By Jonathan Sperling
The MTA revealed a “holistic, clean-slate” approach to fixing Queen’s dilapidated bus system at its first public meeting to discuss the Queens Bus Network Redesign earlier this week.
The MTA introduced a general redesign and emphasized the need for public input, but promised to focus on “providing high frequency, high capacity bus service on major corridors, improving bus stop spacing to speed up customers’ commute times,” and “improving off-peak service frequency and coverage,” among other changes.
The Queens bus network has remained unchanged for decades, despite the evolution of neighborhoods like Flushing and Jamaica, which depend on bus service. Local bus ridership in the borough decreased 2.5 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to the MTA.
Commuter advocates hailed the beginning of the redesign discussions.
"Tonight's MTA's bus network redesign kickoff at the Queens Borough Board Meeting is an important milestone for riders in Queens. Last year, we hailed Andy Byford's proposal to remake each borough's bus network for today's commuting patterns as a major advance for public transit. Now, Queens riders can look forward to the faster, more reliable bus service that network redesign promises,” said the Bus Turnaround Coalition in a statement. The coalition is comprised of the Riders Alliance, Straphangers Campaign, TransitCenter and Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
Residents and transit advocates have long highlighted the issues affecting bus routes in Queens, especially in the Southeast portion of the borough, where a lack of subways make reliable bus service a necessity. In March, advocates gathered outside of a Jamaica subway station to call on the state legislature to pass congestion pricing while drawing attention to Queens’ crippled bus network.
Average bus speeds in Queens are down 3 percent since 2015, when they dipped to an average of 8.9 mph, according to MTA data.
The MTA will host at least three open houses in May in order to crowdsource input and educate residents about the redesign process:
Tuesday, May 7 from 7-9 p.m.
Peninsula Library (92-25 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway)
Tuesday, May 21 — 6:30-8:30 PM
Flushing Library (41-17 Main St., Flushing)
Tuesday, May 28 — 7-9 PM
Central Jamaica Library (89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica)
Queens bus riders can also provide input for the redesign plan by visiting the Queens Bus Network Redesign form on the MTA’s website.