Queens bus ridership outstrips service in past decade

By Philip Newman

The Straphangers Campaign has issued a report showing the number of bus riders in Queens has outpaced available bus service over the past decade following the introduction of free transfers between buses and subways.

“Crushed by crowds?” asked Gene Russianoff, attorney for the Straphangers, a transit advocacy agency. “Have to wait for more than one bus to go by? It's not your imagination. Transit officials have never caught up to the waves of new bus riders.”

For the city as a whole, ridership rose by 22 percent between September 1997 and September 2007, but service expanded by only 15 percent.

As for Queens, the number of bus riders rose by 30 percent, but bus service increased by only 20 percent.

In Brooklyn, ridership was up 26 percent with service up by 8 percent. In the Bronx, ridership climbed 24 percent, but service was up just 14 percent.

But in Manhattan and Staten Island, stepped-up service outstripped gains in ridership. Manhattan bus riders grew by 13 percent, but bus service expanded by 15 percent. In Staten Island, bus ridership was up 13 percent and service up 15 percent.

The survey checked average weekday ridership over the 10-year period with ridership in Queens rising from 316,662 in 1997 to 411,146 in 2007. The bus riding figures in Queens were surpassed by Brooklyn, where they climbed from 615,159 to 773,505; by Manhattan from 517,651 to 584,038; and by the Bronx from 468,638 to 582,744.

Average weekday bus ridership throughout the city rose by more than 450,000 daily from 2 million in September 1997 to 2.45 million in September 2007, for an increase of 22 percent.

Bus ridership has increased since the start of free transfers between subways and buses began in July 1997, punctuated by periods in which bus ridership dropped or stagnated after fare increases.

For its part, New York City Transit objected to the report's phrase “crushed by crowds” and Russianoff's comment that transit riders frequently must wait for more than one bus due to crowding. The Transit Authority said neither condition is “systematic on New York City bus routes….”

The Straphangers responded to the Transit Authority by asking, “Who do bus riders believe? New York City Transit or their eyes?”

Large numbers of Queens bus routes reported great increases in ridership between 1997 and 2007. The number of passengers on the Q12 rose 57 percent, Q13 rose 52 percent, Q17 rose 65 percent, Q27 rose 57 percent, Q31 rose 67 percent, Q44/20 rose 54 percent, Q58 rose 52 percent and Q58 rose 97 percent.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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