Every time there is a major event in this city that causes gridlock-be it a snowstorm, a presidential visit or a big football game-city and state officials tell New York City residents to use public transportation to get around.
But what good is this edict if the buses aren’t running?
Subway service is generally good, and it usually takes a massive disaster to impact its reliable service. However, most western Queens residents who don’t drive and need to get around must rely upon a network of buses that is all too often late, slow and jammed with passengers.
One bus line in our coverage area-the Q58 between Ridgewood and Flushing-has had the dubious distinction of being rated as Queens’ slowest bus line by the Straphangers’ Campaign four years in a row. Not even the limited stop service introduced on the Q58 three years ago made headway in reducing wait times, overcrowding and slow travel speeds.
Then there’s the Q54 line between Jamaica and Williamsburg-which primarily travels along Metropolitan Avenue through Ridgewood, Glendale and Middle Village-that regular riders will attest is notoriously slow and inconsistent.
Stand at the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and 80th Street on a weekday morning and watch the buses heading north on 80th Street. Often you will see three (mostly empty) Q47 buses and two (mostly half-full) Q29 buses in the time it takes for one (mostly crowded) Williamsburg-bound Q54 to arrive at the height of rush hour.
One member of Community Board 5’s Public Transit Committee stated at the panel’s Jan. 28 meeting that service on the Q54 is often “sacrificed” when drivers call out sick. Though the MTA reportedly plans to increase morning service on the Q54, it will do so at the expense of midday and evening service, when buses generally run every 15 to 20 minutes.
These problems happen when the weather is good. When the weather is bad, Queens bus riders are better off walking.
After the Jan. 21 snowstorm, residents raised complaints that Q29 and Q38 bus service through Glendale, Elmhurst and Middle Village moved at a snail’s pace. Long lines of passengers waited for up to an hour in the bitter cold and heavy snow to get a ride home from work.
“When weather is inclement, we are always instructed to use mass transit,” one Middle Village resident said in an email forwarded to this paper. “How can we rely on this when service is nonexistent or agonizingly slow?”
Despite these problems, the MTA-to its credit-has improved service on the many Queens bus lines previously operated by private companies. The defunct operators were notorious for running old buses prone to breakdowns and going into shutdown mode the second a snowflake hit the asphalt.
But there is definitely room for much improvement when it comes to overall Queens bus service. With another MTA fare hike anticipated in 2015, the authority must put its money where its mouth is and address the problems Queens commuters face daily. The MTA must make the investments necessary to boost bus service and ease the daily pains of commuting.
Queens commuters should not settle for less and be asked to pay more for it.