Op-Ed: Queens bus redesign is ‘a once-in-a-generation opportunity’

Corporate Plan
Photo by Marc A. Hermann/MTA New York City Transit


Whenever I speak with bus customers in Queens, I like to ask a simple question: are you happy with the existing system?

Not many people say they are; neither am I. We are all on the same page in that regard. Something needs to change, and nothing short of a comprehensive borough-wide transformation will suffice. 

That’s why we are pursuing a sweeping redesign of bus service in Queens, as in every other borough. The proposal we released in December incorporates common sense, data-driven improvements designed with our customers in mind, benefitting from their input. 

I want to make clear that customer feedback is paramount to the redesign process. To give you an idea of our initial outreach, we hosted nine open houses, 12 outreach events, 11 meetings with civics groups, and had seven sit-downs with community boards. That’s in addition to sourcing feedback in nearly 2,000 online customer surveys. 

And that’s just the beginning. We are committed to working with the community every step of the way to come up with a system that best serves our riders. We want to hear what you like about bus service, and especially what you don’t.

We’re redrawing the map with a blank-slate approach. The goal is to create straighter, less complicated routes to shorten commute times, increase bus speeds and provide more frequency and more choices for customers to travel within Queens and to Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx. 

The draft redesign also looks to expand bus priority through the creation and enforcement of bus lanes and by using traffic signal priority technology. We will coordinate with our partners at the NYC Department of Transportation and NYPD to make this happen. 

This redesign is about improving service. It’s a chance to create something entirely new. We know change can be unnerving, but to improve service, the service needs to change. It can’t and won’t happen overnight, but it must happen. 

The routes that your grandparents once rode around Queens aren’t suitable for riders in 2020 and beyond. Our focus is on improving connectivity in the busiest and most populous areas, and increasing access to intermodal transfer locations like subway and commuter rail stations. We can’t do this with just a few simple tweaks.  

We want to welcome customers back to our buses. We want buses to work for everyone. Taking buses is better for the environment, and it gets more people out of their cars and onto mass transit, which in turn makes the roads less crowded.  We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity here to give New Yorkers the bus service they demand and deserve. We need you to be a part of it.

Andy Byford is president of MTA New York City Transit.