Plan to Reroute Buses in Queens Gets Scrutiny by Rider Groups, Elderly Advocates

The MTA’s proposal calls for trade-offs and the elimination of some stops.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s second draft of a redesign for bus routes in Queens, New York City’s second-most populous borough after Brooklyn, is facing scrutiny by transit advocates, as well as the process for getting the public’s input on the changes.

At an open meeting on April 13, organized by the Riders Alliance, Transit Center and Bus Turnaround, residents discussed the compromises and trade-offs in the proposed bus route plan. The gathering was in preparation for a series of MTA-led meetings.

 Queens, the second most populous borough after Brooklyn, has less subway coverage and redundant bus routes which make commuting an excruciating chore. After releasing their second draft of the Queens redesign map on March 29, the MTA is organizing meetings with each community board – 14 in all –  starting Monday, April 18. Community Board 1 is first, which contains Astoria, Long Island City, and Woodside.


Queens residents commute by transit

39 %

Queens residents identified rail modes as their primary
means of transportation

11 %

Identified buses as their primary means

Derrick Holmes, a digital strategist at Rider’s Alliance, told the April 13 meeting – attended by 48 people – that the most common compromise in any transit plan is frequency versus coverage. “You could leave your house and be within two minutes of a bus stop,” they said. “But it means that your bus trip is probably going to be longer and more circuitous as the bus stops to pick up all of those people.” 

Kerly Serrano, the director of the Center for Active Older Adults at Sunnyside, said the bus stopping in front of the facility, the West Bound Q32 at 39th Street, is one of the 1,685 stops that the MTA plans to eliminate. That would mean that the elderly users of the center would have to walk three blocks to the nearest stop, which may be an undue burden on them, she said. “Queens Boulevard is a huge intersection, there’s a lot of traffic and it’s difficult to cross," she said. Serrano explained it actually took a lot of advocacy from one of the center's users Gertrude 'Gert' McDonald to stop it from being erased from the bus route in 2009.

The MTA’s plan to hold meetings about its proposed rerouting online may also mean the views of many elderly riders won’t be heard. “Most of my older adults do not have access to the internet,” Serrano said. The meetings also will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., when the center will be closed.  “It is very difficult for them to go to a site in the evening when we are not able to assist them,” she said.


 Bus routes in Queens


People ride Queens busses on an average weekday

38 %

Queens residents drive to work

On April 12, City Councilman Robert Holden asked the MTA to hold in-person  meetings. The city’s Department of Aging has sent digital copies to every senior center and home-care provider agency that works in the borough. People can also leave comments through the MTA’s Queens Bus Network Redesign site. The website contains an interactive map on which people can comment on the proposed local and express routes.  

When she contacted the MTA, the response was that there were going to be more meetings after these initial 14. But Sorento hopes this will be the case. “I don't believe that really older adults are being given the opportunity to really express themselves,” she said.

Jolyse Race, senior organizer at Riders Alliance, said the goal of the process is to wind up with a more efficient bus system.

“If done correctly, [the new design] will reduce the amount of time that riders spend waiting for the bus,” she said. ”It will make trips faster, more reliable, and more direct and can expand the places where people can go using transit.”

Stephen Bauman, a computer scientist, said there needs to be a higher level of transparency in the decision-making process. He said the MTA should release more data so an independent analysis of the proposed changes could be done. 

Multiple participants were also concerned about the lack of awareness. Sorento said “Unless you're looking for it, or you're in my senior center and I'm telling you that this is happening, people are not really aware of how it's going to impact them, they don't know which stop is being removed or added or changed. ”

To register for the upcoming MTA meetings go to this link.