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Qns. College students call for better public transit

Public transportation is getting slower and slower in and around Queens College, leading a substantial number of students to call for improvements to service between Flushing and Jamaica, a survey of students at the school found.

Queens College’s campus in southern Flushing is located between two and four miles from the nearest subway stations — the No. 7 line in downtown Flushing and the E and F lines in Kew Gardens — and Queens College professors Yan Zheng and Alfredo Morabia believe there may be a correlation between this and the number of students who drive to the school. The two professors presented the results of a survey of about 20 percent of their 18,000 student at a transit forum Monday, showing that nearly half drive to campus in their own cars. Of the nearly 4,000 students surveyed, 63 percent said they would opt not to drive if mass transit were improved in the area, with 38 percent calling for a bus rapid transit lane and another 25 percent requesting direct subway access.

Though direct subway access is an unlikely development in the near term for the cash−strapped Metropolitan Transit Authority, officials from the agency and the city Department of Transportation said they were looking at alternatives for the heavily trafficked corridor between Flushing and Jamaica in Queens.

Bus service does exist to Queens College from both Flushing and Jamaica, which are major transit hubs with subway and Long Island Rail Road access, but travel to the school is often slowed by heavy traffic in the region.

DOT Director of Transit Development Joseph Barr said the area is being eyed as a potential candidate for a Bus Rapid Transit system, which the DOT and MTA have implemented in a pilot program in the Bronx. Bus Rapid Transit utilizes traffic signal prioritization, dedicated bus lanes and pre−paid fares to speed bus travel, which Barr said has dropped to just 7.9 miles per hour citywide.

“If you look it, that is a problem, but it’s also an opportunity,” Barr said. “This has the real potential to be a game changer in how people view the mass transit system.”

Both Barr and MTA Bus Rapid Transit Project Director Ted Orosz encouraged members of the Queens College community to help rally support for the project, noting that a similar pilot program was nixed after community members and business owners along Jamaica’s Merrick Boulevard expressed their disapproval.

“Doing any of these things requires tremendous effort,” Barr said. “So I would suggest everyone here at Queens College get involved and help encourage local officials and the community to support a program like this, because you have to work with both the college community and the surrounding communities to get something like this to happen.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, ext. 138.

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