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Q44 Select Bus Service: Bus Lanes for Flushing and Jamaica, Not in Between

Main Street in Flushing will receive offset bus lanes, as will downtown Jamaica, but the areas between will not. Image: DOT/MTA [PDF]

Downtown Flushing and Jamaica will receive bus lanes, but the areas between will not. Image: DOT/MTA [PDF]

DOT and the MTA have released the plan for Select Bus Service on the Q44 linking Jamaica, Flushing, and the Bronx, which serves 44,000 passengers daily. The areas that need bus lanes most — downtown Jamaica and Flushing — are in line to get them, but not the rest of the route.

Earlier this year, nearly a dozen Queens elected officials asked DOT for Bus Rapid Transit, including separated bus lanes, in this part of the borough. But two pols — Council Member Rory Lancman and Assembly Member Michael Simanowitz — opposed bus lanes in Briarwood and Kew Gardens Hills. In April, DOT indicated that Lancman and Simanowitz would get their wish.

The plan released yesterday by DOT calls for bus lanes [PDF] on Sutphin Boulevard, Archer Avenue, and Hillside Avenue in Jamaica, and on Main Street in Flushing between Northern Boulevard and the Horace Harding Expressway. The rest of the 14-mile route won’t have them. DOT says bus lane segments were chosen “based on bus speeds, vehicle speeds and other factors.”

Streets in red will receive bus lanes. Map: DOT/MTA [PDF]

Streets in red will receive bus lanes. Map: DOT/MTA [PDF]

In addition to bus lanes, the project will speed up Q44 service with off-board fare collection, bus bulbs, and signal priority to keep buses from getting stuck at red lights. Bus stops will be upgraded with shelters, seating, and real-time arrival information. Traffic signals in downtown Flushing will also get computer-assisted coordination aimed at keeping traffic flowing.

Most of the bus lanes will be “offset” from the curb, running between parked cars and the general traffic lane. Other stretches will run along the curb and only be in effect during rush hours — at other times, they will be parking lanes.

By putting bus lanes in the central parts of Jamaica and Flushing, DOT will help riders bypass what is probably to worst congestion along the route. However, because of limits imposed by Albany, the bus lanes will not be camera-enforced. Until the state legislature expands NYC’s bus cam allowance, riders will by relying on local precincts to ticket drivers breaking the law.

The project includes some pedestrian safety measures in addition to bus bulbs, including median refuges at seven intersections on Main Street between 41st and Reeves avenues. The Department of Design and Construction is already planning to widen the sidewalk on Main Street between 38th Avenue and 41st Avenue. Left turn restrictions will also be added at six intersections on Main Street, which is a Vision Zero priority corridor.

The Q44 extends north across the Whitestone Bridge and along the Cross Bronx Expressway to the Bronx Zoo. No bus lanes are planned for the route in the Bronx.

DOT unveiled the proposal at a meeting last night in Flushing. A second open house is scheduled tonight from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Jamaica. DOT says Select Bus Service on the Q44 will be implemented later this year.

6:50 p.m.: Post updated with additional information about pedestrian safety measures on Main Street.

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Eastern Queens Electeds Want Bus Lanes. Will DOT Deliver?

These 11 elected officials from eastern Queens support Bus Rapid Transit, including separated bus lanes, in their districts. Does DOT?

These 11 elected officials from eastern Queens support bus lanes in their districts. Does DOT?

Council Member Rory Lancman and Assembly Member Michael Simanowitz have taken up the cause of opposing bus lanes for Select Bus Service in their eastern Queens districts. While the pair has gotten a lot of attention, they are outnumbered by almost a dozen city, state, and federal elected officials along the route urging the city to be bolder with its bus service upgrades.

“As elected officials who represent communities in Eastern Queens, we write in support of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor that would improve commuter, vehicular, and pedestrian transportation in a portion of a city that is a transit desert: the Flushing-Jamaica area,” begins the letter electeds sent last month to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco [PDF].

The letter was signed by Congressmember Grace Meng; State Senators Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., Leroy Comrie, and Toby Ann Stavisky; Assembly Members Vivian Cook, Ron Kim, Nily Rozic, William Scarborough, and David Weprin; and Council Members Peter Koo and Paul Vallone.

Many of these officials are from districts that overlap with neighborhoods represented by Lancman and Simanowitz.

The electeds ask specifically for bus lanes, including “protected lanes where physically feasible” and urge big changes to improve trips for tens of thousands of bus riders in their districts. “We believe there would be substantial public support for BRT,” they write. “Full-featured BRT can be successfully implemented in Eastern Queens.”

Read more…

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Lancman and Simanowitz: Let’s Keep Queens Bus Riders Stuck in Traffic

Rory Lancman and Michael Simanowitz are out to foil faster bus service for tens of thousands of Queens residents.

