Home Buses For Woodhaven, DOT again focusing on real BRT

For Woodhaven, DOT again focusing on real BRT

by Benjamin Kabak

A Daily News graphic shows the potential routing for the city’s first true Bus Rapid Transit line.

For some reason — could be stubborn NIMYBism, could be “it wasn’t invented here” syndrome, could be something else entirely — real bus rapid transit hasn’t made its way to New York City. We’ve been given instead Select Bus Service, a glorified Limited service with some obvious upgrades but no truly dedicated lanes or street prioritization. It’s been a battle too with a small number of residents along 34th St., for instance, throwing up significant roadblocks to progress. Now, though, DOT is narrowing in on a BRT corridor, and Queens’ bus riders may be the ones to benefit.

As Pete Donohue details in the Daily News today, the NYC Department of Transportation is examining Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards in Queens for true Bus Rapid Transit that extends beyond the trappings of Select Bus Service. The route could have physically separated lanes and signal prioritization, and while the study is in its very early stages with a painfully slow four-year rollout plan, it is part of DOT’s “curb to curb” rethink of Woodhaven Boulevard.

“It’s a great candidate for BRT because of its width and also it’s a street where we have some big goals that all work together — making it safer for pedestrians, making the traffic flow better, as well as providing better bus service,” Tom Maguire, a DOT higher-up, said.

Donohue had more:

A Pratt Institute study said using the current transit system, it would take a rider 65 minutes to get from Howard Beach to LaGuardia Airport. But a BRT route would cut it to 45 minutes, a 30% decrease.

The department would like to have a conceptual plan for the corridor, which at points is eight lanes wide, by the end of the year, said Eric Beaton, director of transit development. It would like to see the buses hit the road within four years, said Beaton…

Select buses too often are slowed by cars and trucks that encroach into their unprotected lanes. The answer is BRT and the city can look to Albany for help. Gov. Cuomo’s 2100 Commission, which is looking for ways to improve New York’s infrastructure, recommended the state support an “aggressive expansion” of the transit system with a BRT network, describing it as the next logical step after SBS. “SBS is good,” Gene Russianoff, staff attorney with the Straphangers Campaign, said. “Full-fledged BRT is great, giving bus riders service New York could be proud of.”

This is certainly optimistic news for anyone who’s been hoping for better bus service. Woodhaven is a key artery with very high bus ridership figures, and reallocating street space would benefit the many in this instance. New Yorkers could finally see that real BRT can happen here, and such a move could set the stage for future bus lanes.

That said, I have reason to be skeptical as well. A BRT route from the Rockaways via Cross Bay and Woodhaven winds through numerous Community Boards and will face heavy questioning from some of the areas of Queens with the highest rates of car ownership in the city. Taking away a lane or two of traffic is a direct assault on a way of life that many have grown very accustomed to over the decades. We saw what happened with plans to convert 34th St. to a transitway, and DOT will have to work closely with community leaders to ensure a more successful implementation here.

Still, we’re a few years away from these battles. Right now, NYC DOT is examining this possibility, and that’s a move that should be applauded. It shouldn’t take four years, but progress comes slow in New York City, if it comes at all. Here’s to hoping.

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Brandon May 11, 2014 - 10:12 pm

If this succeeds it will be huge, but i think its a long shot. Queens or Manhattan, this is a very conservative town.

However, it is super important. We need to greatly improve cycling and surface transit to serve any new population as well as decrease driving generally.

I’m sorry to say it but we have to face the fact that there are no significant new subways coming to New York any time soon because of our construction cost and debt load problems. The SAS will go to 96th st, and 125th if we are very very lucky, and ESA will eat every single dollar left over.

Bolwerk May 11, 2014 - 11:58 pm

I don’t see why debt service is such a huge worry, but a future where significantly higher operating expenses are the norm because we pour everything into the wrong mode isn’t a huge worry.

Yes, there are reasons to worry about debt, but debt can make things cheaper too.

Ryan May 12, 2014 - 9:16 am

We can’t afford not to expand the subway and commuter rail networks at several critical points in New York. Surface transit is valuable and has its roles, but it cannot ever replace critical projects like the 2 Av Subway or a Queens Boulevard bypass.

That having been said, I would still oppose any new tunneling project on the grounds that we don’t actually know how to dig tunnels in 21st-century America as evidenced by failures like ESA and Boston’s Big Dig, and until we figure out how to actually dig a tunnel, initiating new tunneling projects is the equivalent of throwing money into a trash canister and lighting it on fire.

The thing is, there’s going to be a self-correction eventually, one way or the other. We will eventually learn how to dig tunnels again, and we will eventually solve our crippling construction cost problems, or New York City will end up bankrupt (again) and broken, and once again experiencing negative population growth. We’re going to hit the ceiling of what New York without new physical transportation infrastructure can handle, and when that happens, those are the only two possibilities.

SEAN May 12, 2014 - 10:59 am

I understand what your getting at, but there’s a failure in your logic. Just because we don’t know how to do something, doesn’t mean we cant. After all look at the numbers of really bad drivers on the road & yet the DMV declared them fit to be behind the wheel.

Ryan May 12, 2014 - 12:55 pm

I never said we couldn’t ever. What I have said is that we don’t know how and therefore can’t dig tunnels until we

a) Admit that there’s a fundamental problem here which rises beyond the level of “that’s the cost of doing business in [NYC/The Northeast/America]” and is now at the point where there’s something we are truly missing from our national skillset which causes us to be unable to dig tunnels, and then
b) Take whatever actions and measures are necessary to correct the problems and deficiencies that are making us unable to dig tunnels.

We can’t move forward until we admit that we have a problem, and going right back to the drawing board with brand new megaproject tunneling bonanzas is useless at best and harmful at worst, like a moneh-fueled bonfire, or a guy whose response to touching said fire and being burned as “Ow! Well, I bet that won’t happen if I touch this again. …ow!”

