BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Residents, local businesses and community groups voiced concerns to Metropolitan Transportation Authority representatives about the dire need for a shuttle bus that goes directly to Grand Central during the weekends of the No. 7 train shutdowns, between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza, during a special meeting last week at PS/IS 78.
MTA representatives, including MTA President Carmen Bianco, explained to concerned train-riders and local elected officials that the No. 7 train shutdowns will in fact lead to long-term solutions, but until then, they cannot provide a shuttle bus.
Bianco said according to the data they have collected, a shuttle bus from Long Island City to Grand Central would not be plausible because they “know a lot of riders are not going to Grand Central.”
“The very best thing we can do is get our customers to one of our trains to get to their destination,” he said.
The alternative route Bianco suggested MTA customers take is a shuttle bus to Queensboro Plaza and then the E, F, N or S train to Manhattan.
The room full of 200 concerned residents, who quickly responded with outspoken criticism after listening to Biancos’ answer, raised their hands in unison when Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) asked whether they frequently travel to Grand Central and would use a shuttle bus provided by the MTA.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said he would like to see the data the MTA has collected, which proves customers from LIC do not frequently travel to Grand Central.
In addition to community disapproval, the two-and-a-half hour meeting also included an in-depth explanation of the three infrastructure projects that will take place during the No. 7 train shutdowns that began in February and will continue through July, with an additional nine more closures expected later in the year.
Bianco said he understands the upcoming weekends of shutdowns will be an inconvenience to everybody.
“I know it’s inconvenient, but we have to do this,” he said. “But let me apologize for the inconvenience.”
MTA representatives took turns explaining the needs, the challenges and benefits of the work being done to a system that was first built in the 1800s.
The three infrastructure projects include maintenance work in the Steinway Tube, enhancing the communication system, known as Communication Based Train Control and finally, replacing the elevated tracks that are past their 25 year life expectancy.
Even though many residents would have liked to see the No. 7 train shutdowns completed during a shorter time span, Bianco explained the work must be done during daylight hours and over the weekends for long periods at a time.
Bianco said after the work is fully complete in 2017, it will increase capacity for riders by 10 percent, or two more trains per hour.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.