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RIDING BLIND

BY MICHAEL PANTELIDIS and VISHAL PERSAUD
mpantelidis@queenscourier.com vpersaud@queenscourier.com
Traveling on MTA buses in Queens is dizzying for even the most experienced commuters – let alone the every day New Yorker.
On most Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) buses, the only route indicator is a map located directly behind the driver’s seat.
(Queens Courier editorial on the MTA)
The red, green and blue lines that wind and swerve across the borough’s bus map look like a board game gone terribly wrong. For most bus riders, the map is the only way to navigate neighborhoods unknown to them, and the over 100 lines that operate throughout Queens further complicate their commutes.
“It is very difficult to figure out where you’re going, when to get off and whether you’ve passed your stop or not once you’re on the bus,” said Matt Klopfer from Glendale. “You need a magnifying glass and a college degree to both read and understand the map that is provided on the bus.”
(MTA fare hikes coming)
In compliance with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the MTA requires bus drivers to announce bus stops at “transfer points, major intersections and terminal arrivals, as well as any stop requested by a customer,” said Charles Seaton, an MTA spokesperson.
In many cases, there are vandalized and torn maps or no map at all. Buses also lack route identification, providing riders with little to no assistance in planning their trips.
“Since the bus doesn’t have an automatic voice announcing the stop it is basically impossible to know where you are unless you constantly ask the driver. The drivers rarely announce the stops on their own,” Klopfer, a frequent bus rider, said.
According to Seaton, the authority has plans for audio and visual improvements, which will follow the MTA protocol for bus stop announcements. Riders can also use their phones to find directions from online services such as Google Maps and Hopstop.com.
(Bus schedules coming in real time)
“You need Internet and a smartphone, otherwise I wouldn’t get on the bus. I try and keep away from buses and either take the subway or walk,” said Yan Tong from Woodhaven.
Representatives from the city’s transit advocacy groups echoed bus riders’ distress with the complicated system that makes it easy to get lost.
“That is an issue if you’re riding for the first time, or if it’s an unfamiliar route,” said Bill Henderson, executive director of the New York City Transit Riders Council.
In Chicago, buses have an electronic system that announces and displays stops. Henderson believes it’s an expensive step the MTA could implement to improve service and address the route issue.
(Street Talk: Have you ever gotten lost riding a Queens bus?)
The absence of an adequate mapping system also negatively affects tourists who choose to vacation in “the city that never sleeps.”
“You would have to live here for a long time to know how the system works,” said Paul Lin, who lives in New Jersey and frequently visits New York. “It is not at all friendly for tourists. I usually stay around Midtown where there are subways. I usually don’t come to Queens because of the buses. I know I’d get lost.”

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