SEAN May 12, 2014 - 3:14 pm

a) Admit that there’s a fundamental problem here which rises beyond the level of “that’s the cost of doing business in [NYC/The Northeast/America]” and is now at the point where there’s something we are truly missing from our national skillset which causes us to be unable to dig tunnels, and then
b) Take whatever actions and measures are necessary to correct the problems and deficiencies that are making us unable to dig tunnels.


What is that fundamental problem that cant be recognized? Should we be bringing in sandhogs with H1B visas & foregn companies instead of using american labor & businesses? Not being snarky – just need some more insight.

pete May 13, 2014 - 10:03 pm

Davis Bacon is one part of the problem. Workers can’t be paid less than the fake wages reported by unions to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One solution without repealing Davis Bacon is that if you use federal money, out of state contractors can bid without state/local contractor permits. This would allow moving reasonable workforces to the tri-state area instead of the italian mafia.

lop May 11, 2014 - 10:16 pm

‘the corridor, which at points is eight lanes wide’

Counting the service road it can be ten travel lanes + two parking lanes.

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 11:56 am

And it is insufficient which is evident by the banning of left turns at many intersections.

Tower18 May 12, 2014 - 4:48 pm

Banned for safety of drivers and pedestrians, not to ensure a constant free-flowing 60mph.

LLQBTT May 12, 2014 - 5:08 pm

There is a critical choke point at the LIRR overpass. I don’t see how they’re going to get a dedicated BRT lane implements there or where Queens Blvd intersects for that matter.

Cars would encroach at QB every chance (opening in the BRT lane for crossing traffic) they had.

Henry May 12, 2014 - 6:56 pm

They might not actually put a lane there. Everyone is sort of forgetting that this is the beginning of the study period, where all the options have to be considered. Every SBS route has been considered for “real” separated median BRT with median stations, but we don’t have a single one so far, so I have low expectations for whatever comes out of this study.

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 10:48 pm

Exclusive lanes have already been decided upon so it s not really the beginning of the process. They may omit the exclusive lanes where the rad crosses the LIRR at two places. Otherwise it will be a real disaster. An option which I suggested which they also thought of independently is to investigate a grade crossing north of Union Turnpikemfor the service roads.

Henry May 13, 2014 - 10:16 am

Exclusive lanes don’t mean anything if they’re pitifully long (Hylan), and median or curbside makes a difference due to the fact that it’s much easier to violate a curbside lane (which begs the question why they haven’t created a parking-protected bus lane yet in similar fashion to the parking-protected bike lanes).

In fact, Woodhaven may be one of the few places that median lanes are actually workable, since left turns are already banned from the main road. It’ll also reduce crossing distance, which will be a plus considering the high pedestrian casualty rate on the road itself.

BrooklynBus May 13, 2014 - 7:44 pm

The pedestrian casualty rate can be reduced with better intersection treatments. You don’t need a bus lane for that.

Henry May 13, 2014 - 11:50 pm

The most effective way to reduce pedestrian fatalities would be to shorten crossing distances, increase “daylighting” of an intersection, or reduce speeds. A bus lane would do at least one of these things, and also increase bus speeds.

“Better intersection treatments” generally means reducing points of conflicts and slowing down cars when talking about it from the pedestrian perspective, anyways.

BrooklynBus May 14, 2014 - 10:24 am

Reducing speeds is not the answer. You want an exclusive lane for faster buses and then you reduce speeds, so you are back where you started. Buses are not any faster, but cars are slower. That is just ridiculous. You at working at cross purposes.

Better intersection treatments does not necessarily mean slowing of cars. It means extended sidewalks, and clearer better marked crosswalks, and better marked lanes, etc.

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 10:59 pm


Left turns are banned to ensure three moving lanes on the main road because if left turns were allowed, there would only be two moving lanes in effect and traffic would severely back up. Witness what happens south bound where the left lane becomes a left turn lane at Rockaway Blvd and only two lanes go through. There is usually a delay there. That would happen at every corner if left turns weren’t banned. And the plan would remove at least one lane in each direction and perhaps two guaranteeing traffic jams.

lop May 12, 2014 - 11:03 pm

Then maybe if traffic gets real bad some people who currently use the road to avoid traffic on highways will stop driving through neighborhood streets as much. And then the bus lane will allow the locals better transit in their neighborhood. What’s the problem? Sounds like a good thing.

BrooklynBus May 13, 2014 - 8:09 am

So someone currently uses Woodhaven because it saves them 30 minutes over the BQE, the Van Wyck or taking the subway through Manhattan, and now switch routes that forces them to travel 30 minutes extra. How is that a good thing? Since when do we only consider locals and not everyone when we try to make transit improvements?

Henry May 13, 2014 - 10:38 am

Locals definitely count much more than everyone else does, because they have to interact with the road from a pedestrian standpoint every day. People cross the road to get to school, to get to work, and depending on the future turns out, will have to do it to get to the new subway on Rockaway Beach ROW. Cars do have alternate routes, whether it be through the local road network or through the highway network.

BrooklynBus May 13, 2014 - 7:47 pm

There are no other parallel roads that can be used, only side residential streets which is where the traffic will go and does go today when the road becomes too slow. And as I said better treatment of intersections will help people cross the street. And locals do not count more than everyone else.

Henry May 13, 2014 - 11:52 pm

If you don’t prioritize the locals in a process that claims to promote the benefits for “everyone” or “all drivers”, we end up with the disaster that was Moses-era transport planning. No need to go back to the mistakes of the past.

BrooklynBus May 14, 2014 - 10:20 am

Quit changing the subject. No one is talking about going back to the Moses era of planning.

Nathanael May 13, 2014 - 10:40 pm

Who is this theoretical person who saves 30 minutes by driving down Woodhaven, but can’t do faster by taking the bus down exclusive bus lanes on Woodhaven? Looking at the map, I’m suspicious you’ll have trouble finding such a person.

