This past June, our express bus, the QM22, was discontinued by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bus Co. Although the QM22, from Jackson Heights to midtown Manhattan, had just two trips in each direction per weekday, the discontinuation of the QM22 shows the lack of thought put into the MTA’s service cut proposals.
The QM22 might have had only 62 riders daily, according to the MTA’s statistics, but out of all the routes discontinued the QM22 had the most potential. The QM22 had more potential than most bus routes the MTA operates under the MTA Bus Co., New York City Transit and Long Island Bus brands. Astoria and Long Island City have grown tremendously over the past decade and the current public transportation resources cannot continue to satisfy existing or potential demand, given that Q69 buses are overcrowded, N and Q trains are overcrowded and the Astoria Line — on which the N and Q run — cannot handle anymore trains due to track capacity.
The QM22 would have had additional ridership because realtors advertised the service to purchasers of co-ops and condos being built in the area and renters renting residences in the area, as well as home buyers. But the limited schedule of two trips in each direction hindered any growth of the QM22 because it failed to attract any new ridership, despite the QM22 getting as much as 40 passengers per trip shortly before the recession hit.
Now, the QM22’s discontinuation has hurt property values along its route — evidence of such is a realtor not being able to sell a $999,000 condo because the realtor could not advertise the option of the QM22 to the buyer who was interested in the condo. The QM22 had many people who were elderly and mostly consisted of older women who had to work and could not be able to climb subway stairs. Many people only found out about the QM22 out of curiosity or through word of mouth from existing riders, given that not too many people even saw a QM22 on the streets due to the limited nature of the service.
The MTA also failed to think creatively on how to provide for the long-term transportation needs of Astoria and Long Island City. For midtown Manhattan service, it should not have run the QM22 as it was. What I would have done was run the Q69 into midtown via the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and 34th Street rather than having the Q69 run to and from Queens Plaza. There is also potential for the QM22 to run as an express bus within Astoria, Long Island City, Jackson Heights and lower Manhattan operating via the same routing in Queens and the QM7, QM8, QM11 and QM25 routing in Manhattan, which would be via Water and Church streets.
Such an express bus would be beneficial given that, since the W train’s discontinuation, there is no one-seat access connecting Astoria, Long Island City and lower Manhattan. The W carried 5,600 riders within Astoria, Long Island City and lower Manhattan. If half of those riders elected to take the QM22, this would have amounted to 2,800 riders and they would have amounted to more ridership than most express routes aside from the BxM7 in the Bronx and the X1, X10, X12 and X17 in Staten Island.
If a third of the W riders elected to take the QM22, the ridership of the QM22 would still have amounted to more riders than the QM2. Any of these moves will not come at any cost to the MTA Bus Co. because, as part of the takeover agreement with the MTA, the city is responsible for fully subsidizing the difference between the operating costs and farebox revenue on the MTA Bus Co. The only reason why the QM22 was discontinued was because the MTA had to show the city that it was saving money and so the public would not really know about the subsidy agreement, given that the only routes the MTA Bus Co. cut were the Q89, QM22 and QM23.
The QM23 only had one trip in each direction and ran a similar route to the QM15. The Q89 ran once an hour during middays. Therefore, the MTA should reinstate the QM22 under a format that would be more successful than two trips in each direction.