By Antonia Morales
Civic leaders and City Council members gathered in front of Queens Borough Hall last Thursday morning in order to urge the MTA to refrain from cutting and eliminating bus service in Queens.
All planned changes will go into effect June 27, which would result in the loss of a number of Queens buses, including the Q14, Q74 and Q79.
The Q14 runs between Whitestone and Flushing along Union and 149th streets, the Q74 runs between Kew Gardens and Queens College along Main Street and the Q79 runs between Little Neck and Floral Park down Little Neck Parkway.
The protest focused on how essential buses are to the people of Queens. Speakers addressed the issues of how it would affect people in terms of travel time and expenses. They urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its chief executive officer, Jay Walder, to be more concerned with the consequences of these changes to service. Because Walder is a former Queens resident, they believe he should be more inclined to help borough residents.
“Public transportation is not an option,” said Daneek Miller, president of the Amalgamated Transportation Union Local 1056, which represents drivers and mechanics who work for the MTA’s Queens bus division. “It is not a luxury. It is a responsibility. We’ve been at this for a number of months. We’re here to ask transit authority to exercise other options.”
Borough President Helen Marshall was also concerned with the effects that the cuts would have on people’s lives. She said while the city has urged citizens to use mass transit to curb their carbon footprint, the MTA is leaving some Queens residents with no other option than to use their own cars if they cut bus service.
Marshall said the MTA should “come up with a plan that is more realistic” and believes Queens should be given additional bus service.
Others were upset about the financial burden the loss of these buses would put on people trying to get to work or school.
Queens Civic Congress Treasurer James Trent commented on the cost of a trip from his home in Bellerose to Francis Lewis Boulevard and 25th Avenue.
“It would cost $40 round trip by car service,” he said. “Taking buses away is a severe financial impact.”
There is also the issues of fairness and whether or not Queens is being treated differently than other boroughs. Trent contended Queens bus lines should be left alone because Manhattan seems to have unnecessary bus routes while people who take buses in Queens, like the Q79, have no other alternative.
“In Manhattan, they have bus lines running along a subway route,” he said. “This is a redundancy.”
According to the MTA, the service cuts would save them $93 million a year to help close a budget shortfall of nearly $800 million.
Speakers acknowledged the severity of the budget crisis gripping the MTA as well as New York City and the state but argued they should not take out their inability to come to a financial resolution on Queens.
“I understand the MTA is faced with a large budget gap,” said Marshall. “Service cuts are never an easy thing to implement, but there has got to be a way to help plug the budget gap without cutting these services.”
The protesters also said they had the support of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who introduced an emergency transportation bill that addresses the city’s need for federal funding for operating expenses. Miller said the city is routinely denied federal funding, which he maintained needs to change in order to give the MTA the ability to provide services to the city.
Miller and the ATU will continue to protest the bus service cuts. They are urging the public to get involved and put pressure on their representatives and the MTA in order to stop the planned service cuts.