De-Stroading Queens

De-Stroading Queens

Queens is known throughout the city of New York as a place of great food, diverse cultures, and a baseball team. However, it also is home to a lot of stroads. Stroads are a combination of a city street with houses or businesses and a limited-access highway. It is basically like if someone took a suburban arterial road and plunked it down in the middle of an urban city. They are something that should not exist in a large city, but unfortunately Queens does have them. Queens also does not have a lot of transit, despite desperately needing it. The solution? De-stroad the stroads by adding lanes for buses, light rail, and bikes! This essay will go over four examples of how stroads are an eyesore, split up neighborhoods, and are a detriment to their communities, and each will have a transit-oriented solution.

Astoria Boulevard cuts across Northern Queens, running just to the south of Laguardia Airport. Astoria Boulevard is a classic example of a stroad. It has six lanes (seven in some places) plus parking and a median, and is 120 feet wide. It is an active detriment to the neighborhood, as it has many narrow or crumbling sidewalks along it, and is too wide to cross safely in most places. In addition, there is almost no transit on this stroad, with the Q19 being the only bus running there. This bus, instead of functioning as a vital crosstown link across northern Queens, is a pretty useless bus that runs every 20 minutes during the height of the rush hour. However, Astoria Boulevard can easily be fixed. The six travel lanes will be narrowed down to two, and the median would become two protected bike lanes. In addition, the space gained from getting rid of four lanes would be used for two combined light rail/bus lanes on each side of the street. This would be part of a light rail line running from JFK Airport to LGA Airport, via an abandoned railroad line, Junction Boulevard, and Astoria Boulevard, linking up central and northern Queens in the process. In addition, these lanes would be used to speed up the Q19. East of 94th Street, the light rail would turn off, and the bus lanes would be Q19-only.

Junction Boulevard is a major retail corridor running north-south across Central Queens, from LGA Airport to Rego Park. At first glance, it isn’t a stroad. It seems like a normal street. However, it is 80 feet wide, and the bus that runs along it, the Q72, is a frequently crowded bus - using 2021 ridership numbers, each weekday run would have an average of 55.49 riders, which is quite a bit more than the buses’ maximum seating capacity of 42 riders. So, it is somewhat wide, and needs more transit. To fix this, my proposal is to implement the light rail line I mentioned earlier in transit lanes on both sides of the street, in place of parking. In addition, the Q72 would run along these lanes, as a bus rapid transit route. Bus rapid transit is essentially a sped-up bus route using dedicated lanes, traffic signal priority, and running very frequently. In addition to implementing transit lanes, there would be planting strips along the road to keep drivers from entering the transitway. This would also create a greenspace, and a place to wait when crossing the street. South of Rego Park, the light rail line would run on 63rd Dr, then enter the Rockaway Beach Branch Right-of-way, which it would follow to JFK Airport.

Queens Boulevard is the beating heart of central Queens. It is lined with restaurants, apartments, stores, and pretty much everything else you could think of. It is also an absolute behemoth of a stroad. 200 feet wide. Eight lanes, plus median, parking, and turn lanes. A nightmare at rush hour. In addition, it has some of the most crowded buses in the borough. The local bus along Queens Boulevard is the Q60, and using 2021 ridership numbers, each weekday run would have an average of 68.35 riders, which is a lot more than the buses’ maximum seating capacity of 40 riders. The express bus routes along the boulevard, most of which are rush hour only, have a combined total of 3,174 riders per weekday, a number which could be higher if this plan was implemented. The eight lanes of traffic would be narrowed to four lanes plus parking, and bus and bike lanes would be implemented. However, the piece de resistance is that the express buses would have their own bus lanes in the middle of the road, making them able to skip traffic and have faster runtimes.

Lastly, we have Northern Boulevard, a road linking the diverse communities of Flushing, Corona, Jackson Heights, and Woodside to Queensboro Plaza and Long Island City. It is, unfortunately, also a stroad. This one isn’t as bad as Queens Boulevard, at 100 feet and four lanes plus median and parking wide, however it still needs narrowing and better transit. The Q66, the bus route that runs down Northern Boulevard is a frequently crowded bus - using 2021 ridership numbers, each weekday run would have an average of 63.52 riders, which is quite a bit more than the buses’ maximum seating capacity of 40 riders. In addition, the buses running on the route are older buses, and powered by compressed natural gas, which can be unreliable. If you were to cut the Q66 and replace it with light rail, you would be able to de-stroad Northern Boulevard, as well as make transit along the boulevard much more environmentally friendly. In addition, you would be able to connect in Long Island City to the N, R, W, E, and M, and 7 trains to Manhattan, as well as ferries, which would take pressure off the 7 train. Lastly, light rail simply is cheaper to buy, build, and maintain, than any subway and most buses.

Stroads are bad, and not something that should exist in cities. Transit also needs to be improved in much of Queens, and if you kill the stroads by adding transit, you solve both major problems. Adding light rail would be cheap to build, the vehicles would be cheap to buy, and the would be cheaper and easier to maintain than any buses or subways. In addition, light rail trains use electricity, whereas buses tend to use diesel or other fossil fuels. Overall, if this is implemented, transit would be massively improved.