Last Thursday morning, all 15 members of the Queens delegation to the City Council publicly slammed the agency’s draft plan in a joint press release. In their comments, elected officials lobbed criticisms at the proposal citing feedback received from constituents, and calling for the MTA’s collaboration with the delegation in order to produce “significant changes” to the plan.
“The residents of Queens have voiced their serious, identifiable concerns with the bus network redesign loud and clear,” the release reads. “The current draft cuts back service in areas where there is no access to subways, it significantly condenses the express bus routes, and it is limited by budget restrictions.”
There simply cannot be cuts to service that will leave certain communities abandoned where transportation deserts already exist,” it continues. “Rather than create a budget-neutral plan, the MTA must provide further investment in these transportation deserts with additional funding from the New York State Legislature and the Mayor’s Office.”
Hours later, NYC Transit chief Andy Byford announced he will be stepping down effective February 21 after two years on the job. In his resignation letter, Byford referenced the AlixPartners MTA Transformation Program, which left agency presidents with an “important, but reduced, service delivery role” focusing primarily on the day-to-day running of the city’s transit.
Despite the loss of Byford, as well as pressure from elected officials to reconsider the redesign in his absence, the MTA is still holding tight to its plans and moving forward with scheduled outreach programs.
At a Queens Bus Redesign workshop in Ridgewood last Tuesday, residents voiced their concerns about what seems to be radical changes to their bus service.
Throughout the evening, riders sat at tables in groups of seven under the guidance of an MTA employee working on the redesign. Following a general presentation on the draft plan, group members were able to point out their specific questions and apprehensions on a large tabletop map of the new network.
“People are conditioned, they know how to get from A to B,” said Gary, a Ridgewood resident and retired bus driver for the Q54 and Q24 routes. “If you change everything around you’re going to drive them crazy.”
Transit officials at the workshops stressed a mission of getting riders to start thinking about what a “blank slate” bus system could potentially provide them, rather than getting attached to what they want to keep or what they don’t like.
However, in neighborhoods like Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale with limited access to alternative forms of public transportation, communities rely on buses. Consolidation of service in this area easily causes rippling effects.
Removing Q18 and Q67 from 65th Place
Many Maspeth residents, at Tuesday’s workshop and on social media, are strongly opposed to the redesign’s removal of accessible bus stops on 65th Place. The main issue is increased distances customers would have to walk to utilize replacement lines, particularly for seniors and children using the routes to get to school.
Along the Q67 and Q18 lines combined there are seven public and Catholic schools that would be markedly more difficult to reach, either due to complicated transfers or long distance from bus stops.
At one table, a woman pointed out the disappearance of her two bus stops: a Q67 stop at 53rd Avenue and 65th Place, and a Q18 stop further south on 65th Place.
According to the comparison chart on the Queens Bus Redesign site, Q67 service is replaced by the QT77. The closest stop for the area on this new line is at 60th Avenue and Fresh Pond Road, which would be roughly a 20-minute walk from the current Q67 bus stop.
And the QT77 only translates the Q67’s service in the direction of Long Island City. In order to access bus service south toward Metropolitan Avenue, residents would see a five-minute walk from the current bus stop to the nearest QT78 stop on 69th Street and 53rd Drive.
For the Q18, alternatives are split into three proposed lines in the Maspeth area: the QT4 at Grand Avenue and 69th Street (a 10-minute walk from the current stop); the QT78 from the stop on 69th Street and 53rd Avenue (5 minutes); or the QT80 on 58th Street and Borden Avenue (a 16-minute walk).
Riders often use the Q18 as their sole access to the LIRR at Woodside, but the proposed network provides no direct connection to the railroad station. To get to Woodside, residents would need to take the QT4 to Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Avenue/74th Street and transfer to the 7 train for 61 St-Woodside.
They could also take the QT78 to 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, and either catch the 7 from there or walk approximately eight minutes to the LIRR station.
Changes to the Q38
One Middle Village man expressed concerns about his daily commute to the M train under the proposed bus network. He takes the Q38 from Furmanville Avenue and 75th Place to the Middle Village/Metropolitan Ave subway stop.
With the proposed redesign eliminating bus service from Juniper Valley Road and most of Furmanville Avenue, commuters would need to walk roughly 12 minutes from the current Q38 stop to the QT78 on 69th Street and 62nd Drive and take it one stop to the M train. To walk the length of that entire trip would be 17 minutes.
For riders wishing to retain the service northeast provided by the Q38, a seven-minute walk would take them to the QT82 at 80th Street and Furmanville Avenue, which connects to the M and R trains at the 63 Drive stop.
Service beyond Queens Boulevard to 108th Street would require an additional 15 minutes on foot. By bus, the journey includes a transfer to an eastbound QT12 and then to a southbound QT11.
MTA officials at the workshop explained that the idea behind breaking up a one-seat ride under the current network to a two-seat ride with the proposed route changes is so that the agency can increase frequency across the board, meaning customers would be moving from a frequent line to another frequent line.
Projected times between buses advertised on the draft plan range from eight minutes to 30 minutes, depending on the hour and category of route.
Reducing express service on the Q53
A hot button topic regarding the Queens Bus Redesign has been proposed changes to the select and express bus service. Residents in Middle Village catch the Q53-SBS along Woodhaven Boulevard at either Penelope Avenue or Metropolitan Avenue in order to access trains running into Manhattan from the hub in Jackson Heights.
“That’s $2.75 to Lower Manhattan from Middle Village in under an hour, which is pretty great,” one young rider who uses the E daily to commute to work explained to an MTA employee at last week’s workshop.
This iteration of the draft plan eliminates direct service to Jackson Heights for these passengers. For a ride to Manhattan from that vicinity, residents would take the QT52 from Metropolitan Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard to the local M or R subway line at Woodhaven Blvd.
Alternatively, commuters could make their way to one of the five proposed express stops along Eliot Avenue for a more costly ride on the QMT160. According to information provided on the MTA’s Remix platform for the Queens Bus Redesign, the QMT160 would operate every 21 minutes from 6 to 8:30 a.m. and every 36 minutes from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, with no weekend service.
Another point of concern for residents is the lack of signage on bus shelters and in subway stations to spread word about the ongoing redesign.
“I think what will help people is communication, especially when this plan goes into effect,” offered Brandon Mosley, a member of the Access Queens coalition. “I think people are going to need to be told where the bus stops are, especially around where they would transfer and subway stations. When you get off the train, you don’t always know where the bus stop is, and not everyone has easy access to a phone.”
The MTA is currently working to get its “look ahead” trip planning tool up and running, which will provide customers with hypothetical itineraries for their daily routes based on the proposed redesign draft.