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Community discusses Bus Network Redesign

As part of their public outreach efforts, the MTA is holding workshops in each community district — from Astoria to Rockaway — to hear feedback about their Queens Bus Network Redesign Plan.

After an 18-month pause on the project, which was initially developed in 2019, the MTA released the most updated draft.

They said in a presentation that after the recent public outreach has been completed, that feedback will be analyzed and implemented into a proposed final plan.

The goal of the Bus Network Redesign is to modernize the city’s bus network and provide faster, more efficient service to the nearly 800,000 customers who rely on it.

The plan is slated to eliminate a total of 1,685 bus stops, as well as offer 85 routes to the borough.

Residents of Community District 5 — which covers Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth, had the opportunity to provide feedback to MTA representatives at last Wednesday’s virtual workshop, and many of them were quite skeptical about the plan.

“The proposed change to the Q39 removing all service in Ridgewood removes access to several colleges not served by the Q67,” one concerned resident said. “Q67 frequency is 30 minutes, which does not improve Q39 service. The only option would be the Q58, which is already overcrowded, and transfer to the Q39 somewhere.”

The proposed Q39 would be extended north to Astoria via 21 Street and Astoria Blvd, replacing Q103 service there, and providing new connections across western Queens.

It would also terminate in Maspeth instead of serving Ridgewood, which would be provided by the potential Q67 bus. It will also no longer operate on a 24-hour timeline.

As part of the plan, the MTA created online profiles for each individual bus route in Queens in order for customers to analyze the proposals in depth.

The profiles suggest alternate connections by bus and train to compensate for any service that was changed or eliminated, as well as average stop spacing, total length, proposed frequency and span, and a map to provide a visual guide for the route’s changes.

Another Ridgewood resident pointed out that a stop on Menahan Street and Fresh Pond Road along the Q58 has been skipped as a result of nearby construction and stressed that it needs to be addressed in the new plan.

The same resident also brought up an error in the MTA’s plan regarding the QM24 and QM25 buses, which say there will be a stop on Fresh Pond Road and Gates Avenue, however, there is currently no bus stop at Gates Avenue.

“I think that was just an error because there is a stop at Fresh Pond and Grove, and that would make perfect sense to keep the bus stop there. But if you remove the bus stop at Bleecker Street and move the Grove stop, it’s such a tremendous difference to be able to walk all the way over to Gates Avenue,” she said.
Lucille Songhai, an MTA representative, said she and other employees will continue to do research regarding the road operations, which will likely be reflected in the final plan.

MTA representative Daniel Randall reminded all attendees that the current plan is merely a draft at this point, and that all feedback, questions, and concerns are welcome.

“All this feedback is very useful,” he said. “You know your communities better than we do.”

Randall added that “the fact that you’re naming economic institutions, schools, and local infrastructure is really helpful because that will inform the next phase of this plan.”

More information about the Queens Bus Network Redesign Plan is available on the MTA’s website for anyone to view. Community members can register for any of the MTA’s virtual bus workshops through June 2 as well.

MTA releases Queens Bus Network Redesign draft plan

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority rolled out its new Queens Bus Network Redesign draft plan, after receiving over 11,000 public comments on their initial attempt to redesign the bus network in 2019.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the brakes were put on the initiative in March 2020. Now, the MTA is ready to start back up again with a fresh perspective after the agency received an “unprecedented number of comments” about the original draft plan released in December 2019.

The MTA says its focus is now on routing, bus stop locations, and providing frequent and reliable bus service throughout the borough. In 2019, the bus network served nearly 800,000 average weekday riders with over 100 routes.

“The Queens New Draft Plan is the third to be released, but in some ways, may be the most important of the five because Queens has, historically, had less subway service relative to its size and population than the other boroughs,” MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said. “So many people depend on buses for access to jobs, education, culture and everything else New York has to offer. The New Draft Plan reimagines both local and express service to address the evolving needs of Queens communities, with a focus on more reliable service, faster travel, better connections, and ease of use.”