BrooklynBus May 13, 2014 - 11:05 pm

This theoretical person was me from 1996 to 2005. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

lop May 13, 2014 - 11:11 pm

BrooklynBus has been posting for years on this site about how he knows Woodhaven better than any city traffic engineer because he has been driving it daily for a decade. He says he uses it because the BQE and Van Wyck are too congested. And taking away a car lane would save bus riders just a few minutes but make car drivers take 15 minutes more to drive along Woodhaven. Now that’s up to 30 I guess.

Bolwerk May 11, 2014 - 11:55 pm

Four years. Four fucking years for buses in lanes that basically already exist. “Real BRT” is a propaganda term. SBS is BRT, but it surprised the anti-rail people when it turned out not to be a replacement for subways. Now they’re scrambling for “real BRT,” which will allegedly fix everything. They will be surprised again.

In four years, many places would be able to build real rapid transit.

Alex C May 12, 2014 - 12:15 am

Yeah, but nobody at the MTA or city/state government is interested in real rapid transit since the head honchos all drive/get driven everywhere. They just need to put on the *appearance* of transit improvements, as far as they’re concerned.

SEAN May 12, 2014 - 10:18 am

I am speachless, totally speachless – and that doesn’t happen to me often. BRT is NOT the way foward in the 21st century as cities across the globe have found out & many of them are in process of replacing the busses with rapid transit modes.

Paco May 12, 2014 - 12:32 am

If the lanes they take away are running down the center, then the car-centric concerns over double parking and deliveries will be minimal. There’s already some concrete dividers on this stretch so I think people are semi-adjusted to the notion of divided lanes too. I agree it’s overall a long shot, but if DOT only waits for the car driving public to ask for it then it will never happen. They should do it, prove it works, and that is what will convince other areas to ask for it.

Frank B May 12, 2014 - 12:35 am

As seen clearly on the map, a reactivated Rockaways line converted for IND use would more or less serve the same areas, with far higher capacity and lower operating cost.

…Hmmm… There may actually be hope for a complete IND Rockaway Line; if someone could perhaps shift the focus on how much BRT on Woodhaven Boulevard would impede driving (it wouldn’t, but still…), the driver faction would rally against, and perhaps become louder than the faction of those living along the Rockaway Branch who don’t want the line running through their backyards….

John-2 May 12, 2014 - 2:03 am

There would be a certain irony if the push to revive the Rockaway Line among area residents in South-Central Queens was boosted by drivers not wanting to see some of their lanes on Woodhaven Blvd. taken away by the expanded BRT plan.

Frank B May 12, 2014 - 9:09 am

Precisely. Now that I’m thinking about it, if there were a way for politicians to frame the those as opposing ideas, I’m almost certain that the Rockaway Branch would beat the BRT every time; the amount of drivers, and even forget the denizens of Middle Village, Woodhaven, Ozone Park, Howard Beach, etc. for a moment, and just think of the amount of people period who use Woodhaven Boulevard; if put to a referendum and posed to the public as a question between the two options, I’m sure they’d pick the rail.

If only politicians were smart enough or gutsy enough to make such a move, then this could happen. Where’s Frank Underwood when you need him?

Ryan May 12, 2014 - 9:28 am

Frankly speaking, you are drastically underestimating the number and volume of NIMBYs who would make up option/category #3, “none of the above.”

Framing them as an either/or choice is only useful if and when the vast majority of people along the corridor support doing something. Otherwise, the majority which supports doing nothing will continue to rally for and press for doing nothing.

Bolwerk May 12, 2014 - 9:43 am

I realize NYC has a bias toward them, but seriously: the people along the corridor should have no more or less say than people who live miles away from it. Better transit, especially rapid transit, helps the whole city.

Ryan May 12, 2014 - 10:17 am

I completely agree with you on this point. Unfortunately, the specter of what was done to people in the past through the tremendous power of eminent domain still hangs heavily over this town and the region itself.

While there’s a long way to go between “providing equal say to those who live on the corridor and those who live elsewhere” and “those who live on the corridor have no recourse no matter what happens to it and them,” unfortunately, we are still years away from the point where the memories of urban renewal and the era of Robert Moses are faded enough that we can stop treading so cautiously for fear of overstepping our boundaries again.

Perhaps in another five or ten years, we will reach that turning point where frustration at our collective inability to get things done will result in a more proactive and decisive government that is ready to build and less likely to cower and hide from local opposition. I wish we were there today, and hope we get there soon.

SEAN May 12, 2014 - 2:59 pm

I completely agree with you on this point. Unfortunately, the specter of what was done to people in the past through the tremendous power of eminent domain still hangs heavily over this town and the region itself.

The real question is why this reflexive reaction. I can think of two reasons…

1. fear of losing ones property by government interfearence.

2. The false asumption of “nothing must change in my perfect little world.

If any of these are challenged in the slightest, you get the extreme NIMBY reactions noted here & elseware.

Henry May 13, 2014 - 10:18 am

I mean, in the case of transit, that’s an argument that’s a bit harder to make; the discussion should be just those immediately affected (namely, those in the Rockaways and along Woodhaven Blvd). After all, it’s a train line designed for local usage, which is a bit different from blasting through an intercity line or a highway.

Bolwerk May 13, 2014 - 11:42 am

“Local” = at least the four boroughs that already have rapid transit. Anybody who would come, go, or pass through is “immediately affected.”

Henry May 13, 2014 - 11:55 pm

Not really. It’s not as if the line is a precursor to further extensions; it just connects a gap. Riders who immediately benefit from it only really live along Woodhaven and in the Rockaway Peninsula, since those are the only train/bus riders that would be coming and going through the area. You could argue that it also benefits users of the beaches in the Rockaways and tourists going to the airport, but those people aren’t impacted on a day-to-day basis.

