In a presentation to Community Board 5’s Transportation Committee on Jan. 28, the Regional Plan Association submitted a preliminary report on the efficiency of public transportation within the district.
The report, to none of the board members’ surprise, wasn’t a good one.
The RPA, an independent urban research and advocacy group based in Manhattan, is in the process of conducting an in-depth survey of public transportation in one community district in each of the five boroughs.
The group chose Community District 5 in June as its Queens location for one reason, according to RPA Senior Fellow Jeff Zupan.
“We picked CB 5 in Queens, in part, because your public transportation, in a word, is lousy,” Zupan said. “You know that and you told us that when we were here in June. There’s a good portion of the area where you can’t get a bus to the subway.”
The overall poor bus service within the district was the focal point of the presentation, with Zupan first noting the sizable amount of the district that does not have an express bus stop within one-third of a mile.
Areas lacking such a stop include northwest Ridgewood, central Middle Village and nearly all of Maspeth.
However, local bus service scores highly, according to the RPA. With the exception of a sliver of western Glendale and the northwestern tip of Maspeth, there is a local bus route within one-quarter of a mile of any location in the district.
“The coverage, measured in that way, is quite good,” he said. “And that’s true throughout the city.”
But when it comes to the frequency and speed of local bus service, the district scores poorly once again.
According to the RPA, the average speed of all city buses as they travel along their routes is 8.2 mph, but Queens buses are slightly quicker, averaging 9.2 mph.
Of the 22 local routes and eight express routes that travel within the borders of the CB 5 district for any length of time, 13 of them travel slower than the city average. Twenty-one navigate their routes slower than the borough average, including 15 local buses and all but two of the express buses.
The worst offenders include the B52 and the B54 local buses, which serve extreme southern Ridgewood, and the QM12 express bus that serves western Glendale.
The B52 inches along at an average of 6.6 mph while the B54 crawls at an average speed of just 6.4 mph, nearly three miles per hour slower than the Queens average.
The QM12 isn’t much better, with an average pace of just 7.4 mph.
Another sore spot identified by the RPA is the infrequency of service along many of the district’s bus routes, especially in the midday hours.
The average time between buses along half of the district’s local routes is 20 minutes or more, with the Q59, Q21 and the Q11 averaging half-hour wait times.
Six of the eight express buses don’t stop during midday hours, while the BM5 and QM15 run sporadically with an hour wait between buses.
“A lot of the midday service is lacking, especially on express buses,” Zupan said. “These buses are nonexistent, except on select routes.”
CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri wasn’t surprised by the group’s findings, and he even shared some of his own war stories from past experiences with the QM24.
“When I used it,” Arcuri said, “I would wait a half hour.”
Zupan partly blamed slower route speed and longer wait times on how long some buses spend at stops and the length of time it takes riders to pay the fare, but Arcuri believes a way to help improve service is to add more buses.
“The Q55 headway causes that backup on the fare pay because there are so few buses and they’re so far apart,” he said. “You need to balance that by having enough buses moving so the fare pay would go faster.”
Zupan agrees that adding more buses would alleviate some of the issues contributing to slow service, but it would be a hard sell when the RPA presents its report to the MTA.
“We’ll be suggesting an increase in the frequency of service but we know the reaction will be negative,” he said. “I think we would be very lucky to get them to consider an increase in service. We’re not especially hopeful, but we think there needs to be a robust service in this city.”