By Howard Koplowitz
Three northeast Queens elected officials joined city Taxi & Limousine Commissioner David Yassky on Little Neck Parkway Sunday to raise awareness of the new group ride pilot program to replace the defunct Q79 bus line.
The group ride program, which went into effect Monday, makes nine stops along Little Neck Parkway from Little Neck to Floral Park — from the Little Neck Long Island Rail Road station to Jamaica Avenue near the Floral Park LIRR stop.
“We’re happy to have the Q79 [route] be one of the test groups that we’re using,” said City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), who was credited with being the first one to call Yassky to come up with an alternative after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority scrapped the Q79.
Rides on the vans cost $2 per trip and no MetroCards can be used. There are also no student or senior discounts.
Weprin said he and other elected officials are still working on resuming the Q79 line but, “in the meantime, we know we needed a lifeline for the people of this area. This is now their lifeline.”
Yassky said the MTA told him Q79 riders have the fewest mass transit options out of the bus lines the agency eliminated, increasing their travel time by about 30 minutes before the group ride program went into effect.
“We thought this was an important place to try out the group ride vehicle service,” Yassky said of the TLC.
He noted that group van drivers are licensed and the vehicles are inspected by the TLC.
The vans are expected to run every 15 minutes during peak periods and every 30 minutes at other times, he said.
Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said the group ride program is a godsend for his area since the Q79 was eliminated.
After the Q79 was cut, “there [was] no method for the citizens of our district to get to that LIRR station,” he said, referring to the Little Neck station.
Halloran said he and other elected officials who represent the area “pressed the MTA as hard as they could” to restore Q79 service.
“We’re here with a good solution,” he said. “It’s not a perfect solution. We’re still going to press.”
State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), who joined Mark Weprin and Halloran at the news conference, said the group ride program is “the only option for residents in this area.”
Mark Weprin said fliers would be distributed along Little Neck Parkway so residents are aware of the group ride program.
The pilot program will run for up to one year and then be evaluated on its effectiveness, Yassky said.
The commissioner said the program may even be halted mid-year if his agency finds there is not enough ridership to support it.
“If nobody rides it, we’re not going to insist that the [van] operators go through with it for the whole year,” he said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.