By Jonathan Sperling
After the lack of weekend service on a Jamaica-St. Albans bus route led Southeastern Queens residents to push the MTA for better service, the agency has responded — though not with an immediate increase in service.
St. Albans resident Danielle Brodnax told the Eagle last month that she spearheaded a letter-writing campaign in March aimed at urging New York City Transit President Andy Byford to restore weekend service on the Q42 bus, which takes riders from the Jamaica Center subway station on Archer Avenue to Sayres Avenue and 180th Street in St. Albans.
Over the course of several months, hundreds of Q42 riders asked Byford to restore the Q42’s weekend service via Brodnax’s letter campaign, but it wasn’t until recently that she received a response from the MTA. The response, written by Department of Buses Acting Senior Vice President Craig Cipriano, directs her to submit her comments to the Queens Bus Network Redesign that was announced earlier this year.
Brodnax called the MTA’s response “insufficient” in a phone call with the Eagle.
“I feel like they were trying to subdue me from my letter writing campaign,” she said. “It seems like their main focus is the Queen Bus Network Redesign. We’ve needed the bus reinstated on the weekend for years. I feel like they’re using the Queens Bus Redesign as an excuse to not give us what we need.”
Brodnax, a member of the Shiloh Baptist Church of Jamaica on 106th Avenue, told the Eagle in August that elderly members of the church’s congregation have a difficult time attending service or even leaving their homes on the weekend because the Q42 is the only bus that services the immediate area.
But church members aren’t the only ones griping gripes about the Q42. Parents of a daycare located near the Q42’s final stop have also complained about a lack of service, Brodnax said.
The next closest bus is the Q83, which runs blocks away along Liberty Avenue seven days a week.
Cipriano’s letter also states that the level of MTA bus service is dependent upon ridership and “customer loading guidelines.” Q42 weekend service was discontinued in 1995, the letter states, and the route was further reduced in 2010, both due to low ridership.
“However, almost 15 years later, we know that Queens has changed, and the bus network needs to reflect those changes accurately. Your letter has reached us at the most opportune time and allows us to invite you to the development of this new network,” Cipriano stated in the letter, before inviting Brodnax to submit her suggestions to the Queens Bus Network Redesign.
Brodnax also told the Eagle in August that she and longtime St. Albans residents are also limited by the Q42’s lack of late-night service. During the week, the last scheduled Q42 departs Jamaica Center at 8 p.m., meaning that those who work in Manhattan must race to get home.
“If you get off at 6 p.m. and you have all the subway issues, you can’t always make it at 8 o’clock,” Brodnax said.
In a response letter written to Cipriano mailed on Sept. 13, Brodnax notes that community members have been attending Community Board meetings and the Queens Bus Network Redesign open houses. Residents welcome the redesign, Brodnax said, but a more immediate solution is still needed.
“I think the redesign is a fantastic idea which is well overdue, however, I must reiterate the following points to you: There are elderly people along the Q42 who have no other means of transportation in and out of their respective neighborhoods without this service,” Brodnax writes.
Brodnax closed her letter by noting that she would be working with Riders Alliance, the commuter advocacy group, in order to bring more awareness to the plight of those living along the Q42 line.
The MTA did not yet respond to that letter as of press time Friday.
As the Eagle reported in August, cost-cutting within the MTA has led to a reduction in bus service across the city, including the Q42.
In 2010, the MTA completely discontinued five Queens bus routes amid an $800 million budget deficit and eliminated off-peak service from the Q26 and Q42. Q42 riders can expect to wait as long as 30 minutes between buses during the midmorning and mid-afternoon hours, according to the most up-to-date bus schedule.
The movement to restore the Q42 back to its former glory dates back well before the 2010s. Southeast Queens locals also fought for weekend service on the Q42 in the early 2000s, citing accessibility and safety concerns. At that time, the MTA defended its decision to cut Q42 service based on the route’s low ridership.
A profile of bus lines conducted by City Comptroller Scott Stringer recorded that the Q42 carried 1,195 riders on an average weekday in 2016, one of the lowest weekday ridership levels of any Queens bus route.
However, as Brodnax has pointed out to the Eagle, other low-ridership bus routes in Queens, such as the Q103, do offer weekend service.
When asked what she would do in terms of her advocacy after the MTA’s reponse, Brodnax mentioned working with Riders Alliance and promised that the “letter writing campaign is not stopping.”