Rory Lancman and Michael Simanowitz are out to foil faster bus service for tens of thousands of Queens residents.

Tonight, DOT and the MTA will hold an open house to solicit input for proposed Select Bus Service routes linking Flushing and Jamaica. The plan to reduce travel times for tens of thousands of Queens bus riders has broad support from advocates and local electeds, including Assembly Member Nily Rozic. But the Times Ledger reports that Assembly Member Michael Simanowitz and City Council Member Rory Lancman, who purport to be in favor of the project, oppose dedicating new street space to buses.

Bus service could be upgraded along Main Street, Kissena Boulevard, and/or 164th Street, according to a DOT map of proposed SBS routes. The Times Ledger notes that these routes were chosen for SBS after studies found current trips to be “long and slow, affecting roughly 68,000 daily raiders.”

A key component of bus rapid transit is, of course, dedicated bus lanes, but Lancman and Simanowitz would rather keep riders mired in traffic.

They met with the DOT and the MTA last Friday, where the agencies updated them on the proposal. The lawmakers expressed support for ideas such as offboard ticketing, synchronizing lights and reconfiguring left-turn signals.

“The final proposal could include a menu of strategies for improving bus service and we are only opposed to the closing of a travel or parking lane,” Lancman said.

Simanowitz said other parts of the proposal such as on-street fare collection and displays indicating bus times do not necessitate SBS.

“The rest of the aspects of a BRT proposal are all legitimate things, but things they could be doing anyway,” he said.

Lancman opposed congestion pricing and once blasted a DOT proposal to improve a deadly intersection outside a school. That he considers a dedicated transit lane “closed” says something about what Lancman thinks of people who use transit. Beyond that, it seems Lancman and Simanowitz simply don’t want to take the necessary steps to make BRT work well.

But other electeds do. “BRT is good news for drivers as well,” wrote Rozic in an op-ed for the Daily News. “Dedicated bus lanes reduce interaction between buses and other vehicles. This will reduce traffic jams and minimize the risk for traffic crashes.”

Eleven Queens lawmakers signed on to a letter this month in support of the plan, the Times Ledger reported.

“The evidence shows that these improvements make the streets safer for pedestrians, help bus riders get to their destination faster and it doesn’t have a negative impact on traffic flow for everybody else,” said John Raskin of Riders Alliance.

Tonight’s open house is scheduled for 6:30 to 8:00 at the Townsend Harris High School Library at 149-11 Melbourne Avenue.

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DMV Judge Delays Action Against License of Driver Who Killed Allison Liao

Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao speak to reporters after the New York State DMV failed to take action against the driver’s license of the man who killed their daughter Allison. Photo: Brad Aaron

Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao speak to reporters after the New York State DMV failed to take action against the driver’s license of the man who killed their daughter Allison. Photos: Brad Aaron

An administrative law judge for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles today deferred a decision concerning the driver’s license of the motorist who killed 3-year-old Allison Liao.

In a packed hearing room at a DMV office in Jamaica, Sidney Fuchs watched video that showed an SUV driven by Ahmad Abu-Zayedeh run over Allison as she and her grandmother, Chin Hua Liao, crossed Main Street in Flushing, in a crosswalk with a walk signal. And he heard from police investigators, including the officer who summonsed Abu-Zayedeh for failure to yield and careless driving.

“My entire family has been suffering heartbreaking pain,” said Chin Hua, who stopped several times to compose herself as she described the crash via a translator. “It’s better to revoke the driver’s driver’s license.”

Fuchs twice asked Abu-Zayedeh if he wished to testify on his own behalf and, through his attorney, Abu-Zayedeh twice declined to speak. Fuchs rejected a request from Abu-Zayedeh’s attorney to dismiss the video, which Abu-Zayedeh has refused to watch, on the grounds that the person who gave it to police was not at the hearing to vouch for its authenticity.

Fuchs refused to consider documentation offered by the Liao’s attorney, Steve Vaccaro, that Abu-Zayedeh had alcohol in his system an hour after the crash. According to a civil suit filed by Allison’s family, Abu-Zayedeh told police he had consumed two glasses of wine before the collision. He tested positive for alcohol in his bloodstream, the suit says, but his BAC was below the .08 legal limit for driving. “That would be an issue for some other forum,” said Fuchs. “I prefer not to go into that.”

Fuchs also refused to allow the admission of Abu-Zayedeh’s New Jersey driving record, which Vaccaro said “demonstrates numerous violations,” and indicates that Abu-Zayedeh once surrendered his driver’s license.

“I do have my exhibits and evidence,” said Fuchs at the conclusion of the hour-long hearing. “I’ve heard the testimony. I will reserve decision.”

