Members of the Riders Alliance, and a handful of frequent bus riders, gathered at the intersection of Main Street and Union Turnpike on Saturday to announce that over 2,000 bus riders in Flushing and Jamaica have signed petitions calling on governmental agencies to improve service on the Q44 bus route, particularly along Main Street.
According to Josselyn Atahualpa, the organization’s community organizer, copies of the petitions, which she said were collected over the past several months, would be delivered to the Department of Transportation, the MTA and elected officials who represent districts along the Main Street corridor.
“We want Select Bus Service to be implemented along the Q44 route,” Atahualpa said. “We want to show our power. We want to show our elected officials that bus riders are an important constituency.”
Several frequent bus riders spoke at the event, signaling their support for SBS.
“As a senior, I don’t drive and I can’t walk long distances,” said Jamaica resident Jeanne Majors, a member of the alliance. “I often rely on buses, but I’m tired of their unreliability and how overcrowded they’ve become.”
Elizabeth Toth, who has lived in the area for 39 years, said she takes the bus at least four times a week, primarily for shopping and doctors’ appointments.
Toth recalled an incident last February when she and two other women were waiting for the bus at the site of Saturday’s event. It was around 11 p.m., she said, and bitter cold.
“The bus stopped all the way down there,” she said, pointing in the direction of 81st Avenue. “It didn’t stop here. He saw we were waiting.”
It was enough to inspire her to become involved with the alliance.
Another problem, Toth said, is that “sometimes they come right after each other. They push each other.”
She worries most about her twin 14-year-old granddaughters, who are just entering high school.
“I’m very concerned that they could get to school on time in the morning,” she said.
Daily bus rider Lauren D’Agostino, 56, who grew up in the neighborhood, suggested that the situation could be worse.
“The 44 and 20, I feel, are crowded but pretty good,” D’Agostino said. “There are a lot of them. During the week, you can’t beat them.”
Still, she is in favor of SBS. “If it would get me to where I have to go faster, why not?” she asked.
According to a July report from the DOT and MTA, part of the plan calls for the current Q44 to become a Select Bus Sservice route. It would follow the same route from Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica to the Bronx Zoo but would make eight fewer stops in the Bronx.
“The Q44 is a major artery in Queens, but riders have to endure hour-plus commutes to get to work, school and home,” Atahualpa said. “We need to fix the Q44.”
In a letter to MTA Bridges and Tunnels President James Ferrara, the alliance said, “We ask that the MTA and the NYC DOT implement SBS, including bus lanes, off-board fare collection, and transit signal priority, in a timely manner.”
The corridor plan, which involves street design, traffic analysis, stop locations and pedestrian safety improvement, is being refined, with implementation expected by late 2015.