BUSES FOR QUEENS: DOT AND MTA ANNOUNCE COMPLETION OF MAJOR BUS-PRIORITY PROJECT IN LONG ISLAND CITY AND ASTORIA
3.4-mile stretch serves 29,000 riders along 21st Street, a corridor that has been a priority for both Vision Zero and MTA Queens Bus Network Redesign
In addition to faster and more reliable buses, street redesign work also includes major pedestrian improvements
NEW YORK—NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez cut the ribbon on new bus lanes along 21st Street in western Queens, the latest project in the agencies’ continuing collaboration to improve bus service Citywide. New bus priority lanes now run from Long Island City to Astoria, with 29,000 riders along three different routes. These routes — the Q66, Q69 and Q100 — also serve two of NYCHA’s largest developments, the Queensbridge and Ravenswood Houses.
“We are taking bold steps to deliver New Yorkers the speedy buses they deserve, and this project will do that over more than three miles,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “These bus lanes are just another way we are making it faster to commute on Queens streets and across the city. Just as we did here, we will continue working closely with the MTA and our community partners to get these projects done in a way that works for everyone.”
“The Adams Administration is committed to equity in everything we do, and that includes our commitment to bus service that better serves the working-class New Yorkers who depend on it,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “The changes to 21st Street will not only make bus service faster and more reliable to thousands of riders, but they will also help us make this street much safer, helping to meet our Vision Zero goals. The Administration set ambitious goals in partnership with the MTA for speeding up public transit, and we’re working every day to deliver for New Yorkers.”
“We are thrilled to work with our city partners to improve bus service and reliability for thousands of Queens riders,” said NYC Transit President Richard Davey. “The implementation of this new bus lane is a valuable step toward the Mayor’s commitment to deliver 150 miles of bus lanes and perfectly complements the MTA’s Queens Bus Network Redesign.”
At a summit meeting in June, Mayor Eric Adams and MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber had announced new efforts on bus service, including a commitment to 150 miles of new and enhanced lanes over the next four years, expanded camera enforcement, additional Transit Signal Priority and improved access to transit.
The bus-priority project on 21st Street came about through a robust public engagement process with dozens of stakeholders and community groups over thew last two years. In addition to Community Advisory Board (CAC) meetings, DOT also hosted an online feedback portal as well as conducted surveys at on-street pop-up sites. DOT and MTA/NYCT also held public meetings in late 2021 and early 2022, prior to a March 2022 presentation to Queens Community Board One.
Through public meetings, the agencies heard two main concerns about 21st Street – that speeding and aggressive driving on 21st Street imperil pedestrian safety and that bus service along the corridor was slow and unreliable.
The 3.4-mile (in both directions) corridor primarily serves three lines: the Q66, the Q69 and the Q100, while the Q102 and Q103 run on 21st Street for one block each. Combined ridership is nearly 30,000 and many people living in western Astoria – a high density corridor lacking a subway – rely on the 21st Street corridor to reach their destination. Prior to the introduction of bus lanes, buses were often slowed down by congestion and double parking.
The project added a suite of improvements DOT often employs during bus priority projects, such as the construction of pedestrian islands and left turn lanes, along with painted curb extensions.
Much of this work is in line with the Adams Administration’s commitment to redesigning 1,000 intersections in 2022.
For instance, the project includes five pedestrian island locations as part of the redesign:
- 21st Street at 40th Avenue (north side)
- 21st Street at 36th Avenue (south side)
- 21st Street at Broadway (north and south sides)
- 21st Street at 30th Avenue (north side)
- 21st Street at Astoria Blvd (north side)
Other enhancements made along 21st Street include Neighborhood Loading Zones on 21st Street to reduce double parking, sidewalk tree plantings, and six additional left turn lanes. By the end of the year DOT also plans to make accessibility upgrades and add modular “bus boarders” to bus stops, and install large overhead bus only signs throughout the corridor.
Working with community stakeholders, DOT and MTA collaborated on this project to optimize bus stop spacing. DOT and MTA intend to continue collaboration to bring both Transit Signal Priority and camera enforcement along this route in the near future. Due to new state legislation passed in 2019, the City is now allowed to expand the bus lane camera as needed. This project is also consistent with and will enhance MTA’s recommendations to routing changes in its Queens Bus Network Redesign Draft Plan.
