There are two things that happen at midnight:
Cinderella’s stagecoach turns back into a pumpkin, and the last Q53 limited bus leaves Woodside for the Rockaways.
But after Sept. 8, the only person rushing to leave a party before midnight will be the fairy-tale princess. South Queens residents will be able to wait for the next bus.
Responding to a request from Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will add overnight service on the Q53 — which connects the Woodside LIRR station to Beach 116th Street in Rockaway Park — beginning Sept. 8.
In a letter to Ulrich, MTA Bus President Darryl Irick said the agency will implement overnight service due to growing demand. Ulrich had asked the MTA to increase service in April when the A train was still shut down over Jamaica Bay due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.
Service was increased on both lines, and articulated buses were introduced on the Q52 — a limited line that runs from Arverne to the Queens Center mall along the same route as the Q53 — after Sandy forced the closure of the A train. Ulrich had requested overnight service in addition to more buses.
“A line service to the Rockaways resumed,” Irick wrote. “However, demand for bus service in the Cross Bay/Woodhaven Boulevard corridor is growing, and, as a result, we are increasing service.”
Currently, the last southbound Q53 leaves the Woodside LIRR station at midnight, while the last northbound bus leaves Rockaway Park at 1:10 a.m. Weekday service resumes at 5:40 a.m. southbound and 5 a.m. northbound. On weekends, service does not resume until 6 a.m.
After Sept. 8, hourly buses will run both directions between 1 and 6 a.m.
Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the MTA, said the agency announced in June its plans to add overnight service after looking at the overall ridership on the route.
“We’ve reviewed the route and noticed there was definitely an uptick in ridership,” he said. “We are responding to that increase.”
The route runs local in the Rockaways and along the segment between the Queens Center mall and Woodside, where it also connects with the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue transportation hub — the second busiest subway station in Queens — and Queens Center mall.
Along Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards, the bus is a limited service serving only busy stops such as Penelope, Metropolitan, Jamaica and Liberty avenues. It is popular with Rockaway residents who work in Queens and with high school and college students who live in the Rockaways and attend school elsewhere in the borough.
It is also popular with southern Queens residents who frequent bars and restaurants in Astoria, Jackson Heights, Sunnyside and Long Island City and the midnight bus from Woodside is often as packed as it is during rush hour.
Northern Queens residents often use it to travel to the beach. It is not uncommon to see people with surfboards on Q53 buses.
“Transportation continues to be a problem for residents in southern Queens,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park). “Any improvement is welcome news.”
Ortiz said the MTA is also reviewing ridership on the Q52 to see if adding overnight service is warranted there as well.