BY LYNN EDMONDS
The Q58 bus needs a dispatcher at its terminal station, Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), Community Board 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman and the Subway Surface Supervisors Association said on Tuesday.
Since the previous dispatcher passed away four years ago, the 29,500 riders who travel Queens’ busiest route are subject to the whims of individual drivers and the chaos of a leadership vacuum, the speakers said.
The bus dispatcher, who was not replaced by the MTA, used to tell the drivers who would be the first to leave and what time they needed to take off. He would also do much more than that; including shepherding waiting passengers onto the next bus so they didn’t have to wait in the heat or cold, instructing drivers to skip stops when two buses were too close together and even playing the role of a traffic agent, helping the buses to pull out and directing cars as needed.
Now, there’s general sense of each rider and driver fending for his or herself on the busy sidewalks and streets, the speakers said.
“Twenty-nine thousand people ride this line every single day. And you’re telling me we can’t get a supervisor to ensure the quality of the customer service that the riders deserve? That’s ridiculous,” Kim said.
Bitterman said that the situation for the past four years has been “chaos.”
“I park my car down the block, and it takes me almost eight lights to get up the block. At times you have six buses lined up down the block. You have passengers lined up along the street. It could be snowy, it could be rainy, they’re standing here,” she said. “This dispatcher is desperately needed. It’s a very, very unsafe condition.”
In place of an onsite dispatcher, the MTA placed a dispatcher in an office building a few miles away. He communicates with drivers electronically, overseeing multiple routes. The downside of that system, the SSSA says, is that the new dispatcher is not on the ground and loses all contact with bus drivers the minute that they step off the bus.
Kim said he was in favor of new technology where it enhanced service, not just cut jobs.
“It should compliment the workers,” he said. “That is not the case in this area.”
“If the [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] fails to listen to the outcry expressed at last week’s Community board 7 meeting, then they are fully responsible for creating a potentially dangerous situation for commuters on the Q58,” Michael Carrube, President of the SSSA, added.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana