By their sixth community meeting in 10 days, officials of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority were assuring the crowds and elected officials at the Langston Hughes Library that they have heard the will of riders disappointed with the draft plan for redrawing the map for buses in Queens.
And when the lines of residents far exceeded the legal capacity of the upstairs auditorium chosen for the two hours of workshop sessions on Jan. 30, they fixed that too — extending the time for collecting input and spending the last hour down on the first floor of the library, taking questions from the more than 80 residents in a line that snaked down the stairs, around and past the reference desk and back along the northern wall to the Teen Fiction section.
“We’re here to get this right,” Mark Holmes, chief officer for Operations and Planning for MTA Bus, told residents just outside the first floor stacks.
The MTA last month released a 434-page proposal that it said was designed to create straighter and quicker routes, albeit ones that would reduce the number of stops along the way in the interest of speed. Some riders who now have one-seat rides also would have a transfer or two to get to the same destinations that are served by existing lines.
The room had a capacity of 260, with new people allowed in as others left. Mark Satinoff of Jackson Heights said one of his worries is the proposed elimination of the Q49.
“It’s a major east-west route,” he said. And the replacement wouldn’t take people to the 74th Street [and Roosevelt Avenue] hub. It would take us to the 7 train, but not to an accessible station,” he said.
Michelle Calderon of Lefrak City said her neighborhood would be losing express bus service under the proposal.
Facilitators in the upstairs auditorium were at several tabletop work stations where residents were invited to sit down and propose their own ideas.
MTA officials said all the concerns raised since the meetings began in Ridgewood on Jan. 21 will be brought back as the agency gives the bus route redraw plan another try.
Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) told the crowd the existing proposal was not what the Queens delegation to Albany had in mind when most members voted to accept congestion pricing for vehicles entering Manhattan in return for dedicated funding for better bus and subway service in the ever-elusive lockbox for mass transit cash.
He said even Patrick Foye, chairman and CEO of the MTA, admitted in testimony before the Legislature earlier in the week that they had gotten it wrong.
“We were promised quid pro quo — you’ve been hearing that phrase a lot,” Aubry said, eliciting laughs with his reference to President Trump’s impeachment proceedings. “We gave them the quid; but we haven’t gotten the quo.”
Aubry told the Chronicle afterward that the congestion pricing agreement gives Queens legislators some leverage.
“No, I didn’t believe there’d be a lockbox,” the assemblyman said. “But now the MTA has to come to us looking for money.”
Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (D-Corona) and Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) also spoke at the meeting, expressing their disappointment over the draft plan.
Cruz, however, did say that some of the recommended changes should remain under consideration in any new proposal.
“Not everything is bad,” she said. “And there’s one thing everyone agrees on — the existing [bus] system needs to be fixed.”
The MTA announced last week that 19 additional meetings and workshops have been scheduled throughout Queens before the end of March [see separate story in some editions or at qchron.com].
Some like the Corona meeting, will be MTA-sponsored functions. Others will take place before civic groups or at functions such as community board general or committee meetings.