Bolwerk May 14, 2014 - 7:58 am

Even if I granted you that argument, you can’t make a very compelling case that the effect on people who live next to it is remotely negative. They are offended by public investment in what they deem a part of their private demesne, but not actually hurt.

But any successful transit improvement at the very least moves people southeast of the present line to Midtown faster, and opens up southeast Queens to significant (if subpar) economic development – which means people in the opposite direction coming for McJobs.

As for occasional uses, why is that a bad thing? Moving 500,000 people occasionally still benefits 500,000 people.

Bolwerk May 12, 2014 - 9:41 am

The bigger “irony” is the lane reduction would be a win for drivers too. Wide urban boulevards are extremely prone to congestion. For some reason, it’s “anti-car” to want to reduce traffic and make cars work as well as they can.

But the rapid transit and better surface transit shouldn’t be seen as enemies. They complement each other. But better surface transit shouldn’t be confused for rapid transit either.

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 11:59 am

However better surface transit on Woodhaven will hurt not help drivers since they wot be able to switch to SBS anyway.

Bolwerk May 12, 2014 - 12:45 pm

They won’t interfere with buses and buses won’t interfere with them. Compartmentalizing different kinds of traffic is good for them too.

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 1:23 pm

Road capacity on an already congested road would be severely reduced. That just cannot be ignored. All users of the road have to be considered and many questions need to first be answered to prove that more will be helped not hurt by this. Theory is fine, but reality is a little different.

Bolwerk May 12, 2014 - 4:05 pm

Yes, and I’m not ignoring it. I’m pointing out, again, that reducing lanes on roads like that typically only improves traffic and traffic flow. This isn’t theoretical masturbation. It has been proven again and again.

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 4:11 pm

Give me one example, preferably in NYC.

Alon Levy May 12, 2014 - 4:19 pm

West Side Highway collapse.

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 10:44 pm

Actually the West Side Hiighway collapse added road capacity not decreased it. When the highway was elevated, there was no traffic below. West Street was rebuilt and widened to replace the highway after Westway was killed.

Bolwerk May 12, 2014 - 11:11 pm

Alon is referring to a famous event where a highway collapsed and in the immediate aftermath of the collapse, before any new infrastructure could possibly be built, traffic improved.

Henry May 13, 2014 - 10:23 am

Capacity has not actually increased, and has probably decreased; the moment you add stoplights, road capacity goes down significantly, even if you add another lane in the process.

Bolwerk May 12, 2014 - 5:20 pm

Broadway and Times Square.

Got any examples of it not working?

sonicboy678 May 12, 2014 - 6:19 pm

Nostrand Avenue. Rogers Avenue.

Henry May 12, 2014 - 6:53 pm

There hasn’t been enough time to adequately evaluate SBS; it’s only been there for a couple of months. Traffic patterns need to be analyzed over a period of several years to actually determine changes (since changes in traffic congestion can be a result of many things, including seasonal patterns, abnormal weather, or large, one-off public events.)

DOT will eventually analyze traffic once again, and once we have actual hard data we can judge. Anecdotes aren’t useful when trying to draw wider conclusions.

Bolwerk May 12, 2014 - 7:00 pm

The B44 may be a bad implementation, but I don’t see any evidence it monkeyed with auto traffic.

Eric May 12, 2014 - 5:18 pm

No, road capacity would be increased. Car capacity would be decreased, but because buses carry so many people, more people would be able to use the road at once.

Bolwerk May 12, 2014 - 5:38 pm

It’s possible that car throughput would also actually increase. Certainly the people who still choose to drive would get where they are going faster.

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 10:50 pm

How can car throughput possibly increase with fewer lanes?

Bolwerk May 12, 2014 - 11:09 pm

Fewer lanes can mean a more efficient equilibrium. It’s why road diets work.

Henry May 13, 2014 - 10:24 am

If fewer lanes head into a bottleneck, it might lead to better traffic flow since you’re not trying to squeeze as many people into a small, constricted area.

lop May 13, 2014 - 2:54 pm

Well if the bottlenecks right now are the 3 lane sections and you take one away for buses there and along the whole ROW, is 4 -> 3 a bigger jam than 3 -> 2?

Henry May 13, 2014 - 3:32 pm

Any assertion that the DOT is going to take away lanes under the overpass is all hypothetical. DOT could do what it’s done in every proposed route and not use segregated lanes on the northern segment of the route past the LIRR tracks, in which case traffic would be going from 3 lanes to 3 lanes.

They should rebuild the overpass at some point, because it would really help with traffic flow in the area.

Nathanael May 13, 2014 - 10:35 pm

“How can car throughput possibly increase with fewer lanes?”

Fewer lanes often does increase throughput, up to a certain point. There’s a reason closing and pedestrianizing large portions of Broadway in Manhattan increased car throughput (yes, it did, look it up).

When you have more than about two lanes each way, weaving movements start eating up much of the theoretical throughput for the lanes. This is more severe on roads with intersections than on expressways; on expressways, three lanes each way is actually quite helpful, but four each way is not.

Automobiles on roads just isn’t a solution for high volumes of people. For high volumes of people, you need to do something else. Bus lanes are a start. Rail is better.

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 10:40 pm

That assumes more would ride the buses which won’t save that much more time. They won’t leave their cars because the buses still won’t take them where they want to go which is why they are their cars now.

Bolwerk May 12, 2014 - 11:13 pm

For fuck’s sake, there is no uniform response because not all trips are created equal. Different people will respond in different ways. And that’s fine. Some people will keep driving. Some people will opt to drive at another time. Some people will opt for the bus. Some people will opt to carpool. Some people will opt to not bother with their trip.

VLM May 13, 2014 - 12:29 am

This is why, as Al put it, I resort to “name-calling.” Trying to take traffi sense to him is like arguing with a brick wall. But I salute you for trying, Bolwerk. It’s a never-ending uphill battle. Have you read his tripe on Sheepshead Bites?

