It's designed to speed things up for commuters, but a new bus lane is taking a toll on many drivers and businesses along a heavily-traveled Queens boulevard. NY1 Queens Reporter Ruschell Boone shows us why.
Woodhaven Boulevard has gone from a frequently-congested roadway during rush hour to a driver's nightmare at all hours of the day, with a long line of traffic crawling from the northern to the southern end of Queens.
Frustrated drivers say the new bus lanes are to blame. The lanes went into effect two weeks ago to accommodate the new Select Bus Service (SBS) along the Q52 and Q53 routes. One traffic lane was eliminated as a result.
"It's not good," one driver said.
The new Select Bus Service is a key part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to expanded SBS across the city. The service allows passengers to board at any of three doors after paying their fare at a sidewalk kiosk.
The city transportation department said it is already speeding bus travel for more than 40,000 daily riders.
But the drivers say the gains are at their expense. "It's horrible," one said. "You can't park anywhere."
Businesses owners are also complaining. They say a new ban on parking during the morning and evening rush hours means fewer people enter their stores.
The owner of Flavors Driving School says business drops after 4 p.m. "I actually had to shift my working hours from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.," the owner said.
"Right now, Monday through Saturday, these businesses can't have parking," Queens State Sen. Joe Addabbo said. "There is no rush hour on a Saturday, so there is no reason why these signs can't be changed to alleviate some of the pressure."
NY1 saw the impact firsthand when a beauty salon customer was told he could not be served until after 4. He said he would have to move his car by then.
The SBS route has been controversial from the start. It took three years to implement, after many community groups protested.
"I just think a task force needs to really look at this whole stretch," Queens City Councilman-elect Robert Holden said. "There are a whole bunch of issues that we have to look at. Some of the bus cut outs on the Select Bus Service."
Advocates for the bus lanes say the positives far outweigh any of the negatives.
"Having a service that folks can rely on allows people to be able to move around more efficiently and be able to get to work, get to school, and not have to wait 20, 30 minutes out in the street," said Stephanie Burgos-Veras, a community organizer for The Riders Alliance.
The city transportation department acknowledged the increased road congestion but expects that will ease once drivers adjust to the new traffic configurations. The department said it will monitor the situation.