By Bob Harris
Some members of the Senior Citizens Advisory Council of the MTA rode the Bx12 this July and found it wanting. A couple of months ago the MTA held a hearing on a rapid bus service for eastern Queens, but forgot to invite Community Boards 8, 11 and 13, which had opposed the idea last year at hearings at each of these boards.
The MTA had told Queens community boards last year it was going to buy new buses for this rapid bus service, but SCAC members who visited the Bronx found that while painted bright blue as promised the buses were old reconditioned buses with blue lights. The new designated route with the fancy blue paint and lights only made the trip 11 minutes faster. Most riders boarded or left the bus at the three subway stations on the route.
The new bus stops were too close together and the buses used the same street signal lights regular buses and other vehicles used. Only two bus shelters were new. There were no electronic boards to tell of the service schedule and where buses were along the route.
Expensive fare boxes were set up at the bus stops, but not necessarily next to where the bus stopped. People had to walk a distance to use a fare box and so sometimes missed a bus. The boxes issued a paper receipt which one had to keep and show only if asked for one. Thus people could avoid paying a fare on the bus.
Passengers could enter from the front or back door with the idea of speeding up travel time. No inspector was present on the bus. If someone was found fare-beating he could be given a $100 ticket, but with no inspectors present it did not matter what the fine was. The MTA said there is a 3 percent fare evasion, but many of us have noted people going into the subways through emergency exit doors as people went out through them.
The dedicated select bus service routes were used by other vehicles. It was questioned where the cars displaced by the special route were being parked. In Queens civic association leaders were concerned that if a dedicated bus lane was along the sidewalk, customers would not be able to park near stores and might shop elsewhere.
There was the question of when deliveries would be made to stores along a select bus service route. It was suggested the time between 10 p.m. and midnight might be a good time for deliveries, but for smaller stores this would be a hardship. It was agreed the buses carry a lot of people, but there was the question of whether it was worth the cost. People believed the idea was a waste of money.
It was suggested limited bus service would be just as good. If the police kept cars and trucks off regular bus stops and prevented double-parking along the route, the regular and limited buses could travel faster and thus solve the problem of speedier bus service.
At the SCAC meeting it was mentioned 9 million people use the MTA daily. The system tries to be green by using less water to wash buses. People drive fewer cars in the city and thus save a great deal of energy. We save $600 million in carbon emissions by use of MTA transportation each year.
GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: We plant trees to make our streets look good, provide shade from summer heat and remove carbon dioxide from the air we breathe. The city wants to plant 1 million more trees by 2030. The problem is the city does not take care of the trees it has.
The city said it will prune trees every seven years, down from a previous 10-year pruning cycle. The problem is the city cannot even keep to that schedule, thus leaving dangerous branches on trees.
Some tree species grow roots which push up sidewalks. Many people have complained to 311, but nothing has been done and the sidewalks get more dangerous. Why can’t the city find the money needed to cut roots and fix raised sidewalks?
The city also just cannot seem to be able to remove weeds from the tree pits along our streets and boulevards or weeds growing under stop signs or around fire plugs. These quality-of-life services would make our streets nicer-looking and safer.