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Time for better public transit in forgotten borough

As we start the new year, Queens seems to be getting some long overdue breaks on public transportation. Just look at any map of the four boroughs — minus Staten Island — and it becomes clear Queens is the stepchild of the MTA.

Unlike Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, Queens does not have a massive network of subways

crisscrossing the far corners of the county. In fact, there are vast areas, such as large portions of northeast Queens and southeast Queens, which have no subway service at all. Residents in this transit wasteland must rely on buses, dollar vans or their own cars.

In October, the MTA announced it was launching a study of bus routes in these underserved neighborhoods to evaluate the impact of bus cuts enacted several

years ago on riders. Elected officials hope the state agency will see the need to restore some bus routes and create new ones when the exercise is completed this spring.

In Flushing, a notoriously congested transit hub, Queens College has stepped up to the plate and begun offering shuttle bus service between subway stops in Jamaica and downtown Flushing. Students had been wasting precious time cooling their heels waiting at bus stops for far too many years before the college acted.

And the MTA, hard as it may be for long-suffering commuters to believe, is on the verge of closing on property near the LIRR viaduct in Flushing that will enable the agency to install elevators to the platforms far above the street. This shabby stop on the LIRR is off limits to the handicapped and elderly who cannot climb the steep staircases to reach the trains.

The MTA rolled out a new Select bus from Woodside to LaGuardia Airport that connects to the No. 7 train in 15 minutes, while riders in Jamaica hailed the new streamlined route for the Q114 bus that runs from Far Rockaway to Jamaica.

In a stinging blow to the borough, however, the city cut off funds to the Rockaway ferry, which served the transit-starved Rockaways until its last trip in November. The ferry stoppage has quickened the debate on whether to restore the old Rockaway line or turn the abandoned tracks into a park resembling the High Line.

But in another take on déjà vu, the MTA has set aside funds to reopen the LIRR stop in Elmhurst that was shuttered 30 years ago because the rejuvenated neighborhood now is growing by leaps and bounds.

When the fares rise by 4 percent in March, Queens straphangers will expect more for their money and the pressure is on the MTA to deliver better service to the borough with the most to lose.

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