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Community Board Rejects Plan for Fresh Pond Road Bus Lane

Fresh Pond Road. (Google Maps)

July 11, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan

Community Board 5 rejected a plan to construct a curbside bus lane on Fresh Pond Road yesterday amid fears of reduced parking and negative effects on local businesses, and recommended alternative traffic-aiding measures instead.

The Department of Transportation’s proposed bus lane, which would stretch along the southbound side of the street between Metropolitan and Putnam Avenues, was first announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in April as part of the Better Buses Action Plan. 

The lane was intended to help alleviate the frequently backed-up traffic conditions on Fresh Pond Road, particularly in the afternoons and evenings when bus ridership on the Q58 is highest. Bus speeds during that peak time drop to an average speed of 3 miles per hour–about the same pace as walking.

Residents and business owners quickly raised concerns about the DOT’s plan to go ahead with the bus lane, which would strip the street of 70 parking spots overall, rather than first implement the alternative measures such as recalibrating the traffic lights to aid the flow of southbound traffic—something the DOT has not yet done.

During last night’s Community Board meeting, members initially voted on a motion to give advisory approval on the DOT’s most recent plan, which includes the bus lane as well as the additional measures. During a question period, board members rehashed concerns over the negative ripple effects the loss of parking would have.

The motion failed 6 to 28.

A new motion was later brought forward recommending that the DOT only implement the alternative traffic-aiding measures on Fresh Pond Road, including: limiting commercial delivery times and locations along the corridor; optimizing traffic signals to aid the flow of traffic; consolidating bus stops from every two blocks to every three or four; and redirecting dead end buses that travel from far away routes to a more appropriate depot, rather than having them come to the Fresh Pond Road bus depot.

The motion dictates that these measures would need to be in place for at least six months to allow the department ample time to observe their effects before considering whether a bus lane would still be necessary. The motion passed 29 to 5.

The DOT expressed disappointment at the outcome of the board meeting, but did not state whether the bus lane would continue to go ahead as planned despite the board’s disapproval, or if they would instead accept the board’s recommendations.

“We are disappointed by CB5’s full board vote on DOT’s critical fix to transit and congestion issues along nine blocks on Fresh Pond Road that came despite their Transportation Committee’s previous vote in support of the project in June,” said a DOT spokesperson.

“The fact remains that cars, buses and first responders currently crawl southbound during late afternoon and early evening rush hour between Bleecker Street and 67th Ave,” the spokesperson continued. “DOT’s design for this critical corridor will make traveling faster for all users, while creating a net gain of metered parking and additional loading zones to support the vitality of local businesses. It’s a win for businesses and especially a win for the 30,000 daily bus riders using this route and countless motorists heading to this commercial corridor and local neighborhoods.”

The debate over the bus lane drew the attention of several local elected officials. Assembly Member Catherine Nolan sent a letter to DOT last month echoing the concerns of her constituents. 

Council Member Robert Holden, who has previously spoken out about the proposed lane on social media, penned a letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg on Tuesday requesting that alternative measures be put in place for a year before assessing whether a bus lane is necessary.

“After meeting with the DOT Queens Borough staff on multiple occasions and hearing from the small business owners and residents of Fresh Pond Road, I believe this bus lane proposal has been rushed into existence rather than first implementing less drastic traffic-calming measures,” Holden wrote.

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6 Comments

Sam

It’s so like the Mayor’s Office to enact a plan without taking additional steps to help out the residents. Parking in the Fresh Pond Road section of Ridgewood is a HORROR now. Imagine how it will be after an entire side of the main road is devoted solely to bus traffic? Where do the cars that normally park there go? There’s an abandoned business and an adjoining lot on the corner of Fresh Pond and Bleeker. Why can’t the City buy that property and construct a municipal parking building to ease the further congestion and hardships caused by DiBlasio’s “plan” ???

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Sam

Even better yet…the City should buy the abandoned CVS property (formerly the Oasis Movie Theater) on Fresh Pond between Menahan and Grove Streets. That could be an even bigger Municipal parking garage. A caring City Government needs to help ease the street parking mess and not just make political points for themselves !!!

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Leslie

Totally agree Sam. Parking is bad enough, but since the Mayor has encouraged illegal immigrants to come to the city, we now have 3 & 4 families in two family homes. That’s 4 cars that need parking!! Why not just TRY some of the suggestions put forth by constituents? Between bicycle lanes & bus lanes, your average Joe/Jane is being squeezed out.

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Lori

Service on the Q58 is a joke, but the major contributor to slowdown are double-parked cars along the side streets. Fresh Pond gets slow because businesses like Valentino’s unload delivery trucks all day. If the police could leave their precinct and enforce regulations that are probably already on the books the problem would get so much better without costing us parking (which we already have to share with the DOT drivers who work out of the depot). DiBlaz -the so called progressive who ignores the will of the people because he knows better – what a laugh

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Martha

Yes, Valentinos is one of the major problems on this stretch of road. Big semis unloading (and loading) all day. It’s a warehouse not a little supermarket. Also why are there so many Not in Service buses going in and out of this bus hub? Tonight I saw 4 of them almost one right after the other clogging up the road. Agree that DOT drivers take up too many resident parking spots as it is. I feel this bus lane will make resident parking even more difficult.

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Joseph Susol

Doesn’t anyone in this city know that Community boards have no power. Anything said ny community board means absolutely nothing. I was a civil servant and had to make the city’s edicts were adhered to. The local politicians and Community Boards have nothing to input.

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