BrooklynBus May 13, 2014 - 8:16 am

No. If you have to be somewhere like at work at a specific time, you cannot choose to travel at a different time. You have no proof that any trips are discretionary when the road is most congested. Carpooling also does not work if no one lives near you or is traveling at the same time. For it to reduce traffic, a significant number or cars woud have to car pool, not just a few. Few if any who drive will opt for the the bus without new bus routes. And I suppose it’s good for the economy if some opt not to make their trip at all. We should be encouraging more trips not fewer trips.

Bolwerk May 13, 2014 - 11:50 am

I don’t need proof. If you want to prove there are no discretionary trips during rush hours, be my guest.

But I don’t see why it matters anyway. We don’t need to accommodate people who think they need to go a certain way by a certain mode at a certain time. For every driver you want to coddle, there are dozens of people whose trips could be improved with a bus lane. They are more important.

BrooklynBus May 13, 2014 - 8:29 am


You haven’t made one coherent argument yet, other than name-calling. But what would you expect from a loyal MTA employee who feels his duty is to stick up for the agency he works for no matter how dumb the idea.

Show me how this will work well. Tell me how many will switch from auto to SBS. Tell me how general traffic will be speeded up with fewer lanes. Have you ever even driven or ride on Woodhaven that you are such an expert or is everything you know from reading textbooks?

All my predictions regarding the B44 SBS have come true. The MTA predicted a huge demand for riders south of Avenue X for the Fatbush Avenue Brooklyn College station. I said there was no demand. Guess how many passengers those buses carry in the rush hour? It is three passengers per bus after nearly six months of operation.

Yes you are all invited to read my “tripe” on Sheepsheadbites.


VLM May 13, 2014 - 8:41 am

You just said in another comment that no one has any proof trips are discretionary at any time of the day. There is literally no point at all in engaging with someone that divorced from reality. I’m sorry your narrow windshield perspective interferes with rational discussion, but nothing anyone says gets through to you. Why would my informed comments be any different?

Allan Rosen May 13, 2014 - 8:58 am

You can’t even argue intelligently so you have to resort to changing what I said to make any point at all. I never said “no one has any proof trips are discretionary at any time of day.” What I said was ” You have no proof that any trips are discretionary when the road is most congested.” That is quite different. The road is most congested when people are traveling to and from work because that is the time they have to travel. Of course there are times when you can leave earlier or later, but those are discretionary trips.

Care to try again and make any other “informed” comments?

Bolwerk May 13, 2014 - 1:05 pm

“You have no proof that any trips are discretionary when the road is most congested” – presupposes we should care and puts an impossible burden of evidence on people who disagree with you. It also assumes there are no viable alternatives even for discretionary trips.

BrooklynBus May 13, 2014 - 7:55 pm

That’s a bunch of BS. I wouldn’t be surprised that hte number of daily auto drivers and passengers equal or exceed the number of bus passengers. To say there are dozens of bus passengers to every person in an auto is just ridiculous. And the most anyone in a bus would save would be only about ten minutes. So their 95 minute trip gets reduced to 85 minutes, while auto trips double in time. There is no way more will benefit than will be hurt with exclusive bus lanes.

Bolwerk May 13, 2014 - 9:00 pm

It’s not ridiculous at rush hour, when it matters.

28,830 daily weekday riders for the local/limited buses, probably largely weighted towards peak travel times. What do you suppose car throughput is at those times? Safe money on a famously congested corridor: not very many.

lop May 13, 2014 - 9:16 pm

~2700 weekday express bus riders from the BM5, QM15, QM16, QM17 heading towards the LIE too.

@bus how do you figure trip times for auto users will double? From what to what?

BrooklynBus May 14, 2014 - 10:42 am

Even during rush hour, I never saw that many buses. I could drive for a mile and not see a single bus in each direction. Some of the time half the buses are out of service anyway. Also, when the main road was crowded, the service roads were actually moving faster, so the buses were never horribly delayed except on the few days when there was an accident or the signals were out of sync or during the few weeks preceding Christmas when the heaviest traffic would occur. Similarly, traffic is lightest during the summer months with very little congestion. Bottom line – an exclusive lane saves a small amount of time for buses. If some Limited stops are eliminated, more will have to rely on the local and their trip times will be increased not decreased.

Most of the time it takes about 15 minutes to travel between Queens Blvd and the Belt Parkway by car. Bus travel time for the Limited is about 25 minutes. So ten minutes is the maximum travel time savings for the SBS bus and that includes the time saved by prepaying, not only from the exclusive lane.

With an exclusive bus lane, Car trips will increase from 15 minutes to about 25 minutes. When the road is severely congested, and it currently takes about 25 or 30 minutes by car, that time would increase to 45 minutes or an hour if you stay on Wooddhaven. You would save ten minutes by getting off at each bottleneck, using side residential streets, and returning to Woodaven/ Cross Bay after the bottleneck. Do we really want more cars on these side residential streets? Because that is where the cars will go.

lop May 14, 2014 - 2:36 pm

‘When the road is severely congested, and it currently takes about 25 or 30 minutes by car, that time would increase to 45 minutes or an hour if you stay on Wooddhaven’

And how long does it take buses when it is that congested?

‘Do we really want more cars on these side residential streets? Because that is where the cars will go.’

If that becomes a problem then put in some one way streets or dead ends to keep cars from speeding through.

‘ You would save ten minutes by getting off at each bottleneck’

Maybe we should just get rid of those bottlenecks by making the street two general traffic lanes in each direction the whole way so there aren’t any of those pesky merges.

Brooklyn Bua May 14, 2014 - 8:36 pm

When the road is congested it would still take the bus only ten minutes longer than by car, the same extra time it takes when the road isn’t congested because ofte time it takes for passenger’s to get on and off.

