On its surface, the mayor’s Vision Zero plan seemed like a good one. If the City reduces threats to pedestrian and cyclist safety, there will be fewer car crashes resulting in funerals. Safety has certainly improved due to certain measures that were implemented, like daylighting at corners and the installation of speed humps. But some things put forth have had the effect of worsening traffic in our neighborhoods to the point where it comes to a complete standstill.
Take for example, Woodhaven Blvd. In order to make the road “safer”, the administration has decided to not only narrow the multi-lane street, but also bring Select Bus Service to the islands in the middle of it. The months-long construction has been a traffic nightmare for adjacent neighborhoods with no way to avoid it. You now have high volume of traffic on quiet streets and a lot of frustration. While SBS has generally sped up commuting time along routes where it has been implemented, you also have to wonder how middle-of-the-road bus stops will further the goal of pedestrian safety. We have all witnessed the close calls that happen when careless bus passengers dart across busy roads to catch buses. Now they will be running across multiple lanes of high volume vehicular traffic to do so.
Reconstruction of the bridge at Metropolitan Avenue and Fresh Pond Road over the LIRR has resulted in one corner being completely closed to pedestrian crossings and traffic backups on both major roads. While the M train was out of service over the summer, the barriers that narrow the intersection were placed on the sidewalk and traffic flow was pretty normal. But once the M train stations were reopened around Labor Day and the barriers were put back in the roadbed, the traffic woes returned. This will continue for many more months. Several bus lines pass through that intersection so it’s not just drivers who are affected by the delays.
There has been a years-long sewer project on 54th Street between Flushing and Metropolitan Avenues. This street is part of the Grand Avenue Truck Bypass and having 18-wheelers slowly zigzag to avoid the digging on both sides of the road is not only dangerous but it backs traffic up onto Flushing Avenue right where the LIRR underpass begins.
Many roads up by Calamus Avenue and throughout Middle Village are a mess or closed completely due to the mismanaged sewer projects. This has also resulted in backups throughout both areas.
There are so many major projects going on at one time that you'd think the Department of Transportation would have spaced out the timing. In addition to this necessary roadwork, the area has been plagued with overdevelopment and illegal conversions in recent years which have increased the number of cars on the road. We’ve had major school construction and expansions which have brought more parents with vehicles dropping off kids and tons more school buses to Maspeth, Middle Village and surrounding towns. And truck traffic seems to increase more and more each year. More consumers mean more demand for goods. Nowadays, what used to be a 10-minute drive can now take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.
We must improve mass transit
For years, car owners have been told that they are “part of the problem” for using fossil fuels and that they should either walk, bike or take public transit everywhere – something which is practically impossible in our area. If improving bus service had been a priority for our elected officials throughout the years, perhaps the MTA would have done something about it. Instead, we have representatives who would rather promote infeasible plans for a shiny new light rail while block-long lines of commuting constituents wait for local buses. For years, the Q58 has been the slowest bus line in the borough. I once boarded a bus at the first stop in Ridgewood and took it to the last stop at Main Street, Flushing. My total transit time was 2 hours and 20 minutes – and I was on a “Limited Stop” bus! I have also had the misfortune of experiencing rush hour rides on the Q67, Q54, Q18, Q59, Q38 and Q39 on occasion and they are all ridiculously slow and overcrowded.
And underground and overhead, the subway system experiences long delays on an almost daily basis, mostly due to its antiquated signals that should have been replaced years ago. Businesses are losing revenue and employees are being docked pay. Should fare payers be penalized for the poor condition of the transit system they are forced to endure?
The solution? INVEST! The City, State and Feds need to invest in our infrastructure in order to prevent these problems. Why is adequate funding for transit and infrastructure not a mandatory part of the budget? Where are our tax dollars going? A steady funding stream would have staggered and sped up sewer construction throughout the area. The LIRR bridge project was supposed to have been completed more than a decade ago when there were fewer cars and people, but the funding can was kicked down the line to now. The L train was damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 but we’ll only get around to repairing it in 2019, 7 years later. Local bus service in Queens has been horrendous for many years but has been completely ignored. In fact, the MTA removed some bus lines and runs instead of increasing service in recent years. Maspeth residents have long been asking for an express bus to Manhattan; elected officials and community leaders have even mapped out a route for it. With adequate funding, it can become a reality.
Wouldn’t it be great if the City cared as much about congestion in OUR neighborhoods as it does in Midtown Manhattan? While de Blasio decides whether or not to build an unnecessary “gentrification trolley” along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront, he could instead be allocating the billions of dollars needed to start it up toward improving existing bus and subway service so we can get around easier and leave our cars at home more often.
The bottom line is that investment in mass transit and infrastructure would further the goals of Vision Zero. So let’s demand that our elected representatives correct their currently myopic vision to 20/20.