Sept. 29, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
A Flushing business organization has called on the MTA and DOT to postpone the installation of a new busway along Main Street.
The Flushing Chinese Business Association (FCBA) wants the agencies to delay the new busway – set to be installed on Oct. 1– which would run 0.6 miles along Main Street from Northern Boulevard to Sanford Avenue.
They want its installation to be postponed at least a month in order for the group to have formal meetings with stakeholders–including retail business owners, restaurants, medical and dental practices and hotels operators. They seek to inform business owners about the plan and solicit feedback.
The FCBA, in a letter sent through an attorney on Sept. 25, wrote to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and the MTA appealing for the delay so its members could evaluate the “substantial impact” the new busway might have on local businesses. The busway is expected to go into operation on Oct. 1.
The group, which has nearly 1,500 members from the Flushing community, said the plan should be delayed until the concerns of all businesses and residents can be properly heard. Many fear that if people can’t park their cars along Main Street, they will shop elsewhere.
They want the project, according to the letter, to be postponed because they argue that the MTA’s outreach meetings were inadequate. They say the meetings did not cater to non-English speakers and were held late in the process.
“We urge a delay in starting this program for no less than 30 days,” the letter reads.
The city plans to ban cars on Main Street from Northern Boulevard to Sanford Avenue and along a portion of Kissena Boulevard so the MTA can provide faster bus service as part of the city’s “Better Buses Action Plan,” which was announced last year.
Only buses, trucks, and emergency vehicles would be permitted to use the Main Street busway, according to the plans. Passenger vehicles would only be permitted to use the busway for garage access and for pick-up or drop-off within one block.
However, the FCBA fears the busway will deter customers from visiting the area. They argue that it could hurt businesses at a time when many are struggling due to the COVID-19 economic crisis.
The FCBA letter has the support of several local leaders including New York City Council Member Peter Koo, State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Community Board 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty and Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech.
All four attached their own letters to the FCBA correspondence letter outlining their support for the postponement.
The officials expressed the same concerns as the FCBA. They too said that the MTA’s outreach meetings were inadequate due to language barriers and too close to the installation date to solicit proper feedback from stakeholders.
The MTA said the plan will improve bus speeds and the agency has already held several public meetings on the busway including Community Advisory Board meetings on June 26 and Sept. 1, a Public Information Session in Chinese on Sept. 10 and a Public Information Session in Spanish and Korean on Sept. 14.
“The Main Street busway would improve the trips of approximately 155,000 bus customers each weekday on the Q19, Q50, Q66, Q20A/B, Q25, Q34, Q44 SBS, Q65, Q17, and Q27,” an MTA spokesperson said. “Many of these customers support the stores in downtown Flushing as well as transfer to the subway and other buses.”
Public transit advocates back the busway proposal arguing that a greater proportion of shoppers arrive in the area by bus as opposed to car. They maintain that better bus service will increase the number of potential customers traveling to the area and that would therefore bolster local businesses.
They point to a 2015 DOT study to argue their case which surveyed shoppers on Main Street, from Franklin Avenue to Northern Boulevard.
The study revealed that 27 percent of shoppers arrived in the area by bus while 17 percent arrived by car. Furthermore, only 4 percent of shoppers parked along the corridor.
However, Grech wrote that the DOT has failed to present enough evidence that the proposal would speed up bus travel along the route.
Additionally, he said the plan could lead to greater traffic congestion elsewhere in the area.
“The rerouting of the private cars off Main Street to College Point and Union Street will displace the congestion from Main Street to these other streets,” he wrote.
“It will now cause congestion on the side streets which are narrow.”
The DOT told the Queens Post that it is reviewing the FCBA letter.