a good candidate for a full bus rapid transit service. The cost could be could cost closer to $200 million she said at the time, as opposed to the tens of millions of dollars to put in a Select Bus route with a bus lane and off-board fare payment.

Joan Byron, policy director at the Pratt Center for Community Development, estimated that a fuller bus rapid transit route on Woodhaven Boulevard could boost travel speeds up to 30% over a regular bus.”The DOT is, I think, rightly being really thoughtful about Woodhaven and wanting to really do it right,” she told amNewYork in August. “We all want this to work. We’re starting to see communities and elected officials clamoring for this and saying why don’t I have one?”

Bus rapid transit systems outside the U.S. offer riders segregated center lanes, bus stations and level boarding through platforms at bus stops.

Enrique Peñalosa, a former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, who sat on the MTA Reinvention Commission this year, said a high-capacity bus rapid transit system would benefit people in the city where a bus is the only travel option. Bogota’s system, TransMilenio, which has more than 2,000 buses on its dedicated lane, carries more than 2 million a day.

“Select is a good improvement over the traditional bus system,” he said in an interview this summer. “But the problem is, if it doesn’t have a physical separation, it gets stuck in traffic very often.”