Last week, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) invited residents to bring their ideas to a workshop on Select Bus Service (SBS) and creating a more efficient travel pattern for the Q52/53 bus routes.
Joe Hartigan, a retired FDNY lieutenant and activist in the Rockaways, noted the intersection of Metropolitan Avenue near Union Turnpike as the worst on the route, suggesting an overpass express lane as a possible solution to the problem.
“In the next ten years, more people are moving into Queens,” Hartigan said. “Traffic is getting ridiculous and something has to be done.”
Hartigan and dozens of residents split into groups and marked up maps of the boulevard, voicing their personal concerns and ideas for what could be done to help improve the commute.
“The worst is when my kids complain when they go to school, from Molloy High School to Rockaway, or on an express on Friday nights in the summertime, taking just shy of three hours,” he said. “What’s also happening is people take the express bus in the morning, but they won’t take it home at night, because from 3 p.m. on, Woodhaven Boulevard south is like a parking lot.”
According to the MTA, subway ridership is up 57 percent since 1990, while bus ridership is up 60 percent, carrying 2.7 million passengers each day.
Phil McManus, founder of the Queens Public Transit Committee, brought dozens of supporters for the revitalization of the Rockaway Beach rail line as an option for clearing up congestion along the boulevard.
“We’re fighting for faster transportation, including the old Rockaway Beach line,” McManus said, explaining that they ultimately just want to see a safer Woodhaven Boulevard. “We would like to make it the new ‘Queens crosstown.’”
Councilman Eric Ulrich said he has been working with the MTA and the DOT for the last five years in the Citywide Congested Corridors Project, a study of traffic patterns along the 3.2-mile stretch of road from Queens Boulevard to Liberty Avenue/Rockaway Boulevard, to come up with a better plan for the boulevard.
“Woodhaven Boulevard is the most congested corridor in all of Queens County,” Ulrich said. “Whatever we’ve been doing for the past 10 or 15 years isn’t getting any better. As a matter of fact, people are probably thinking that things are only getting worse.”
Ulrich said he is sure that input from the community would help tackle key issues along the corridor, like creating a safer commute for pedestrians and transit riders, as well as the residents living throughout the borough who use the road on a daily basis.
“We would be the recipient of federal transportation dollars, when leveraged with city money, to build out curbs, improve crossways and to make Woodhaven Boulevard, not only easier to traverse, but safer,” he explained. “Safety has to be a goal.”