The NYC Department of Transportation has moved forward with the busway project along Jamaica Avenue and Archer Avenue in downtown Jamaica. The original proposal was delayed due to the backlash from local elected officials. Construction on the revised project began in September 2021. The busway improvements fall under Mayor de Blasio’s BetterBuses initiative. Almost 250,000 bus riders from Queens are said to benefit from the transit improvements. The Knight News reported on the need for a better busway in Jamaica. The goals of DoT are increasing bus speeds and reliability, calm traffic, improved truck loading, and unloading, and better local access.
The busways will be built and implemented on Jamaica Avenue in both directions between Sutphin Blvd. and 168th St. NYC DoT will also work on an eastbound busway on Archer Avenue between 150th St. and 160th St. These busways will be in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Archer Avenue busway was never controversial. It was the Jamaica Avenue busway proposal that was met with backlash. DoT surveys showed that the majority of people arrived by bus to the commercial hub in Jamaica Ave. either to shop or work. Only six percent said they arrived by car. A busway then would benefit the daily commuters and essential workers greatly. Archer Ave. is used by thousands of people who commute via the LIRR. Subway riders of the E, J, and Z lines also use Archer Ave. for Jamaica stops.
The average bus speed along Jamaica Ave. and Archer Ave. is very slow. Because of traffic congestion, buses along Archer Avenue currently have average speeds of 5.7 to 6.1 MPH during the afternoon rush, with speeds of only 4.7 to 4.9 MPH on Jamaica Avenue. One of the goals of the project is to get the average speed up to a higher number. As a resident of Jamaica who takes buses along Jamaica Ave. every week, I can testify to the slow speed of buses along this route. Md Islam, a Jamaica resident, (QC Computer Science, 25) reiterated the same point: “It takes almost 25 minutes for the Q8 bus to go from the Merrick Boulevard bus stand to the Archer Avenue LIRR stop. The buses are especially slow on Jamaica Avenue. The traffic rules are not enforced as well as they should be. Non-commercial private vehicles can just park at the bus lanes at any time.”
There are a few elected officials who have bashed DoT’s decision. One of their main complaints was DoT’s lack of communication with the local community. There were also concerns about the lack of safety for derelict vehicles parked along the corridors. Some also suggested that busway enforcement shouldn’t last all hours of the day. They also point to complaints about a previous initiative on Merrick Boulevard implemented last year. DoT claims that the complaints regarding the Merrick Blvd. bus lanes have been addressed and these are not reasons to cancel the Jamaica Ave. and Archer Ave. busway pilot initiatives. Both Jamaica Ave. and Archer Ave. corridors need immense change. Riders are losing valuable time of their day sitting in a traffic jam. The city Department of Transportation needs to address a variety of related problems, including broken streetlights, missing street signs, and two-way lanes in dire need of changing to one-way. However, as a resident of Jamaica, I must commend DoT’s busway proposal for Jamaica and Archer avenues. The only hope is that it doesn’t disappoint, as previous initiatives have.