This bus priority project, implemented by DOT’s Transit Development team, was coordinated with another project by DOT’s Pedestrian Unit at the complex intersection of 21st Street/Astoria Boulevard, 27th Avenue and Newtown Avenue. One of the thousand intersections slated for improvements this year, the six-legged intersection was simplified by removing two of the legs with a painted curb extension at the northwest corner of the 21st Street/27th Avenue and a slip road closure at Newtown Avenue. New sidewalk space was constructed, with an added bus stop and crosswalk, along Astoria Boulevard on the southeast corner where the same intersection meets Newtown Avenue.
“With much of Queens in a transit desert with limited access to the subway, finding ways to improve bus service is key to providing faster, more reliable transit options for all of our borough’s residents, no matter what their ZIP Code or socioeconomic status may be,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “The 21st Street Bus Priority Project will vastly improve bus service in western Queens, while also enhancing safety for all who use 21st Street. I commend the New York City DOT and MTA/New York City Transit for working together to implement these much-needed improvements, and I thank all of the community groups, stakeholders, and members of the public who contributed their thoughts and ideas to this process.”
“I am excited to join the Department of Transportation and local community members to celebrate the launch of the 21st Street Bus Priority Project,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán. “With the urgency of the climate crisis before us, the City must ramp-up efforts to improve the reliability, speed, and safety of our public transportation systems so that New Yorkers can take advantage of lower-emissions modes of travel. I am proud that we’re doing just that in District 22. The redesign of the 21st Street Bus will not only speed up service for bus riders but will make our streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike. I look forward to continuing to partner with the Department of Transportation to bring additional transportation infrastructure improvements to Western Queens.”
“We’re excited to see DOT and the MTA working so closely together on these additional bus lanes, while engaging the community in Queens on the roll-out,” said Ken Podziba, President and CEO of Bike New York. “The enforcement and infrastructure improvements that are a part of this and others projects will not only speed bus times; they’ll also help eliminate the double parking and aggressive driving that present a constant danger to pedestrians and cyclists in the city.”
“The New York League of Conservation Voters is thrilled to see the new MTA bus corridor running through the heart of Queens!,” said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “We commend Mayor Adams and Commissioner Rodriguez on taking this important step to upgrade New York City’s public transit system, a crucial component of reducing automobile traffic and ensuring all New Yorkers have access to safe, reliable transportation–it’s a win for equity and for the environment.
“Queens bus riders who travel through LIC and Astoria will be delighted with the new bus improvements on 21st Street,” said Megan Ahearn, Program Director, NYPIRG and its Straphangers Campaign. “By adding a marked bus lane, combating double parking, and through thoughtful street design, bus riders will see faster and more reliable service — service they depend on to get to school, work, and their social lives. We’re excited to see a piece of the vision for the Queens Bus Network Redesign come to life for Queens bus riders.”
“This project is a fantastic example of holistic street design,” said Open Plans Director of Advocacy and Organizing Jackson Chabot. “By combining new bus lanes with safe street measures and sidewalk plantings, DOT is addressing commutes, street safety, and climate change. These changes will be really impactful. 30,000 New Yorkers will finally gain access to reliable public transit and safe space for vulnerable road users like children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and micromobility users. We applaud DOT and MTA’s strategy here and hope to see similar transformations throughout the five boroughs as the Mayor’s office works toward their pledged goals for bus lanes and intersection redesigns.”
“Better bus service is now arriving for nearly 30 thousand riders in Queens” said Jaqi Cohen, Director of Climate & Equity Policy for Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “The new bus lanes on 21st Street in Long Island City and Astoria will improve the lives of thousands of bus riders, while also making streets safer and improving air quality in Western Queens. Given the climate emergency we are facing, New York City must double down on improving bus service, especially in environmental justice communities. We look forward to many more ribbon cuttings of new bus lanes and busways throughout the five boroughs.”
Banner Image: Bus lane in NYC. Image Credit – Yael Clusman