Transit advocates gather in Jamaica to blast MTA’s revenue neutral approach to bus redesign

Photo: Max Parrott/QNS

Three transit advocacy organizations banded together to attack the MTA’s revenue neutral approach to the Queens Bus Redesign at a press conference held on Thursday in Jamaica to release their analysis of the MTA’s draft proposal. 

“What this is doing is taking bus service from one community and giving to another. So after the redesign we’ll still have the same problems,” said Riders Alliance Campaign Manager Stephanie Burgos-Veras. “Who is responsible for that? Governor Cuomo. He is responsible for funding the redesign.”

The Riders Alliance, Straphangers Campaign, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which have been pushing for a redesign for years, spoke to hundreds of riders and transit unions about the MTA’s draft plan they came up with seven principles that stress equitable service for residents, especially low-income riders and people of color, and more investment in the system.

Councilman Donovan Richards and Assemblyman David Weprin joined the groups at the presser to demand a new approach to the redesign as the MTA goes back to the drawing board for the second draft of the plan, which it plans to release in the spring.

Weprin added that every Queens Assembly member believes the draft of the bus redesign, especially the cuts to bus service, is unacceptable. As the governor enters into fiscal budget negotiation over the coming weeks, Queens legislators will have an opportunity to fight for increased bus funding.

“I’m hoping that he will be recommending, as we get to the bargaining table, additional funding for buses,” Weprin said.

Asked for how much funding he would want to see to remedy these cuts, Weprin declined to give a concrete figure.

“More. Whatever it is, it’s not going to be enough.”

The advocates argued that one necessary outcome of more investment would be to increase bus frequencies on weekends, during midday hours and overnight. The report argues that the status quo, which is slow and unreliable, will result in driving down ridership.

The groups also stressed the principle of equitable service. Their report found that the proposed plan includes cuts to service that will end up hurting low-income riders and neighborhoods of color. 

“The MTA should prioritize low-income neighborhoods as it enhances riders’ ability to reach work, educational, and other opportunities,” Burgos-Veras said.

The report recommends that the MTA should prioritize service improvements for low-income neighborhoods in Queens, including Far Rockaway, Rockaway Beach, Flushing, Ridgewood, Corona, Jamaica, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Murray Hill, Hillcrest, Jamaica Hills and Rego Park.

As far as municipal efforts to increase bus service go, Richards used the rally to call for an expansion of the Select Bus Service (SBS) network. The councilman and candidate for Queens borough president added he was in favor of a busway along the transit corridor along Archer Avenue in downtown Jamaica. 

“The city can be doing a lot to be thinking about where can we put aggressive street measures to accommodate bus riders, outside of 14th Street,” said Straphangers Campaign advocate Jaqi Cohen.

To find more information about the report’s findings, visit shorturl.at/glxPW