All the parallel roads are narrow and no one is speeding on them. Some even have speed bumps where cars were speeding. Yes, that makes a lot of sense, put in dead ends to prevent any bypass routes forcing all cars just to standstill on two lanes on Woodhaven. That really solves the problem doesn’t it? How much road rage would it take to convince you that s just an idiotic idea?

lop May 12, 2014 - 11:36 pm

*Some drivers.

LLQBTT May 12, 2014 - 5:10 pm

There are no other nearby x-Queens options, save the Van Wyck, and we all know how free-flowing that roadway is. I see few, if any cars being taken off the road by +SBS+ +.

Bolwerk May 12, 2014 - 5:29 pm

If fewer people can make the trip, fewer people will. Maybe they’ll travel at different times, maybe they won’t travel at all.

BrooklynBus May 13, 2014 - 8:18 am

So are we trying to improve transportation or make it worse?

Bolwerk May 13, 2014 - 11:52 am

The worst thing is grinding congestion. Anything that removes that makes it better. Road diets do that.

BrooklynBus May 13, 2014 - 7:40 pm

But this plan will increase road congestion, not remove it. The only way it could work woud be with combined HOV exclusive lanes that do not go over or underthe LIRR where there are existung bottlenecks. Still, the benefits for bus riders are minimal. Definitely no bike lane.

Bolwerk May 13, 2014 - 9:01 pm

Why not try it and see? I mean, you’ve been wrong before!

BrooklynBus May 13, 2014 - 11:13 pm

Because it will end any possible chance for Rockaway line reactivation. All the statistics will be distorted and manipulated to show Woodhaven SBS as a huge success. None of the negatives will be measured just like with all the other implementations. Hylan Blvd drivers are upset for good reason because their trips are taking longer, yet I haven’t seen any of those statistics. All that is publicized is how much time bus riders are saving. Still more may be benefitting there than who are inconvenienced, but the point is we never see the entire picture. There will be no attempts to find any money to reactivate the RBL, and it will just die. Saving ten minutes on the bus is not the best we can do.

Bolwerk May 14, 2014 - 8:26 am

Now that’s just paranoid. It’s not like the previous SBS implementations were ever portrayed as anymore than a middling success by statistics. So far, nothing about SBS or BRT has ever shown to be a practical replacement for rail. I know there are bus advocates with hard-ons for destroying rail infrastructure, but the truth is BRT serves a completely different need than rapid transit.

As for Hylan, maybe it’d be nice if they’d release some statistics, but it looks like the study is ongoing. However, the presence of whiny drivers should, if anything, be taken as evidence that there isn’t a problem other than a temporary case of butthert.

Henry May 13, 2014 - 11:57 pm

HOV would be unenforceable on a local street, because driving in and out of the lanes would be rather easy. There’s also no reason that Woodhaven’s “main road” couldn’t just be three lanes for cars the entire way without the HOV lane, since that would get rid of the bottleneck that seems to cause a fair amount of congestion.

BrooklynBus May 14, 2014 - 8:36 am

You forget that Woodhaven is a major truck route. Currently, trucks are limited to the southern portion on the service roads between Park Lane and Liberty Avenue because the roads in the main road probably are not wide enough for trucks. I’m not sure Woodhaven is wide enough for three lanes of general traffic including trucks and a bus lane at some points. And if possible adding trucks to the main road would also slow traffic for cars and trucks. Also when traffic is slow, the service roads move faster than the main road anyway, so buses don’t even suffer as much as cars do. In fact some cars move to the service road when that happens. That alternative would be gone.

AG May 12, 2014 - 2:54 pm

Let’s hope that really does happen.

guest May 12, 2014 - 10:00 am

…real bus rapid transit hasn’t made its way to New York City.
Maybe not, but what we have had is real improved bus service where SBS has been implemented, and along corridors with real congestion and tight physical constraints. Could it have been better? Maybe. But time for armchair planners to stop complaining about supposed missed opportunities and start working towards improved service along Woodhaven where there things like center running lanes and station-like stops are possible.

A BRT route from the Rockaways via Cross Bay and Woodhaven winds through numerous Community Boards and will face heavy questioning from some of the areas of Queens with the highest rates of car ownership in the city.

That requires a much more engaged transit advocacy movement than this city has had in sometime. Riders Alliance, Tri-State and Straphangers need to start lining up champions and organizers in these community boards now. Otherwise fuggetabout your real BRT.

Brandon May 12, 2014 - 10:14 am

1st and 2nd Aves dont have real congestion or physical constraints. They were massive overbuilt roadways before SBS, just the way 3rd Ave is today.

They didnt even run the exclusive lanes all the way downtown, and the buses suffer from it on Water St (as do ambulances and other emergency vehicles).

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 12:00 pm

They were originally two lane roadways and were not “massively overbuilt”. If they were, they woudn’t be so congested.

VLM May 12, 2014 - 12:03 pm

The way in which you fail to understand even basic concepts of road design and traffic theory is amazing. Simply amazing. No one should ever take anything you say about planning seriously (and they probably don’t anyway).

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 12:10 pm

All you know is how to discredit and insult. You never make any constructive arguments.

sonicboy678 May 12, 2014 - 5:23 pm

Okay, since you claim to know so much about this stuff, explain why First and Second Avenues have 4+ traffic lanes. From what I would imagine, they anticipated high usage of the pair for considerable stretches. Naturally, they would want to help traffic keep moving, so they would have to have more than two traffic lanes per Avenue.

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 6:39 pm

The Manhattan grid was designed in 1811 with avenues about 600 feet apart. The avenues were built with two lanes in each direction, except for Fifth Avenue which had only one lane in each direction. Right away they realized their mistake that there was not enough avenues, so Lexington and Madison Avenues were cut through at a later date. Also, because of the Els on four of the avenues, traffic was restricted so use of one of the lanes in each direction was limited.

