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Queens’ Fast Buses Slow to Arrive

Nine years ago, in the basement of Queens Library in Jamaica, Metropolitan Transportation Authority technicians introduced a revolutionary concept: fast buses.

These buses, they explained, using PowerPoint displays, make fewer stops, are never slowed by vehicles in front of them, require passengers to pay before boarding by any door they choose to save time and are equipped with sensors to prolong green traffic lights so they can speed through intersections.

Yep, it was Bus Rapid Transit they were talking about.

One of the techies said the site of BRT’s debut was right outside the library on Merrick Boulevard.

But somehow, through years of no BRT, those in charge at the MTA decided Hillside Avenue was preferable to Merrick for the introduction of BRT, then there was talk that they should run on Queens Boulevard.

In any case, Queens lost its place on line and transit officials have recently chosen, or talked about, trying BRT out on chaotically congested Manhattan crosstown streets like 34th, 49th and 50th streets.

In the meantime, BRT finally materialized and is alive and well in the Bronx. The Bx12, officially known as Select Service, runs from uppermost Manhattan eastward along Fordham Road and Pelham Parkway.

By most accounts, straphangers like it and ridership keeps rising.

Well, it turned out BRT was not so revolutionary after all and is found not only in parts of the United States, but all over the world. Places like Mexico City, Beijing, Lagos, Curitiba and other Brazilian cities and many European and Asian cities have BRT.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has 26 BRT — they call it MetroRapid — lines with two more lines scheduled to roll out within weeks.

Dave Sotero, a Los Angeles MTA spokesman, said they inaugurated BRT service on Wilshire Boulevard in 2000.

But what of Queens, a place that has lots of buses, but few of them fast? And what about the areas in the borough without subways — places ripe for buses that do not waste time with boarding, traffic lights and congestion?

Give us back our place on line, MTA. Or at least let us know what our prospects for BRT are. We would like to hear from you.

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