Sources within the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have told the Chronicle that those working on the project to redesign the Queens bus system were taken aback by last week’s announcement that the union for the borough’s bus drivers disapprove of the most recent proposal.
The group “was surprised to see the remarks” that were contained in a statement from Mark Henry, president and business agent of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056. And the agency, reached for comment, was not quite as diplomatic.
Henry said the 434-page proposal from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority doesn’t appear to take “transportation deserts” into account and is more economically motivated than service-oriented.
“We are very early in a highly collaborative process with only a proposed draft at this stage that will continue to be refined using public input,” an MTA spokesman told the Chronicle in an email. “We have worked collaboratively with our employees and union partners on this plan, and we hope to continue that productive relationship to make this a successful redesign that improves service for our customers. We did early and significant outreach with bus operators as part of this process, visiting multiple depots, listening about their experiences navigating Queens and including union leadership who sat side by side with MTA bus planners in two day-long drawing sessions to collaboratively re-imagine the Queens bus network.”
The MTA is in the midst of a yearlong study. All existing routes would be eliminated, with the MTA stating that most if not all would be covered by one or more new routes.
A draft final proposal is due in April.
Local 1056 represents drivers and mechanics in the MTA’s New York City Transit Queens Bus Division.
Henry in his statement said the new plan, as presented, “ignores the transit needs of many parts of the borough, especially transit deserts with its emphasis on greater access to revitalized or gentrified neighborhoods. Most commutes within the Borough will be challenging for the average Queens rider.”
The agency has admitted that bus stops will be eliminated, and that some people who now enjoy through-trips might need to transfer one or more times under a new system.
But the MTA has said concurring changes could make for faster trips nevertheless.
Henry said the “so-called” redesign is an attempt to mask a money-saving plan, saying “it in no way represents a service enhancing remapping. The routes mean longer commutes and/or two and three step transfers to connect to other bus lines, rail or subways.”
The plan has been criticized at a number of recent workshops and civic meetings.
The MTA and NYC Transit President Andy Byford has said the redesign is necessitated by several factors.
The elimination of some bus stops, for example, is intended to speed up rides. Newer routes are being advertised as reducing the number of turns required, which also is intended to quicken buses.
Transit officials also point out that even as neighborhoods, traffic patterns and bus usage patterns are in constant states of change and adaptation, some bus routes have not seen changes in decades. Some follow old streetcar and trolley routes.
The MTA is in the midst of a series of its own regional outreach workshops that began Jan. 21 [see se[arate stry in some editions or at qchron.com]. All are scheduled to run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The remaining meetings as of publication include:
• Jan. 23 at the Queens Educational Opportunity Center in Jamaica at 158-29 Archer Ave.;
• Jan. 28 at Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Blvd. in Kew Gardens;
• Jan. 29 at JHS 202 Robert H. Goddard School at 138-80 Lafayette St. in Ozone Park;
• Jan. 30 at the Langston Hughes Library and Cultural Center at 100-01 Northern Blvd. in Corona;
• Feb. 4 at the Jacob Riis Settlement at 10-25 41 Ave. in Long Island City; and
• Feb. 5 at RISE/Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, 58-03 Rockway Beach Blvd.
The entire redesign document can be viewed and downloaded online at new.mta.info/document/12706.
An overview of the draft plan is available at new.mta.info/queensbusredesign.