MTA Chair & CEO Janno Lieber, Interim NYCT President Craig Cipriano, Acting MTA Bus President/SVP NYCT Buses Frank Annicaro, DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards announce the Queens Bus Network Redesign Draft Plan at Jamaica Av. & 150th St. on Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2022. (Marc A. Hermann / MTA)

With over half of Queens residents relying on public transportation for their daily commute, at least 11 percent commute primarily by bus, the MTA says. Although ridership dropped significantly during the pandemic — to roughly 46 percent of pre-pandemic levels — ridership is slowly continuing to recover as New Yorkers return to work and their daily activities.

More direct routes in congested areas, like downtown Flushing and Jamaica, are in the pipeline for the redesign. The MTA says a contributing factor to congestion in Flushing and Jamaica are the result of bus routes that end in those neighborhoods.

The MTA is also placing a priority on creating a more efficient bus system by removing and adjusting closely-spaced bus stops along routes in hopes of expediting service. The MTA says with seconds shaved off of existing bus routes, there is a “positive cascading effect” on overall travel times with fewer bus stops.

A total of 85 bus routes (up from 82 currently) are proposed for the local bus network, which can be broken down into four different route types, including 35 local routes, 27 rush routes, 16 limited routes and seven crosstown Select-Bus Service routes.

The MTA will also continue its work with the city’s Department of Transportation to build upon its achievements of dedicated bus lanes, like the ones that were installed last year in Jamaica.

DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez lent his support to the bus network redesign plan, calling efficient bus service a top priority for commuters from Queens.

“The majority of Queens residents rely on public transportation for their commutes and making sure their buses are running on time and unobstructed has been one of our top priorities,” said NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “We strongly support the holistic efforts of the borough bus network redesigns to improve bus service, through simplified routings, improved access to important destinations, and improved bus stop spacing.”

In its latest redesign draft plan, the MTA says they are looking into more direct routing and finding new connections to subway stations and other bus routes. New bus routes may have less stops, but this is countered with a proposed frequency increase and fewer route variations or branches.

For example, the proposed Q46 bus route would only serve LIJ Hospital, while the proposed Q48 bus route would only serve Glen Oaks.

Proposed changes to the Express Bus Network include one new express route, serving southeast Queens from Springfield Gardens and Rochdale to Midtown Manhattan. The MTA is also proposing to discontinue the QM3 line that runs between Little Neck and Midtown Manhattan due to low ridership, as well as to retire the QM10 and QM40 lines in order for more direct routes (the proposed QM11, QM12 and QM42 lines) to take their place.

In an effort to gather feedback from locals, the MTA is holding virtual workshops that start on Monday, April 18 for local Community Boards. All workshops will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Community Board 1 (Astoria, Long Island City and Woodside) will be the first virtual workshop held on Monday, April 18, with the rest to follow.

City buses will be better with Cuomo gone

As now disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo prepares to step down from his position this coming Monday, officials throughout the City and State are positioning themselves to make the most of the situation. Incoming Governor Kathy Hochul is already working on damage control, opportunistic Republicans are eyeing a victory in next year’s Gubernatorial election, and Mayor Bill de Blasio is revelling in his ‘I told you so’ routine.
However, slightly removed from the spotlight, members of the MTA and DOT have already started to adjust to the new political climate. Evidence of this can be found in the agencies’ joint announcement this week to greatly expand the City’s bus system, with more dedicated bus lanes, improved intersections, and an all-door boarding program planned for the coming two years.
While this announcement might seem askew from the goings on in Albany, it seems planned — or at least appropriate — that bus improvements will begin to be implemented directly after Cuomo’s political collapse is finally complete. The outgoing Governor never made the City’s public transit a priority, due in part to his ego-driven rivalries with former New York City Transit President Andy Byford and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
This week’s announcement could prove to be a small first step in mending the relationship between City and State governments, especially as it pertains to public services like mass transit. However, if you are not feeling that optimistic, it is at least a sign that government agencies can tackle projects that benefit New Yorkers without viewing them through the vain lens of political wins and losses.
Bus improvements are not sexy, but they are needed. More importantly though, they are possible, with even the smallest bit of coordination between different levels of government. Improving our bus system won’t score you quick political points like a new park, daily press conferences, or a bridge named after your father, but it is the right thing to do because it improves quality of life for millions of New Yorkers.
With Cuomo gone, let’s hope that the air of hostility that surrounds him will also subside, and that our government will become less political and more efficient. At the very least, let’s hope that our busses get stuck in less traffic.

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