According to a DOT progress report, the Q52/Q53 SBS has seen a 5 to 8 percent increase in ridership. Travel times have also improved by 10 percent.
Eighty-seven percent of riders say they prefer SBS, according to DOT, which brought off-board fare payment, median stations and all-door boarding to the corridor’s 30,000 daily bus riders.
“This project was a massive group effort by staff at DOT,” said agency Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, “as the project combined innovative planning and engineering with extensive repaving, street marking, expanded sidewalk and median work, which have together made buses faster and more reliable.
“While we were also relieved to see that overall traffic industries have declined,” she added, “two recent pedestrian fatalities along Woodhaven prove just how much more Vision Zero work we have to do to make this crash-prone street safer.”
Other design changes on the thoroughfare included new dedicated bus lanes, wider medians with bus shelters and longer turn bays.
According to DOT, the changes led to a 6 percent decline in crashes resulting in injuries along the corridor. Between 2012 and 2016, there were 129 people killed or seriously injured, among the highest rates in the city.
After two traffic fatalities in August and September, DOT made specific changes at the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue, including adding a Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI), improved lighting and installing flexi-bollards.
In 2019, the agency plans to build even more pedestrian refuges, extend left turn lanes and add new slips between the main road and the service road.
“When buses can move with fewer impediments, trips end up being safer and more reliable,” said Darryl Irick, president of the MTA Bus Company. “That’s an absolute victory for all parties.”
Meanwhile, car travel times either “remained almost identical” or went up slightly, the DOT said, depending on the segment of the thoroughfare.
But at least one local elected official is not convinced by the report. Last Wednesday, Councilman Robert Holden not only cast doubt on the data, but also called for an independent investigation on the SBS route.
“The complaints I receive from my constituents, as well as my own personal experiences driving on Woodhaven Boulevard, directly contradict the claims in this report,” he said in a statement. “There is no doubt that the DOT could fudge the numbers to fit its narrative, so we deserve a report that is conducted without bias.”
Among his complaints with the report is that it fails to account for fare revenue, and how fare evasion may affect the increase in ridership.
The report also doesn’t acknowledge the effect on traffic in surrounding communities, Holden said. He noted that he has received many requests for speed humps on the side streets near Woodhaven Boulevard because drivers are now seeking alternative routes to avoid traffic.
“The DOT has created a traffic nightmare on Woodhaven Boulevard,” Holden said. “To spin this report and claim that Woodhaven Boulevard has been improved is laughable.”
Woodhaven resident Vance Barbour, who also serves as the communications director of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, said the SBS route was everything they dreaded and more.
“The lanes are still packed, buses are still backing up on each other,” he said. “It’s more crowded than ever.”
Barbour said traffic moves at a “stop-and-go pace” during rush hour, with cars backing up all the way to Metropolitan Avenue.
Given the traffic, more cars are using side streets, he said, which makes getting around Woodhaven a “nightmare.”
The retired Woodhaven resident predicted that the situation will worsen when New York City is hit with a snowy winter. He said when snow arrived last year, DOT took too long to shovel bus stops.
“The weather aspect hasn’t even been fully measured,” he said.
In addition to the two recent fatalities, Barbour added that he always sees riders running across the service road to catch the bus, which run in the middle of the road. He said that is dangerous, and the bus kiosks should be relocated.
“If they’re going to do something right, they should move these things into the service road,” he said.