By Anna Gustafson
Queens legislators said they were disappointed to learn the group ride van service along the axed Q74 and Q79 bus routes ended Friday because of low ridership and said they planned to fight to reinstate the buses.
Community Transportation Systems and Alpha Van Lines announced last week they would opt out of the city’s pilot program to run a group van service along the former Q79 route that went from Little Neck to Floral Park and the Q74 line that ran from the Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike subway station to Queens College. The pilot program had been expected to operate for another nine months, and city officials said they would look to restart the van service along the Q79 but not the Q74.
“Most people, unfortunately, were not aware of the service; less people were aware it went away,” said City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens). “It’s my hope we can get the service restored and do a better job of informing people what they can do to use it.”
A total of 2,700 rides had been taken as part of the pilot program throughout the city that began in August, according to city statistics. City Taxi & Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said there were too few people using the Q74 route to merit restarting it.
“The pilot program has yielded a great deal of information about what works and doesn’t work in providing group-ride service,” Yassky said. “At this point, the market does not appear to support service in these areas and we will continue to look for opportunities to supplement the MTA in underserved areas.”
Passed by the TLC July 15, the city’s pilot program was meant to provide group rides to people along five bus routes that were cut in June by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to help fill a budget gap of about $800 million.
The service allowed groups of up to 20 people to ride in livery vans to locations along the Q74 and Q79. Each trip costs riders $2.
State Sen.-elect Tony Avella said he planned to try to get the MTA to bring back the Q74 and Q79 buses and said he may try to use state discretionary funds, if there are any this year, to provide bus service along the routes if the city fails to relaunch the pilot program.
“I made it a campaign promise to get those bus routes back,” Avella said. “There’s got to be other ways to eliminate waste in the MTA than to eliminate routes.”
Avella noted senior citizens and students were especially affected by the lack of bus lines — and now group rides.
“The people who need it the most are now disenfranchised,” he said.
Residents have long said the group ride service was not an appropriate response to the lack of a bus route.
“It is an inappropriate and inadequate substitute for the Q74,” Kew Gardens Hills Civic Associate President Patricia Dolan said when the idea was first proposed.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.