After receiving feedback from borough residents, the Queens delegation to the New York City Council is calling for significant changes to the MTA’s Queens bus network redesign proposal.
The MTA unveiled its draft proposal to redraw bus routes throughout Queens with the agency looking to spread out stops and have fewer turns in order to increase speed and cut down on bus bunching.
In a press release issued last Thursday, all 15 Council members representing the borough voiced concerns with the plan.
“The MTA’s plan to increase ridership by cutting service is utter nonsense,” said Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona). “It’s the logic of someone who throws out their medication to cure an illness.”
Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) added, “The current Queens bus redesign plan is bad for Queens residents.”
Some criticisms of the plan include riders being dropped off at subway stations not accessible to handicapped people and the redesign being “revenue neutral.”
Then-MTA President Andy Byford faced critics of the plan in Jackson Heights earlier in the month, less than two weeks before his resignation from the position.
In the release, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) said “Byford’s statement that the plan was devised within the restrictions of financial constraints dooms the plan to failure.” She added that because the borough has experienced a significant increase in population in recent decades, “any plan that does not incorporate increases to service is destined for failure.”
Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) said Maspeth is in “desperate need” of an express bus route but the plan reduces express routes. He said the cuts on service in the area will create longer wait times and longer walks to buses, which will impact seniors, students and people with disabilities.
“The MTA cannot meet the needs of our constituents with this redesign if there is no further investment into the agency’s budget,” Holden said.
The MTA is looking to reverse a decline in ridership that has occurred in recent years.
“The plan that the MTA has submitted is only going to lead to a further decline in ridership on our buses,” said Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton). “You can’t take away bus lines, shorten routes, and leave out some communities entirely, then expect commuters to want to take public transportation.”
Also critical of the plan was Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica).
“Given the proposed service cuts in the draft Queens Bus Network Redesign, it is clear that the approach was not holistic,” she said. “The goal of public transit should be to take New Yorkers from point A to point B expeditiously. The plan in its current form would make this goal unattainable for many residents of Queens especially with commuters with limited public transit options.”
Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) noted the draft sends 18 bus routes to Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street while reducing service across the board, including express lines meant to alleviate overcrowding on the 7 train.
“The MTA Queens bus redesign needs to go back to the drawing board,” he said. “There are simply too many questionable modifications that will put riders from every part of the borough at a significant commuting disadvantage without offering viable alternatives.”
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said his office has received dozens of complaints from area residents concerned with the plan.
“In Northeast Queens, where there is no subway access and limited public transportation options for commuters, the MTA should be increasing and improving bus service, not creating a more desolate transportation desert,” he said.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said in his district the MTA proposed removing the Q53 in its entirety as well as stops along the Q22. The lawmaker said changes to the Q22 would require several hundred students and other riders to transfer to another bus to reach the same destination.
“I urge Queens residents to vocalize their concerns by submitting feedback and attending the upcoming public sessions,” he said.
A series of public workshops are being held around the borough for commuters to give input and suggestions in the process.
MTA spokesperson Amanda Kwan defended the plan in an email to the Chronicle.
“The Queens Bus Network Redesign will improve service by rebuilding the entire system from a blank canvas using public feedback and data-driven study about today’s ridership needs, putting service where it’s needed and modernizing an outdated map,” she said. “This is still a draft proposal that will change following feedback, and while there are always fiscal constraints in an organization with finite funds, budget is not a factor at this stage as we solicit feedback on a preliminary proposal.”
The on-time performance of Queens bus routes decreased 12 percent from 2014 through 2018, according to MTA statistics. Average bus speeds in Queens are the second-highest of the five boroughs at 8.7 mph but that marks a 3.3 percent decrease from 2015.
Bus ridership in Queens fell 5.4 percent from 2014 through 2019 for average weekday rides. The agency attributes the drop to several factors, including slower bus speeds and decreased reliability.
After the MTA receives feedback on the draft plan, a proposed final plan will be released, followed by another round of public outreach. The proposed final plan will also be presented to elected officials, the Borough Board, community boards and other stakeholders.
The MTA will host a public hearing for the proposed final plan, followed by a presentation to the MTA board. If it receives approval, the implementation process will begin. The final plan is scheduled to be released later this year and implemented in 2021.