NEW YORK—Growing up, Rockaways council member Donovan Richards made a three-hour commute from his home in Ocean Village in the Rockaways to Elmhurst, Queens, to go to school every day, and another three-hour trip back.
He took a bus to a subway to a bus, Richards said, and he’s serious when he says his community is transit-starved.
“It becomes a quality of life issue,” Richards said Tuesday morning at a press conference announcing community support for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).
Buses traveling through the Rockaways take Cross Bay Blvd to connect to the highly congested Woodhaven Blvd in Queens. Drivers deal with gridlock. With BRT, buses can traverse through traffic quicker on designated lanes.
The 30,000 daily bus riders spend an hour on what they say should be a 20-minute trip.
So the community wants Bus Rapid Transit, extended from the Woodhaven corridor into the Rockaways.
Over the summer, 5,000 people signed on to a petition for bringing BRT to the Rockaways.
Queens council members have sent a letter of support to the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), and transit advocates are spearheading the effort.
Select Bus Service
Select Bus Service (SBS) is New York City’s version of BRT. Riders pay their fare before boarding, there are designated bus lanes, and traffic signals prioritize the buses.
The city currently has six routes in place and is studying several other corridors.
SBS differs slightly from BRT in that the city has thus far been designating bus lanes either by the curb or one lane beside it to allow for parking.
BRT would create a center, protected median for boarding, and bus lanes on either side. It is essentially permanent infrastructure, advocates say.
SBS is a step in the right direction, Richards said, but not enough. Just a few days ago he was in a car in Brooklyn, watching as cars changed lanes back and forth, cutting off buses.
Two weeks before that, Richards had been on a bus in Paris and saw BRT first-hand in action. He had been inspired by the economic impact of being able to get people from A-to-B so quickly, and it reaffirmed the need to bring BRT to the Rockaways for Richards.
Because Woodhaven Blvd is so wide, it has room for a street redesign to create the center lanes. Some of the current SBS routes are on 4-lane streets and it would not make sense to install a center median and lanes.
With the congestion, neither driving nor taking the bus is a reliable option when trying to get from the Rockaways to anywhere else. And frankly, Richards said, many of his constituents cannot afford to own a car to begin with.
According to a Pratt Center study, the BRT route would decrease the travel time between Howard Beach and LaGuardia Airport from 65 minutes to 45.
The Woodhaven corridor is one of the SBS routes the DOT is studying, and a design workshop was held over the summer. The community wants to see the route extended over Cross Bay Blvd into the Rockaways.
Riders said they hoped by showing their support, the city would consider the route for BRT.