QUEENS — The MTA will roll out changes on the Q23 bus route in Forest Hills beginning Sept. 3, affecting those shopping at stores along Metropolitan Avenue, including Trader Joe’s, city officials and local residents said.
As part of the change, the one-way loop at the end of the route will be reversed and bus stops on Metropolitan Avenue will be relocated to the opposite side of the street. They will, however, remain at the same intersections where they are currently located, the MTA said.
The Q23’s present Forest Hills-bound route travels south on 71st Avenue, then turns right to go west on Metropolitan Avenue, then makes a left turn to go south on Woodhaven Boulevard, before turning left again to go east on Union Turnpike. There, the bus stops at the Forest Hills layover in front of the Forest View Crescent Co-op, before resuming the route and traveling north on 71st Avenue.
Under the new route, the bus will instead go south on 71st Avenue before turning right onto Union Turnpike, where it will stop at a new layover point near Stop & Shop, before continuing north on Woodhaven Boulevard, then east on Metropolitan Avenue and north on 71st Avenue, the MTA said.
As a result, shoppers taking the bus to stores along Metropolitan Avenue will now have to include the layover period in their travel time, a change that sparked concerns among Community Board 6 members in June.
"We’re only reversing the direction of the loop, so whereas Trader Joe’s used to be near the end of the line, it is now toward the beginning," Marisa Baldeo, a spokeswoman for the MTA, said Thursday.
The changes, which will also affect the QM12 and QM42, are being made after the Department of Transportation opted to ban the left turn from southbound Woodhaven Boulevard to eastbound Union Turnpike as part of its plan to implement Select Bus Service along Woodhaven Boulevard this fall, the MTA said.
In June, CB6 suggested to instead create a dedicated left turn lane for buses only from Woodhaven Blvd to Union Turnpike during rush hour which would allow the bus route to remain unchanged.
But the DOT said at the time that banning the left turn from Woodhaven Boulevard to Union Turnpike is necessary at the intersection, which saw about 150 traffic-related injuries and one fatality since 2009, according to city's Vision Zero map.
On Thursday, the DOT said the left turn ban will go into effect after the reconstruction of the intersection sometime before the end of the year.
The agency is also currently working on building a dedicated left turn bay at nearby 81st Road instead.
Locals had mixed reactions to the upcoming changes.
"The Q23 route change will inconvenience people going to the [North Forest Park] Library and businesses like Trader Joe’s on Metropolitan Avenue," said John O'Reilly, who lives in the area.
"It would be better to leave the bus route as is and change the left turn signal on Woodhaven Boulevard into Union Turnpike to 'busses only,'" O'Reilly added.
But other residents pointed out on a local Facebook page that it would be an improvement for the children going home from the school complex on Metropolitan Avenue, who currently have to walk to 71st Avenue to get the Q23.
Next week, the MTA is planning to post signs in multiple languages on buses and at all affected bus stops informing residents about the changes, the agency said.