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CB 8 members feel left out of bus talks

Bringing Bus Rapid Transit to Queens could link residents to subway stops and destination points much more quickly than the current system, according to city officials, but some community representatives have reservations about the plans and said they have been especially concerned they are being left out of transportation discussions.

Although Community Board 8 District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide said the board had received notice about two June meetings on bringing BRT to the borough from the DOT, they had not received any word from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

This especially worried Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association President Patricia Dolan, who said she believed the MTA may purposefully be keeping the community board out of the loop because board members had voiced concerns about Bus Rapid Transit over the past several years.

“This is a great matter of concern to us,” Dolan said. “The last go-around the board was adamant in rejecting the proposed routes, and the MTA put the routes off the table. Now they’re back on the table, and we’re receiving no notice from them.”

MTA officials said they did reach out to community boards with letters and phone calls about the meetings and said receiving input from area residents was a priority for the city.

“We feel everyone was very adequately notified,” said Ted Orosz, director of long-range bus planning for New York City Transit. “There were people from the community boards at the meeting, so clearly they heard about it.”

Adam-Ovide said the MTA posted notices in the buses about the meetings in Jackson Heights and Jamaica.

“Maybe they posted it on the bus and didn’t tell the community board because they think the people on the bus would want it, but those in the civics would not because people in the civics know the area better,” Adam-Ovide said.

Bus Rapid Transit is a system that would allow buses to run more quickly, typically because they would operate in a designated bus lane. The city currently has plans to bring the new bus system to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. City officials said they are looking to identify potential BRT corridors in such areas as Fresh Meadows, Middle Village, the Long Island Expressway, Long Island City and southeast Queens.

City officials said BRT could especially help Queens, which is not served as heavily by subways as Manhattan or Brooklyn.

“Certainly bus and transit riders are anxious to see transit improvements, and in a lot of ways Queens really warrants this because a lesser percentage of the borough is covered by subway lines,” Orosz said. “People have some pretty long trips to the subway from some corners of Queens, and anything that speeds up people’s bus trips is good.”

Dolan and Adam-Ovide said shop owners were worried that a Bus Rapid Transit lane, especially on Main Street from Kew Gardens to Flushing, could deter people from parking in the area and thus could drive shopping away from the area. Orosz said the city could address this by keeping a lane for parking and store deliveries and having buses travel one lane away from the curb.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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