Read more…

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NY State DMV Dismisses Tickets of Driver Who Killed Allie Liao [Updated]

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles dismissed summonses for failure to yield and careless driving issued to the driver who killed 3-year-old Allison Liao in 2013. Image via ##https://twitter.com/KeeganNYC/status/530515713405231105##@KeeganNYC##

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles dismissed summonses for failure to yield and careless driving issued to the driver who killed 3-year-old Allison Liao in 2013. Image via @KeeganNYC

Update: Streetsblog has filed a freedom of information request for documents related to the DMV’s dismissal of tickets issued by NYPD to Ahmad Abu-Zayedeh.

An administrative law judge with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles threw out tickets issued by NYPD to the driver who ran over 3-year-old Allison Liao as she and her grandmother walked hand in hand in a Queens crosswalk.

The driver, identified by police as 44-year-old Ahmad Abu-Zayedeh, was turning left from Cherry Avenue onto Main Street in Flushing when he hit Allison on the afternoon of October 6, 2013. Though NYPD and the media initially said Allison “broke free” from her grandmother, video of the crash showed the pair walking together as Abu-Zayedeh approached from behind, striking Allison and pulling her underneath the SUV.

Abu-Zayedeh was summonsed for failure to yield and failure to exercise due care. Neither NYPD nor Queens District Attorney Richard Brown filed criminal charges against him for striking Allison. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Brown described the accident as a ‘tragedy’ and said he wouldn’t bring charges.”

On Thursday Allison’s parents, Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao, learned that the DMV dismissed both tickets. The revelation came during a deposition of Abu-Zayedeh, according to attorney Steve Vaccaro, who is representing Tam and Liao in a civil suit. Allison’s family was not contacted by the DMV.

Streetsblog has reported before that, at least in some cases, the DMV adjudication process relies mainly on testimony from drivers involved in fatal crashes, not police reports or other evidence.

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Anonymous NYPD Sources Blame Another Victim of Motorist Violence

Area of Roosevelt Avenue where a speeding driver killed a cyclist Tuesday afternoon. Image: Google Maps

Area of Roosevelt Avenue where a speeding driver killed a cyclist Tuesday afternoon. Image: Google Maps

A motorist killed a cyclist near Citi Field Tuesday afternoon. The driver was ticketed for speeding, but true to form, anonymous police sources and the media blamed the victim for his own death.

The crash happened on Roosevelt Avenue near 126th Street, under the elevated 7 train on the perimeter of the stadium, at around 12:48 p.m. According to NYPD and published reports, the driver of a Mercury minivan hit the cyclist from behind.

Photos and video of the scene show that the frame of the victim’s bike was snapped into pieces, with the minivan perpendicular to the sidewalk, its windshield shattered. The victim, whose name had not been released by police as of this morning, died at the scene.

The Post and DNAinfo reported that, according to unnamed police sources, the cyclist “cut in front” or “swerved into the path” of the driver. The NYPD spokesperson we spoke to had no such information. The spokesperson said police summonsed the driver for speeding — a crucial detail that was not reported in the press. So once again, unnamed NYPD personnel selectively leaked information that served to blame the victim, and reporters repeated it without question.

At this point the speeding ticket is the sole charge against the driver. The investigation into the crash is ongoing, NYPD told Streetsblog.

Read more…

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Parents of Allie Liao: ‘We Challenge Drivers to Pause and Ask – Is It Worth It?’


Last month, three year-old Allison Liao was crossing Main Street in Flushing with her grandmother when an SUV driver turned left, hitting and killing the toddler while she had the walk signal in the crosswalk. Yesterday in Jackson Heights, Liao’s parents marched with the families and friends of other traffic violence victims, and made this powerful plea for a safer driving culture.

“The police know the driver was in the wrong,” Amy Tam, Liao’s mother, told the crowd as she wiped away tears. “They issued him two traffic tickets: Failure to yield and failure to use due care. Allie paid the death penalty for crossing the street.”

The family has been in touch with the office of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, which is reviewing the case but has not told the family how long that process will take. During that period, the family does not have access to evidence collected by the police, including video of the crash. “I’m not sure my wife would want to see, but I want to make sure the police are making the right decision,”  Hsi-Pei Liao told Streetsblog. “From what we keep hearing, they’re saying it’s an accident. I want to see for myself, does it really look like an accident?”

Also marching last night were other Queens parents whose children had been killed by drivers. Prior to the march, the only other parents of traffic violence victims that Tam and Liao had met were Amy Cohen and Gary Eckstein, whose 12 year-old son Sammy was killed on Prospect Park West. “Our kids were killed two days apart, so we connected on a level that’s very hard to understand,” Tam said. “You know, only parents who have lost their child would understand. I don’t know the words.”