With increasing numbers of cars after World War II, and after the demolition of the Els, traffic increased, so many of the sidewalks were cut back and the avenues were converted to oe way o te traffic signals could be synchronized. So the two lanes in each direction on First Avenue for example, became four lanes when it became one way, and cutting back the sidewalks added another lane, so the result became five lanes and two parking lanes. The thinking ack then was to move traffic faster as opposed to the thinking today which is to slow down traffic.

I’m not sure, however, what this has to do with anything.

Henry May 13, 2014 - 10:32 am

The switch to “slow down” instead of “move faster” had very good intentions behind it; post-Moses, planners realized that Manhattan could not both remain a vibrant, dense city and try to accommodate lots of car commuters. As a result, inner ring neighborhoods and Manhattan have parking caps, because above a certain point the street network in Manhattan will just completely fail, and every new parking space is more encouragement to drive into the core. After a certain point, “move faster” leads to diminishing returns. (It’s also led to a reduction in pedestrian fatalities, which is never a bad thing.)

Henry May 12, 2014 - 6:46 pm

First and Second were originally two lanes in each direction. When LaGuardia took office, one of his major changes was to make all of Manhattan one-way. Lane capacity increases at a more than linear rate, so it more than doubled road capacity. This was, of course, based on the assumption that the car is America’s Future, and that everyone would be commuting by car into Manhattan, which is clearly not the case. There’s definitely room to reduce road capacity on the island itself.

Moving back to two lanes on an avenue in one direction wouldn’t be so bad, since at one point the roads were actually configured that way; they weren’t meant to have one-way only traffic.

Nathanael May 13, 2014 - 10:45 pm

Restoration of two-way Avenues in Manhattan would be a major improvement, actually. This is, as Henry and BrooklynBus said, the way they originally were.

At current congestion levels, the theoretical capacity from the large number of lanes is eaten up by weaving back and forth, but it makes it very dangerous for pedestrians. Two-way traffic would make it safer for pedestrians and shorten taxi trips.

BrooklynBus May 13, 2014 - 11:20 pm

Very wrong.

One way avenues permit synchronized signals which cuts travel time by 20 minutes from llike 96 Street to Houston Street during times the roads aren’t congested. You only have to stop once every mile. with two-way avenues, you have to stop every five blocks or our times as often.

We don’t need to make travel times any slower than they already are. It’s no good for buses, trucks or cars.

Nathanael May 12, 2014 - 12:15 pm

Bus lanes! For reals? That would be impressive. So far nobody in the US has managed to simply use paint to convert car lanes to bus lanes. (Chicago is trying.)

Mike May 12, 2014 - 1:23 pm

Woodhaven Blvd is a great candidate for SBS or real BRT, but even before the community boards get involved, it’d be nice to see the plan for the bus lanes on the overpass. Sure the corridor can be 8 lanes wide for large stretches, but between Metropolitan Ave and Myrtle Ave it goes down to 6 lanes as it crosses the active LIRR/Freight line. This chokepoint is already a prime cause of congestion, and i’d imagine a large cause of bus delays. Are they really going to shrink it to 4 traffic lanes? Or are they just going to co-mingle the buses, which would make the exercise even more pointless?

Nathanael May 12, 2014 - 1:27 pm

Honestly, they should shrink it to four “general purpose” traffic lanes and two bus lanes. With the buses cruising past traffic, the route would be highly successful. Four general purpose lanes is already a lot, plenty for local traffic.

But the question is, as you say…. will they?

lop May 12, 2014 - 1:44 pm

My feel from using the road is that a substantial fraction of Woodhaven drivers aren’t local to Woodhaven,crossbay/rockaways. Almost nobody turns off it. This is good and bad. Bad because then the bus lanes don’t offer an alternative to those drivers. Good because they would be able to distribute themselves on roads all over the city if Woodhaven gets too slow for them.

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 4:16 pm

You are correct. Except that the only feasible alternatives are the BQE and the Van Wyck, both of which are substantially more congested than Woodhaven most of the time. If capacity on Woodhaven is reduced, all three routes would become equally congested.

lop May 12, 2014 - 11:34 pm

I didn’t say highways. Woodhaven isn’t a highway. No need for drivers to avoid arterials when looking for a better route.

BrooklynBus May 14, 2014 - 8:15 am

But those highways are the only other alternatives. Everything else is slow local mostly residential roads. Its not as if there is a through grid system of parallel roads like in the other boroughs. Queens is notorious for giving few through streets. In many neighborhoods most avenues are no longer than a mile before they are interrupted. That means numerous turns and very slow travel.

lop May 14, 2014 - 2:39 pm

How is Woodhaven not a residential road? Plenty of people live along it.

Brooklyn Bua May 14, 2014 - 8:27 pm

It is mixed commercial and residential, but mostly residential. The parallel residential streets I am referring to are all one-way narrow streets with parking on both sides so you have to travel pretty slowly like no more than 20 or 25 mph. You really can’t compare any of them to Woodaven which is a major arterial. There isn’t even a two-way avenue anywhere nearby.

Nathanael May 13, 2014 - 10:29 pm

It is a fool’s errand to attempt to provide enough lane space for all the automobiles driving through from one end to the other. You can’t eliminate congestion by making more and more and more lanes.

If Woodhaven is narrowed (to a still plenty-wide four lanes) some people will find more direct routes on other arterials. Others, who are driving further, will start taking the trains.

BrooklynBus May 14, 2014 - 8:22 am

As I stated you are talking theory not actuality. The truth is that all drivers are currently taking the most direct or fastest route. No one is proposing adding lanes to cure traffic woes as Moses did. There is a difference, however, between adding lanes and removing bottlenecks which does speed traffic. But we are not even talking about that here. Which more direct routes dipo you propose drivers take? And if they ate more direct, why woud those drivers even be on Woodhaven now? Yes they could start taking trains if they want to travel thirty minutes more which is what reducing the number of Andes would also cause. The point is you don’t give a damn about anyone else, just so bus riders could save a few minutes. If you wanted some to be able to take a direct train, you would be advocating for reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Line that would save them 30 minutes not ten and reduce traffic on Woodhaven making it less congested.

