New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposed exclusive bus only lane for Main Street in downtown Flushing is a start, but what about a new downtown Flushing Queens Intermodal Bus Terminal?
There was seed money in the previous New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) $32 billion 2015-2019 Capital Plan to look into the possibility of the long forgotten Flushing Bus Terminal, which closed in 1954. It was originally located adjacent to the corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue near the old Woolworth Department store. To date, there is no indication that these dollars have been spent. This need has been previously documented in planning studies going back to the 1960s. Construction of a Flushing intermodal bus terminal could facilitate a smoother transfer between bus and subway. In the early 1960s, Flushing Municipal Parking Lot 1 was thought of for construction of an intermodal bus terminal. This facility would take hundreds of buses off the surrounding streets, where they discharge and pick up riders. For 56 years, generations of public officials, on a bipartisan basis, have failed to secure any funding necessary to support environmental review, design, engineering and construction of this badly needed transportation improvement.
From the 1960s to today, there has been an explosion in the number of commuters riding buses to Flushing and transferring to the subway. This has been complimented by a huge growth of commercial businesses accompanied by the demolition of homes to support construction of apartment houses and multi family homes in the surrounding neighborhood. Just walk in any direction from the corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue in downtown Flushing and see for yourself. Buses traveling to, from and thru downtown Flushing move at slow speeds due to excess traffic not only during rush hour but also off peak. This results in a longer commute for riders and periodic bunching of buses on many routes.
Construction of a climate controlled intermodal bus terminal could assist in improving traffic and pedestrian circulation in and around the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue along with the rest of downtown Flushing. Over 60,000 rush hour New York City Transit #7 subway riders and thousands more off peak would be protected from heat, cold, rain, snow and winds. There could also be a smoother transfer between the bus and subway. Opportunities would still be available for air rights above the bus terminal for parking, joint development of retail, office and/or residential units, including affordable housing.
How disappointing that no elected official has ever stepped forward to honor this commitment from decades ago. Diogenes is still looking for any MTA board member or public official to add this project to the MTA's current $51 billion 2020-2024 Capital Plan.
In the interim, a short term improvement could be construction of bus holding lights at bus stops. This would assist riders transferring from subway to bus when a train arrives several minutes after scheduled bus departures. Missing a bus by a minute or two during off peak hours (when buses operate with longer intervals) is frustrating to riders. Why not also invest in installation of bus holding lights at other major bus to subway transfer connections as well?
Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City Transit bus and subway, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, MTA Bus and NYC Department of Transportation.