We’ll have a full report on yesterday’s demonstration later today.

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Eyes on the Street: Pedestrian Islands on College Point Boulevard in Flushing

Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Clarence took these shots of new pedestrian islands going in on College Point Boulevard in Flushing. “I counted seven or eight between between 33rd and Maple Avenues,” he says.

College Point Boulevard, says Clarence, is “always dangerous to cross.” Two pedestrians have been killed and dozens of pedestrians and cyclists injured by motorists on this segment of the street since the mid 1990s, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

The 109th Precinct, which covers a large swath of Queens to the east and north of Flushing, issued 539 speeding tickets as of August — a significant increase over 2012, when precinct officers cited 262 drivers for speeding all year, but still less than two summonses per day.

Another pic from Clarence after the jump, plus an aerial view of College Point Boulevard before these improvements.

Read more…

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Dante Dominguez Latest Hit-and-Run Victim in Peter Koo’s Council District

At least four people have been killed by hit-and-run drivers in the City Council district represented by Peter Koo, who likes public plazas but has said safe street infrastructure belongs in the suburbs. Photo: Daily News

A man killed in Queens over the weekend was at least the fourth pedestrian in 2012 to die in Peter Koo’s City Council district, and at least the fourth pedestrian fatality in the 109th Precinct this year. All four crashes were hit-and-runs.

Dante Dominguez, a 45-year-old father of three, was struck by the driver of a black BMW at the intersection of 41st Avenue and Union Street in Flushing on Friday at approximately 11:20 p.m., according to reports. The driver fled the scene.

Dominguez lived upstate and was visiting family, friends told the Post. He was described as “a great artist, extremely talented, humble, funny and cool.”

Less than two weeks before Dominguez’s death, 76-year-old Victor Florio was killed on Booth Memorial Avenue by a motorist who ran from the scene on foot but was later apprehended. In March, a hit-and-run driver took the life of an unidentified 65-year-old man at 149th Street and 45th Avenue. The MTA bus driver who struck 22-year-old Meilan Jin at Northern Boulevard and Union Street in February did not stop.

Council Member Koo is a fan of public plazas, but he hasn’t had much to say about traffic-calming during his first term, except to declare his opposition to bike lanes, which can improve safety for all street users. To encourage Koo to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, which could include lending his vocal support to the Crash Investigation Reform Act, contact him at 212-788-7022 or pkoo@council.nyc.gov. You can also awaken his dormant Twitter account @PeterKoo2009.

The 109th Precinct made headlines in 2009 when an officer driving at high speed slammed into a pedestrian on Queens Boulevard, a suspicious crash that NYPD pinned on the victim. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Brian J. Maguire, the precinct’s commanding officer, go to the next community council meeting. The 109th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month at the precinct. Call the precinct at (718) 321-2268 for information.

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How Will Soccer Fans Get to Proposed MLS Stadium in Queens?

A proposed Major League Soccer stadium in the middle of Queens’ largest park might have some cheerleaders in Albany, but lots of questions must be answered before the first game can be played. Perhaps the biggest issue is the stadium’s transportation plan, the details of which — those that have been made public, at least — differ from what neighborhood advocates say MLS is telling them.

Parked cars sit in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park during the recent U.S. Open. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

On Monday, a coalition of groups known as the Queens Coalition for Fairness, including Make the Road New York and Queens Community House, hosted a meeting in Corona. Donovan Finn, an urban planning professor at Stony Brook University, explained to the crowd of hundreds why the current MLS proposal is a bad proposition.

“I’m not necessarily against the idea of a soccer stadium in this part of Queens,” Finn told Streetsblog. “But I do not think that the specific site MLS has chosen is the best choice.”

“I don’t think MLS has really thought the transportation issues through very much,” said Finn.

MLS is proposing a new, 25,000-seat stadium at the current site of the Fountain of Industry, more than a half-mile from the Mets-Willets Point subway station. That’s twice as far from the subway as the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and eight times farther than Citi Field.

The league says it will build an undisclosed number of parking spaces beneath the adjacent Van Wyck Expressway, but that none of the currently-estimated 13 acres of park land taken for the stadium would be used for parking.

Instead, MLS says that most attendees arriving by car are expected to use existing parking at Citi Field, an arrangement that’s likely subject to negotiation with Mets ownership. One potential problem Finn identified with this plan is double-booking Citi Field parking lots and overloading the 7 train, since soccer and baseball seasons occur at the same time of year.

Citi Field parking is up to three-quarters of a mile away from the proposed MLS site. The league says shuttle service to the subway or Citi Field parking lots is not currently part of its transportation plan, though community activists including Finn say MLS has told them otherwise.