By Tien-Shun Lee
After receiving numerous calls and letters of complaints from bus riders and elected officials, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Dec. 31 that weekend express bus service would not be eliminated as planned in Queens and the rest of the city.
To compensate for city budget cuts, the fare for express bus service will be increased from $3 to $4, beginning in April.
The mayor’s decision saved four weekend express bus routes from Queens into Midtown Manhattan run by Queens Surface Corp.: the QM1 route from North Shore Towers; the QM1A route from Glen Oaks; the QM4 route from Jewel Ave.; and the QM2 route from Bayside. In addition, the QM15 express route from Lindenwood run by Green Bus Line will continue to operate.
“Democracy works,” said Tom Cocola, a spokesman for the city Department of Transportation. “The mayor’s office and the DOT were flooded with calls and letters, complaints, concerns … to Mayor Bloomberg’s and Commissioner Weinshall’s credit, they listened to the people.”
The $1 fare hike will apply to all express bus routes run by seven city-subsidized private bus companies on both weekends and weekdays. Local bus routes will continue to cost $1.50.
The seven private companies which established in the 1970s to serve areas not covered by the subways and MTA buses are Queens Surface Corp., Green Bus Lines, Command Bus Company, Jamaica Buses, Liberty Lines Express, New York Bus Service and Triboro Coach Corporations.
All together, the companies receive $100 million worth of subsidies every year from the city, according to a DOT spokeswoman. In addition, the state contributes $50 million to the companies.
Before the $1 fare hike was decided upon, the companies had planned to compensate for a million-dollar reduction in city subsidies by cutting weekend express bus routes, which are among the most expensive routes to run, according to a Queens Surface official.
New York Bus Company, which serves the Bronx, had threatened to go out of business all together after subsidy cuts were announced. After the fare hikes were announced, the company agreed to maintain service through the first 90 days of the new year.
“Everybody is saved,” said Cocola. “Weekend bus service will be spared in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn.”
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.