Far Rockaway leader calls for better bus service for ‘working-class people’

Transit advocates rally in Far Rockaway on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.(Photos by Paul Frangipane)

While his Far Rockaway constituents have endured some of the longest commute times in the nation, Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson called on his colleagues in Albany to fund more frequent bus and train service to the peninsula in the next state budget due April 1.

Anderson waited nearly 30 minutes to board a Q114 bus in Jamaica on Thursday morning, Jan. 19, for a ride to Far Rockaway, where he rallied with public transit riders and local civic and tenant leaders.

Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson joins with Riders Alliance to demand the state fund more frequent bus and train service in Far Rockaway on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

He started the morning in South Ozone Park speaking with constituents like Norma, a home health aide who waited 25 minutes for the Q9 bus, as well as another constituent who usually rides the Q41 and transfers to the Q9 in an hourlong commute to Jamaica to take a train to work in Long Island City.

“As a Southeast Queens resident and commuter, I know the persistent challenges our working-class residents face in being able to enjoy a timely, reliable and affordable commute,” Anderson said. “Far Rockaway is geophysically isolated from the rest of the city, while the rest of my district averages more than 15 minutes away from a subway station, resulting in heavy usage of buses for a mass commute.”

Anderson was joined on the bus by members of the Riders Alliance to illustrate the challenges faced by residents of Far Rockaway, Edgemere, Springfield Gardens and Rosedale.

“Having buses run every six minutes is a cost-effective step to revamping our bus network to propel the transit system forward,” Anderson said. “Especially as we look to expand access to riders living in transit deserts and redirect existing lines to connect more riders to the subway system.”

Bronx Councilwoman Amanda Farias introduced a resolution urging Governor Kathy Hochul and state legislators to negotiate a budget that funds a six-minute service that she said would “create a faster, safer and more accessible system” for outer-borough communities.

“Six-minute service isn’t just for subway riders or people with short commutes to the office,” said Danny Pearlstein of Riders Alliance. “Six-minute service will have its biggest impact in neighborhoods farthest from the subway, where many essential workers seek affordable housing and suffer punishingly long commutes to jobs the rest of us rely on and that make the city run.”

At the rally at the Beach 21st Street Bus Terminal in Far Rockaway, Riders Alliance organizer Danna Dennis took note of the morning’s foul weather.

“It’s super important that people are not out here exposed to the elements at various bus stops, waiting in the cold, the rain like we’re doing now. It’s a real experience that people are going through and they’re going through it for 20, 30 minutes plus,” she said. “Folks are struggling to get to work, to get to school, and their various appointments on time and so we’re calling on our leaders to make sure we have a dedicated funding source this year and a good amount of funding for getting us to work on time and speeding up service.”

Anderson explained that it takes 52 minutes on average for commuters in his district to get to their destinations. He said the MTA spends too much paying their own executives instead of investing in public transportation.

“I’m fighting for the working class people whose voices continue to be ignored as the MTA constantly and relentlessly raises fares but does not consider the plight of the working class people who I heard from this morning,” Anderson said. “We need more investment in our public transportation system to ensure that people don’t have among the longest commute times in the city.”

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.