Bolwerk May 14, 2014 - 8:49 am

He’s stating the theory that turned out to work. The theory that turned out to be wrong was yours, the idea that more road space is everything.

As for bottlenecks, there aren’t that many to remove! And the actual bottlenecks that affect roads like Woodhaven are not on Woodhaven itself – they’re the exits from Woodhaven, or local traffic working at cross-purposes with the traffic Woodhaven dumps on them.

If you wanted some to be able to take a direct train, you would be advocating for reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Line that would save them 30 minutes not ten and reduce traffic on Woodhaven making it less congested.

Why not do both? RBL is more about long-distance transit. The volume of bus riders on Woodhaven strongly implies it is beyond the point where BRT is optimal. It could well be a light rail corridor.

BrooklynBus May 12, 2014 - 4:14 pm

You say that four general purpose lanes would be a lot. Have you ever even driven on Woodhaven Blvd that you can come to they conclusion?

Nathanael May 13, 2014 - 10:26 pm

Four general-purpose moving lanes is a lot period. Anywhere. Doesn’t matter what the context is. It’s plenty for trucking and it’s plenty for necessary local access.

Look, if you widen roads, more cars will use them. If you narrow them, the traffic will magically vanish as people decide to travel some other way. There’s a limit beyond which roads can be too narrow and start making certain kinds of trips impossible, but that limit is WELL below four lanes.

BrooklynBus May 13, 2014 - 11:34 pm

You are talking theoretics. Show me in which textbook it states that four lanes is plenty everywhere. You are just making that up. Yes if you widen roads more cars will come but no one is talking about widening roads. And if cars do come, they come from other roads, so traffic goes down there. And yes over the long run lie five or ten years car ownership will go up providing here are no ther disincentives and in NYC there are plenty disincentives like not enough parking and high insurance rates. So no, even if you widen a road, no one is going to run out and buy a car. Here is the proof. In the 1970s there was a merge from three lanes to two going south on the BQE towards the Battery Tunnel. It was chronically congested from about Noon to 10 PM every day with no one going more than 15 mph. In the mid 80s I believe a new ramp was built eliminating te merge. Result, that road alongside Hicks Street is only chronically congested during the evening rush hour. Five hours of congestion a day was eliminated. If your theory was correct, the congestion would have shortly reappeared. It hasn’t in over thirty years te ramp has been open.

Also adding lanes before and after the BrooklynBridge eliminating bottlenecks last year has cut 15 to 20 minutes and it will stay that way too unless the lanes are taken away again by people lie you who want congestion believing it is a good thing.

Larry Littlefield May 12, 2014 - 2:18 pm

If the NIMBY’s complain too much, perhaps the right “enough of this crap” response is to say if people are going to complain anyway lets put the BRT in the Rockaway Right of Way!

Where it can be replaced by light rail, or even heavy rail if a connection can be made to the QB line, later on if the demand warrents.

lop May 12, 2014 - 3:00 pm

It would already have a connection at the south end to the southern half of the former RBB currently used by the A train, you wouldn’t need to tunnel to QB to get subway cars up there. To run buses you would need to build a ramp somewhere though.

Larry Littlefield May 12, 2014 - 4:22 pm

Twas a four-track ROW was it not? The buses could use the unused trackways.

Henry May 12, 2014 - 6:48 pm

It was just two tracks on an embankment.

Henry May 12, 2014 - 6:47 pm

There is already a surface bellmouth at the Rockaway Beach Line that connects to QB.

Bolwerk May 12, 2014 - 5:36 pm

Demand already warrants rail. Why blow an extra few billion and a few decades?

Woodhaven itself should still have surface transit upgrades, whether bus or LRT. They complement each other rather than compete with each other.

AG May 12, 2014 - 2:51 pm

It sounds good… Until you swallow the fact it would still be 45 min from Howard Beach to La Guardia. Nothing really “rapid” about that. I guess that’s still an improvement though.

LLQBTT May 12, 2014 - 5:05 pm

Howard Beach to LaGuardia? Here are 3 things wrong with that statement:

1. The mapped route doesn’t go anywhere near LaGuarrdia

2. The RBB connecting the Q70 ( or better yet Triboro RX with a quick shuttle bus jaunt from Astoria) would be faster still

3. Why in the world would anyone go from Howard Beach to LaGuardia when JFK is right there?!

sonicboy678 May 12, 2014 - 5:25 pm

Maybe they booked a flight at LaGuardia because it was cheaper; alternatively, JFK didn’t have any flights close enough to their intended destination.

AG May 12, 2014 - 6:21 pm

Well maybe Pratt saw something in the plans that are not readily available… Or it could be they are using La Guardia as a marker.

I don’t think they were necessarily talking about just going to get a flight at La Guardia – but travelling between the northern and southern reaches of Queens.

As to flying – ppl fly from different airports for all kinds of reasons. Oftentimes it has nothing to do with proximity.

lop May 12, 2014 - 10:04 pm



Pratt’s BRT route extended past QB to LGA, looks like on Junction blvd/94th st, instead of turning onto Broadway -> roosevelt to reach woodside LIRR

Henry May 12, 2014 - 6:50 pm

RX is well to the west of Woodhaven. Also, Pratt was using long superroutes in its discussion of BRT, so the route they were analyzing may have been longer and included other roads such as, say, Junction Blvd.

Michael May 15, 2014 - 1:30 pm

Reading the entire article and message stream has been really insightful. There are plenty of arguments and issues that will have to be worked out. In all fairness the transportation planners will have to be able to answer the whole list of questions concerning bus riders, car drivers, usage by trucks, etc. Serious thoughtful & researched answers to all of the various questions serve the interests of all.

BrooklynBus May 15, 2014 - 2:40 pm

I fully agree with your comment.


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