Councilman Robert Holden has requested that the MTA hold in-person meetings regarding the Queens bus network redesign instead of virtual workshops to hear feedback from the community before moving forward.
The MTA will be hosting a three-month-long virtual public workshop series to hear feedback from communities. Workshops will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., starting with District 1 (Astoria, Long Island City and Woodside) on April 18.
The workshop for Community Board 5, consisting of Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale, Fresh Pond and Liberty Park, will be held Wednesday, May 4.
Holden, however, is unhappy that these virtual meetings will not reach all members of the community who may not have computers or internet access.
“With the draft plan recently published, my office has heard from many constituents, especially our seniors, that they have not been able to see the plan,” Holden wrote in a letter to the MTA. “This is why my office requested that your staff send hard copies of the entire draft to our local senior centers and other community facilities.”
According to MTA Spokesperson Sean Butler, the city’s Department of Aging has sent digital copies to every senior center and home-care provider agency that works in the borough.
Just last month, the MTA released a new draft plan for the Queens bus network after halting the 2019 project amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The revision offers a total of 85 routes for the borough, an increase from the current 82 there are now. Some routes will be added and some will be removed and consolidated with others close by. The plan will take away 1,685 stops.
In an effort to shorten the commuting time, the MTA wants to space stops further apart, from about 850 feet to 1,400 feet. This could save 20 seconds of travel per stop, according to officials.
Butler also said the MTA has seen higher attendance and increased engagement through virtual public meetings compared to in-person meetings.
“The MTA has emphasized the importance of robust community engagement including 14 upcoming community district workshops that can be attended virtually or via smartphone as well as through dial-in for individuals lacking internet access,” Butler said. “The MTA has not ruled out in-person public meetings on the Queens Redesign should they be warranted and can be held safely. We will continue to update stakeholders on how to best participate in the Redesign as we advance through each phase.”
The MTA kicked off the bus redesign again in August, starting with the Bronx, which will get the new bus system this summer. According to the city’s comptroller, the MTA buses are the slowest in the nation and lost 100 million passenger trips since 2008.