Jackson Heights residents wary of bus service changes proposed by MTA

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Jackson Heights commuters who have studied the MTA’s draft plan of the Queens Bus Network Redesign are flummoxed at some of the proposed service changes.

Assemblyman Michael DenDekker has scheduled a feedback meeting with the MTA to give residents an opportunity to discuss the draft plan with MTA representatives, including planner who drew up the redesign.

DenDekker has serious concerns about cutting any bus service in Jackson Heights and would prefer to see the MTA adding more buses to existing bus lines to alleviate overcrowding. He felt a meeting was necessary after his district office was inundated with constituents expressing similar concerns with the draft plan.

“I am alarmed by some of the changes to the bus routes — the Q32, the Q33, the Q47 and the Q66 — proposed by the Queens Bus Network Redesign draft plan,” DenDekker said. “Cutting these bus lines that serve seniors, people with disabilities, parents and children would have significant consequences for the community. The Q48, for example, serves many people who live at the state-funded Naturally Occurring Retirement Community at Northridge/Southbridge/Brulene; eliminating the Q49 would cut off access to the 74th Street Roosevelt Avenue subway station, which is a major transit hub and the only subway station in the area with functioning elevators.”

The MTA representatives will explain how bus line are being redesigned and not eliminated.

“The Queens Bus Network Redesign is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to completely reimagine the borough’s bus network, which hasn’t been changed in a century,” MTA Spokeswoman Amanda Kwan said. “Our redesign is a dynamic iterative process that is led by customers, and we welcome the feedback and enthusiasm we’ve received so far on our draft plan to improve service, speed up rides, increase frequency and add more transfers between subways and buses.”

The public meeting will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 15, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Rumpus Room in Southridge Building One, located at 33-04 93rd St. across from the Northern Playground.

“We look forward to discussing our draft plan with Assemblyman DenDekker and residents of Jackson Heights and collecting the public input that will directly inform the future bus service of Queens,” Kwan said.

The MTA planners will be available to field questions from constituents and participants will be able to write in comments and concerns regarding the draft plan.

“I understand that the Queens Bus Redesign will not be implemented for another 18 to 24 months and that changes can still be made to the plan, so I am hopeful we can arrive at a solution that satisfies everybody,” DenDekker said.

A lifelong resident of Jackson Heights, DenDekker is a six-term incumbent who has not faced a primary of general election opponent since he was first sent to Albany in 2008, but he is facing two challengers in the June 23 primary. Jackson Heights civic leader Nuala O’Doherty-Naranjo organized a rally at Diversity Plaza Tuesday to address “flaws and shortcomings” in the the MTA draft plan.

More than a hundred Jackson Heights residents rallied against the MTA’s proposed changes to bus service in their neighborhood. (Courtesy of Dawn Falcone)

“Bus service is critical to Queens and this plan is a slap in the face to the 700,000 daily Queens riders who rely on their service,” she said on Twitter.

DenDekker’s other primary challenger, Jessica González-Rojas, said the plan would negatively affect several neighborhoods.

“I am deeply troubled by the MTA’s proposal to eliminate several bus routes that are critically important to most bus commuters in Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Corona and Woodside,”  González-Rojas said. “As someone who does not own a car and relies on MTA’s buses and subways every day, I understand how problematic this will be to everyone in our community. We must fight back to save our buses and demand an expansion of service and reliability.”

The Queens Bus Network Redesign draft plan is available to review on the MTA’s dedicated website for the project here. The website includes many interactive features to encourage customers from around the borough to comment on the draft plan.