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Queens Chronicle

CB 9 articulates ire on articulated buses

MTA instituted longer vehicles on Q10 line in spring to meet demand

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Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:47 am, Thu Oct 31, 2013.

To say the Q10 bus line may be one of the borough’s busiest would surprise few people.

The route that runs from Kew Gardens to JFK Airport was, in the days before the AirTrain, the only connection between the Queens Boulevard subway lines, the LIRR and the airport.

But today, the bus is still an important commuter connector for residents in South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Kew Gardens. So much so that in the spring, the MTA instituted articulated buses on the route.

Colloquially called “double buses” or “accordion buses’ — named for the accordion-like connector between the cabs — the articulated buses are vehicles that resemble two separate carriages linked by a flexible section.

They’re common in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but were rare in Queens until recently, though they’ve been running on the Jamaica-The Bronx Q44 for some time. The MTA ran them on the Rockaway-to-Queens Center Q52 line earlier this year while the subway tracks over Jamaica Bay were being reconstructed after their destruction in Hurricane Sandy. At the time, the MTA added them on the Q10, citing the high demand along the line.

But critics say the buses are more a hassle than a help.

“It’s a disaster,” said Andrea Crawford, chairwoman of Community Board 9’s Transportation Committee. “You’re putting articulated buses on a main road that has only one lane in each direction. They get stuck at lights. They back up traffic. You put these buses on a street like Woodhaven Boulevard, not on Lefferts.”

Crawford issued a report critical of the articulated buses on the Q10 at the Oct. 8 CB 9 meeting, suggesting that they cause traffic headaches and are unnecessary because they are typically not filled, especially on off hours.

The Q10’s northern terminus is the intersection of Kew Gardens Road and Queens Boulevard. Some buses load on Kew Gardens Road, while some board on Queens Boulevard directly across from Borough Hall. Either way, the buses are forced to make sharp turns up 82nd Avenue, a narrow tertiary street, to get back onto Kew Gardens Road. On the southern end of the route, the buses utilized residential streets in South Ozone Park.

Crawford said she has met with the bus line manager and requested the MTA come back to the community board with statistics — such as ridership figures, the number of buses running and the time of the day they run — to back up its claim that the articulated buses are necessary on the Q10.

“The question now is how can we tweak this?” she said. “Let’s get the data. I don’t want them to defend something without having the data to back it up.”

When the buses were introduced back in May, CB 9 was furious. District Manager Mary Ann Carey said the board was not notified that the city Department of Transportation was extending bus pads to accommodate the new buses. Dozens of parking spots in the neighborhoods along the line— where street parking is already an issue — were eliminated.

Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the MTA, said Crawford’s analysis is “flawed.”

“First, the Q10 is the highest-volume local route MTA Bus operates, with an average weekday ridership of 25,000,” he said in an email. “To put that in context, the average weekday ridership on NYC routes is approximately 12,000, so yes, the demand on the Q10 is there.”

Ortiz said the size of the street is irrelevant to the buses’ operation.

“The fact that Lefferts Boulevard is only one lane bears no physical relevance,” he said. “Articulated buses are no wider than a traditional 40-foot bus, and while articulated buses are longer (to accommodate more customers), they are actually easier to maneuver than a 40 foot bus.”

Commuters have mixed feelings about the buses.

“It’s a mess,” said Kevin Urmansk, who regularly commutes to his job at JFK Airport from Kew Gardens on the Q10. “When the buses make turns, the back gets tossed around. It’s scary sometimes.”

But Patty Mattaraj, who commutes on the Q10 from her South Richmond Hill home to Kew Gardens to connect to the F train, is a fan of the articulated buses.

“I think they’re great,” she said. “When I come home at six or six-thirty, the buses are always packed in like sardines. The [articulated] buses are not. Even if there aren’t any seats, there’s room to stand.”

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