By JON CRONIN
Updating the city’s transit system will be a “Herculean effort,” said Andy Byford, the president of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), at a town hall in Jamaica on Aug. 21.
Byford added that it will take five years to create a subway and bus system that could be considered part of a “world class” transit system.
The town hall, which was held at York College, is part of the community-engagement effort of the NYCTA’s fast-forward program to fix the multitude of problems with the subway and bus systems.
“It will happen top to bottom,” said Byford of the changes, adding that the bus system is the slowest in the country and the outdated subway signaling system hails from the 1930s.
Byford had been criticized for the late announcement of the town hall, and was accused by several community members of giving short notice so that people would not be able to attend. Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and state Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park) were among those who chided Byford for the late notice. Byford said that he would schedule another town hall for the community in Queens with more-advance notice.
Jamaica residents asked what could be done to get the buses moving faster when they leave Jamaica’s bus depot.
“A snail could get through Archer [Avenue] and Parsons [Boulevard] faster,” said one commuter.
Byford said that the archaic bus routes no longer reflect where people want to go in the boroughs, and to move them, “We need to get to the root of the problem. They are hopelessly caught in traffic.”
Byford announced that the bus system should be rerouted within the next three years, adding that when talking to members of the City Council about creating new bus-only lanes, “it’s hard to even initiate a debate for additional bus lanes.”
Southeast Queens residents inquired about getting additional stops on the A and C line into the Rockaways, rather than having it go to Lefferts Boulevard. Others inquired about the Queens Rail project, which would reactivate 3.5 miles of Long Island Rail Road track that ran from the the western part of the Rockaways to Rego Park, but closed in the early 1960s due to low ridership.
Byford, who has been on the job for seven months, said he had heard of the Queens Rail plan, but has not looked into it further. He also stated that new lines would probably not get attention until the current 10-year plan to restore the antiquated systems has been implemented.
Byford noted that he had taken the J line to Jamaica that evening, and said that the R42 train he rode “should be in the scrapyard or a museum.”
In his presentation to the public, he announced that there would be more weekend and night closures on many of the overstrained lines to avoid full closures. He also said that the NYCTA is focused on making riders feel valued through better customer service and feedback.
This year, the J and Z along the Woodhaven Jamaica Avenue corridor will get an update with communications-based train control (CBTC) technology, which will control the speed and starting and stopping of subway trains. The 7 train will also get a complete overhaul with CBTC technology in 2018. In the next five years, the M, C, A, N, R, F and W lines will all get the same treatment.
Byford noted that as part of this program, both buses and train cars will become more accessible to those with disabilities. He said that when engineers decide where elevators can be installed, they often only give one or two options. Byford cited the placement of electrical equipment and the location of city real estate as issues that constrain elevator locations.