BY DANIEL OFFNER
Commuters in Northeastern Queens were given the opportunity to air grievances with daily bus travel last Thursday, during a public workshop at Queensborough Community College.
Part of a $500,000 region-wide study, the workshop honed in on ways to improve public transportation for travelers – specifically in Flushing, Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Bayside, College Point, Oakland Gardens, Douglaston, Glen Oaks, Fresh Meadows, Little Neck, Beechurst, Bellerose, Auburndale, Floral Park, Hollis Hills, Queens Village, Jamaica and New Hyde Park.
Dorian Statom, a transportation planner for NYC Transit, said the study area contains a total of 41 bus routes, 23 of which belong to NYC Transit, while the remaining 18 belong to the MTA. In 2013, the agency eliminated its Q79 service – which traveled from Little Neck to Floral Park – by extending its existing Q36 route.
After the presentation, members of the community were asked to sit at different tables, each with a map and stickers to mark off problem areas in their route.
During the group discussion, Community Board 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld said that the agency also eliminated the Q79 because of its low ridership, but decided to bring back the route after finding there was no other North-South bus service in the area.
“Northeast Queens is so dependent on busses,” Seinfeld said. “What I think we can look forward to seeing are some improved services, route changes and shorter wait times.”
Seinfeld said she is particularly interested in changing the Q46 route along Union Turnpike to Kew Gardens, which can take hours to travel because of traffic.
In order to bring the study to Queensborough Community College, State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing Meadows) helped to allocate a half-million dollars from last year’s Executive Budget to allow the MTA to look into expanding services in Northeastern Queens.
“When the MTA’s budget crisis led to significant service reductions across the City five years ago, my district was one of the hardest-hit areas affected by the cuts,” Avella said in a statement. “Northeast Queens is severely ignored and underserved by the city’s public transportation system and major improvements are needed in order to meet the needs of my constituents.”
Rozic, whose district does not include any subway or train stations, said she was pleased to see the MTA and NYC Transit working to ensure that service changes reflect the growing ridership in a community only serviced by buses.
“After devastating service cuts in 2010, we must identify what necessary improvements will create dependable, efficient transit options in Northeast Queens,” she said in a statement.
However, not everyone was so enthused about the cost to perform the study. During the workshop, Douglaston resident Bob Baker said that while he is not dependent on public transportation, he was “disgusted” to learn that it cost a half-million dollars for a discussion on the state of public transportation.
“We wasted $500,000 of taxpayer money on something we already know,” Baker said.
Mark Henry, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local No. 1056, said that he anticipates changes will be made based on a vast majority of concerns having to do with a lack of bus service in the region.
“Buses are still necessary,” Henry said. “We have the personnel… but if you don’t have any buses nothing improves.”
Eliott Socci, president of the Douglaston Civic Association, said he has no issues with bus services in the area, but came out to listen to what others had to say.
“Not everyone will walk out of here with their problems resolved,” Socci said, optimistic the agencies would address some complaints.
Northeastern Queens resident David Schachner, after the meeting, sent a list of recommendations for the Q46 bus line asking first and foremost that the MTA and New York Transit implement Select Bus Service.
“Please start with the bus stop at the Union Turnpike-Kew Gardens subway station for the eastbound Q46,” Schachner stated. “During the evening rush hour, entire buses are filled to capacity at this bus stop.”
Reach Daniel Offner at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, email@example.com, or @DanielOffner.