Transit Advocates Report To CB 5 Cmtes.
Sluggish bus service throughout Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village was a hot topic of Community Board 5′s Transportation and Public Transit Committees meeting last Tuesday night, Jan. 28, at the advisory body’s Glendale office.
Jeffrey Zupan of the Regional Planning Association (RPA) presented the findings of its “Outer Borough Transit Deficiency Study” for the Board 5 area, pointing out that it confirmed what many commuters long believed: local “public transit, in a word, is lousy.”
While many local bus lines serve the Board 5 area, they often are bogged down by delays, overcrowding and slow travel speeds, according to the RPA report. Nine of the 23 local bus lines passing through Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village had an average weekday travel speed below 8.2 mph-one mile slower than the average Queens bus route.
Moreover, Zupan explained, commuters deal with long wait times for buses during middays, evenings and weekends. On some bus lines, he said, the midday headway time is 20 minutes. One local route-the Q67 between Long Island City and Middle Village-operates one bus per hour on weekends.
“We said arbitrarily but not unreasonably, in the peak hour, if a bus doesn’t come by every 10 minutes, it’s not frequent enough. If it’s in the middle of the day, if it’s not every 15 minutes, it’s not frequent enough,” he said. “If its less than a bus every 20 minutes, it’s not frequent enough.”
Express bus service also proves insufficient, he noted. Six of the eight express lines traveling through Board 5’s confines offer only weekday morning pickups and no service to Manhattan on weekdays and weekends.
The RPA launched the study last summer, examining the frequency and efficiency of public transportation in five community districts-four in the outer boroughs and one in upper Manhattan. Based on the data gathered, the civic advocacy group will formulate a list of recommended transit improvements and present it to the MTA in the weeks to come.
But Zupan expressed pessimism that the MTA would adopt improvements resulting in a significant increase in spending. To that end, he stated the RPA suggests low-cost measures such as offvehicle fare collection.
“Throughout the city, we’re going to be suggesting [to the MTA] a lot of increases in frequency of service- and that coss a lot of money. We know the reaction will be generally negative,” he said. “We’ll likely get a lot of pushback, and I think we’d be very lucky if we’re able to get them to consider increasing frequency of service.”
“However … there’s an opportunity here to increase the speed of service a number of different ways that not only doesn’t cost much money but may, in fact, be an operating savings to the MTA,” he added.
But Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri countered changing the collection of fares alone would not make a significant impact in reducing wait times and speed. He pointed to the Q55 bus along Myrtle Avenue as an example of delayed service contributing to slower buses.
“It’s the headway that causes the backup,” Arcuri said. “If you had enough buses running, the farepaying would go faster.”
John Maier, co-chair of the Public Transit Committee, added long wait times also plague the Q54 bus line between Jamaica and Williamsburg. Citing a recent conversation with an MTA official, Maier claimed service on the bus line is regularly “sacrificed” when bus drivers call out sick.
Donald Passantino, however, said the fare-paying experience will speed up once the MTA phases out standard MetroCards in favor of RFID credit cards. Rather than swiping through a turnstile or machine, customers tap the RFID cards onto a scanner to pay their fare.
Committee members also offered their own ideas for improving local bus service. Mike Fordunski suggested the MTA expand the use of cameras on buses to capture the license plates of vehicles found improperly blocking streets and bus stops.
He also suggested introducing a system giving bus drivers the ability to remotely change the timing of traffic signals.
Arcuri advised members of the Public Transit Committee to further examine the RPA report, “discuss the situation” and provide feedback.
Cool on Maspeth bus extension
Jean Tanler of the Maspeth Industrial Business Association provided an update regarding a push to extend the B57 bus line through west Maspeth to the 7 train line in Sunnyside.
She stated MTA representatives frowned upon a Public Transit Committee proposal to reroute the B57 from its current terminus at Grand and Flushing avenues through Grand Avenue, Rust Street, 56th Road and 48th Street to Queens Boulevard.
The committee adopted the plan at a December meeting as a way to improve public transportation through Maspeth’s industrial sector.
“They had issues with the bus going down 48th Street,” Tanler said. “They said there are numerous bus lines going down 48th Street already. There are many issues with traffic. Perhaps there’s a way that could be mitigated somehow. We’re continuing the dialogue.”
Tanler stated MIBA hopes to set up a meeting with Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee to further examine the rerouting proposal.
Capital project updates
Arcuri once again appealed for local lawmakers to push for the start of two capital improvement projects in Ridgewood and Middle Village.
One project is the reconstruction of Wyckoff Avenue between Flushing and Cooper avenues, which straddles the Brooklyn/Queens border in Ridgewood.
The project-which includes sewer line and roadbed reconstruction-is scheduled to take place in the city’s 2020 fiscal year.
Arcuri also touted the reconstruction of streets in southern Middle Village. The construction area is generally bounded by Metropolitan and Cooper avenues between 73rd Place and 80th Street.
That project, which the board has been pushing for the last 20 years, also is being delayed until 2020.
“These are two projects that will upgrade property values,” Arcuri said. The millions spent by the city on both endeavors, he added, would yield various economic rewards in both higher property values and job creation.
Traffic safety requests
Committee members agreed to request that the Department of Transportation install additional safety measures at the Maspeth intersection where a woman was fatally struck by an illegally turning vehicle last month.
As previously reported, 68-yearold Angela Hurtado was hit by a vehicle turning left from 69th Place northbound onto Grand Avenue westbound, which is prohibited. Police arrested the driver-Abel Tinoco of Richmond Hill-for reckless driving.
Following Arcuri’s suggestion, the committees recommended the DOT install a “neckdown” at the corner of 69th Place and Grand Avenue that would make it physically impossible for vehicles to make the same illegal turn. Additional signage and special lighting was also requested.
The panel also urged the DOT to install safety enhancements at the corner of Palmetto Street and Myrtle and Wyckoff avenues in Ridgewood. A woman was fatally hit by a bus at the location last year.
Arcuri noted the board urged the MTA and DOT to make safety improvements at the intersection during the Ridgewood Intermodal Terminal project, but those suggestions were never realized.
The next Community Board 5 Transportation and Public Transit Committees meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the board’s office, located at 61-23 Myrtle Ave. in Glendale. For more information, call 1-718-366-1834.