The so-called “Summer of Hell” may not be so hellish for commuters in Ridgewood, Glendale, and Middle Village who are looking to get around using the free MTA shuttle buses while the M train is out of service for repairs.
Since the M train was taken off the tracks nearly a month ago between Middle Village-Metropolitan Avenue and Myrtle Avenue-Broadway for the first phase of repairs to replace the bridge that goes over the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) Montauk Line between Fresh Pond Road and Metropolitan Avenue, commuters have been forced to take one of three free shuttle buses to reach other trains and buses.
Fears were high that the shuttle buses would not be able to accommodate and move the number of people who rely on the M train quickly enough, and that lines would build and delays would be inevitable.
In order to see just how the shuttle buses are running, this reporter jumped on one of the routes and took a ride down to Myrtle Avenue-Broadway during Thursday morning’s rush hour.
To get the best experience of how the shuttles were operating, I took the second route — the longest of the three routes — which starts at the Middle Village-Metropolitan Avenue M train station and makes stops at Metropolitan Avenue and Fresh Pond Road, Forest Avenue, Seneca Avenue, Myrtle-Wyckoff avenues (where commuters can get the L train), Knickerbocker Avenue, Central Avenue, and terminates at Myrtle Avenue-Broadway where riders can transfer to the M train headed to Manhattan, the J or Z train, and several bus routes.
As I reached the bus stop on Metropolitan Avenue at 8 a.m. on July 27, I noticed a line of buses waiting to pick up passengers and was pleasantly surprised to see no line for the Route #2 bus as well as MTA personnel directing riders and helping them get on the right bus. There was, however, a line building for the express shuttle bus, but no more than about 10 people.
When I got on the free bus there were only four other people waiting to head off.
Promptly at 8:05 a.m. the bus took off on its route. I was not sure what to expect from the ride since my original thoughts of long lines slowly trudging onto a crowded bus with no seating available were shattered by the quick departure.
As the bus approached the intersection of Metropolitan Avenue and Fresh Pond Road I figured we would run into some snags as construction on the deck of the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge was still taking place, but again, I was surprised when we flew right through the intersection, barely slowing down.
Three people got on the bus at the stop, including Edwin Laboy, a resident of Ridgewood who has been taking the Route #2 shuttle bus since the M train went down.
“I used to take the [Q]54 from here to the M train stop on Metropolitan Avenue,” he explained. “Now it is a little uncomfortable for me since I am no longer working because of my disability, I have nerve damage in my legs. I have to walk about four blocks to get the bus.”
Laboy added that he has been surprised by the frequency of shuttle buses and believes the MTA is doing a good job in helping to move riders during the train outage.
“Constantly shuttle buses are running,” he said. “Every time when I take the bus there’s always seats. I’m kind of surprised myself. They had a good plan in place. I think the constant running of shuttle buses is good. They are doing a good job.”
A bulk of the commuters departed at Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues, presumably to get the L train into Manhattan. This stop also saw the most riders get on the bus — between 10 and 15 new passengers — but it never got too crowded and there was always seats available during the trip.
With school being out for the summer, there was a nice variety of people taking this particular shuttle bus, from working people, to teens, to the elderly, and families with their children.
The shuttle arrived at its final destination at 8:40 a.m., for a total travel time of 35 minutes. As everyone exited the bus, most — if not all — of the commuters went directly up the stairs to the train station to continue their journey.
It would usually take 35 minutes to reach Manhattan on the M train from the Metropolitan Avenue stop, but overall it was not a bad trip.
When it was time to head back to Middle Village, I waited for about one minute for a shuttle bus to show up at 9:08 a.m. As we left at 9:09 a.m., I was the only rider on the bus, which was a nice feeling having an entire MTA bus to myself.
I was riding solo for most of the trip until four people got on at the Myrtle-Wyckoff stop, and after a quick ride I was back at the Metropolitan Avenue M train station by 9:36 a.m., for a total ride time of 27 minutes.
It seems that the MTA has the shuttle buses running smoothly and commuters are able to get to where they need to go with minimal headache.
However, this is just one rider’s experience on one particular day during the morning hours. If you or somebody you know has had different experiences, please do not hesitate to reach out to QNS as we are looking to hear peoples’ stories.