NYC Transit planning a Queens bus route shake-up after decades of stagnation

An MTA bus

New York City Transit officials addressed community board chairs from across Queens on Monday night about the effort to revamp bus routes throughout the borough in a modernization effort designed to increase ridership and reliability.

The officials called the effort a “blank-slate approach” which will fully assess all possible routes to meet current and future travel patterns as part of NYC Transit President Andy Byford’s Fast Forward plan.

“It’s the largest bus network in North America, we operate over 5,700 buses over 300 routes. The problem is most of those routes have devolved simply from the old trolley network and as New York has changed, as our world has changed, we haven’t changed with it,” said Darryl Irick, the president of MTA Bus Operations. “We felt that this was an [appropriate] time to hit the reboot button, look at the entire thing fresh.”

One example of this would be the Q60 bus, which runs primarily along Queens Boulevard from Jamaica to midtown Manhattan. The route’s southern terminus at Jamaica Avenue once had a trolley barn where the bus line now ends.

CB6 Chair Joe Hennessy, however, was not enamored by the idea of shaking up the bus network, claiming the moving a bus stop even one block could have profound impacts on the lives of seniors with mobility issues.

Eugene Kelty, chair of CB7, said he would like to see the concerns of motorists included in the upcoming process to re-organize the bus network as opposed to only taking into account the needs of riders.

But the agency does not plan to do it without the help of communities, according to the NYC Transit representatives at the Monday meeting at Borough Hall. there will be a series of open house events where they will hear recommendations throughout May and June.

Six public workshops were held in 2018 and surveys of 12 locations have been completed; the MTA also gathered data from more than 750 online surveys.

According to NYC Transit, as the bus network has remained unchanged for decades, Queens continues to see sweeping changes in Long Island City, Flushing and Jamaica while congestion worsens.

The agency cited job growth in Queens outside the range of subway service as another reason for an immediate need to take a fresh approach.

The plan will also introduce more comfortable and environmentally friendly buses while increasing bus priority for more efficient commute times.

With Queens being the larges borough by landmass, it also has 77 local and 30 express routes which serve an average of 714,000 weekday riders, according to the agency.

Local bus ridership alone declined 2.5 percent between 2016 and 2017 with speeds 3 percent lower than they were in 2015 with an average of 8.9 miles per hour.

NYC Transit plans to have a finalized plan of how the bus network will look in the coming decades by April 2020 with additional public outreach planned.