By Evan Triantafilidis
Two bus lanes have been added to Jamaica and Archer avenues, a move that Department of Transportation (DOT) officials called the biggest bus improvement project ever in the city.
The new 24/7 bus lanes officially went into effect on Sunday, October 24, as part of a one-year pilot program. Last week, DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman said the bus lanes were placed where they would have “maximum impact.”
“This is the biggest project because of the number of riders whose daily commutes and lives will be improved,” said Gutman. “Experience with other busways tells us that we can hope to improve their rides by 30 percent.”
The lanes are also the biggest transit improvement in Southeast Queens since 1988, when the subway was extended.
Passenger vehicles may still enter Jamaica Avenue for local access, but other drivers will be forced to make the next available right turn. On Archer Avenue, passenger vehicles and trucks will not be allowed eastbound between 153rd and 160th streets.
A 60-day warning period is effect until January 24, when fines ranging from $50 to $250 will start to be imposed on drivers blocking the bus lanes.
New York City Transit interim president Craig Cipriano cited other city bus lanes and the effectiveness of camera enforcement.
“We see it on 14th Street in Manhattan, on Main Street in Flushing and on 181st Street in Washington Heights, just to name a few,” he said.
“Jamaica and Archer avenues are major arteries right in Southeast Queens. Dedicated bus lanes will help thousands of communities across 26 bus routes gett where they need to be faster and more efficiently.”
Councilman I. Daneek Miller canvassed the area for input and then requested that Archer Avenue be included in the project.
Gutman recalled the council member’s request for a bus lane on Archer Avenue, shortly after the DOT’s original plan called for the bus lane to be put on Jamaica Avenue.
“Trying to be responsive to his concerns, we spent an afternoon wandering the area,” said Gutman. “None of this would be possible without the close teamwork of our partners in government.”
Miller, a former bus driver, said he hopes to have further conversations with DOT about how to make the bus lanes even more efficient in the future.
“We haven’t always been on the same page, I’m not really sure if we’re on the same page right now, but we have to figure out a way to move these people and ease congestion in a more efficient way,” he said.
“The commissioner and I have spoken about what needs to get done in the future. This is a work in progress, but we will continue to have that conversation.”