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Weary commuters had cause to celebrate on Monday, December 18 as two brand new buses rolled into the Ozone Park/Howard Beach area.
In all, a total of 25 new buses will be coming to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) garage on Rockaway Boulevard.
&#8220As the rest of the order comes in, more than 50 percent of local service will have new equipment,” said Joseph J. Smith, Chief of Operations for the MTA Bus Company.
As to when all 25 will be on the road, Smith said he is still unsure.
&#8220The buses come from upstate New York,” he said. &#8220They are electric hybrid and must be charged for up to 24 hours. In addition, we do a post-delivery inspection, and if and when we find something wrong we make the manufacturer fix it, no matter how small.”
And though Smith said he doesn't anticipate many problems with the new fleet, there are bound to be some.
A few weeks earlier, Smith and Norman Silverman, Director of Operations and Planning, spoke with an audience of approximately 20 bus riders at the Ozone Park Jewish Center at the invitation of City Councilmember Joseph P. Addabbo. The meeting was held to enable Howard Beach customers to communicate with the MTA Bus Company about the many service concerns which have arisen since the city took control of the private Green Bus Lines that served the area until January 2006.
According to an MTA spokesperson, the routes affected include: the Q21, providing service between Rockaway Park and Ozone Park; the Q7, providing service between East New York and the JFK International Airport cargo area; the Q11, providing service between Elmhurst and Howard Beach or Hamilton Beach, the Q41, providing service between Jamaica and Howard Beach; the Q37, providing service between South Ozone Park and Kew Gardens; and the Q10, serving Kew Gardens to JFK International Airport. The six routes will receive 80 new buses among them.
Additionally, Smith said that since the MTA Bus Company assumed the operations of the Green Bus Line &#8220virtually 99 percent” of QM 15 express buses running between Howard Beach/Lindenwood and Manhattan are now high floor, air-conditioned, wheelchair-accessible buses that seat 57 people.
&#8220If you can call a bus gorgeous, they’re gorgeous,” Smith said of the new buses which cost almost $500,000 each. &#8220The older buses were sort of like the Flintstone car,” he said, referencing the cartoon about a family living in the Stone Age.
During a phone interview, City Councilmember John Liu, chairperson of the transportation committee, made a more skeptical assessment of the MTA Bus Company’s service improvements saying, &#8220Service is better, depending on what you compare it to.”
&#8220It has to be better, Liu continued, explaining that the private bus line services plummeted about 5 years ago when the city reduced its funding to the companies in advance of the MTA takeover.
&#8220The true benchmark is what service was before the MTA began the process of taking over the private bus companies,” Liu said. &#8220It’s not necessarily clear that it is better.”
Smith said that the MTA Bus Company evaluates its routes for schedule changes three times a year in June, September and January and that one such change, the addition of three buses to the QM 15 route between Howard Beach/Lindenwood and Midtown Manhattan, happened last June.
While riders agreed that the additional buses were improvements, they mentioned waiting 30 to 40 minutes some evenings to catch a QM 15 bus returning to Queens.
&#8220If I get to the bus stop at Third Avenue and 57th Street [in Manhattan] at 20 [minutes] after 4 p.m. I get a bus. If I miss that bus, I wait until five minutes to 5 p.m. for the next bus. It’s a good half hour to 40 minutes between each bus,” said Karen McCabe, from Ozone Park. &#8220If I’m going to stand and wait for a bus for 45 minutes, I may as well take the train.”
Riders also voiced frustration at inadequate express service to and from Manhattan on the QM 16 in Rockaway Park and the QM 17 in Far Rockaway. In response, Smith and Silverman said the agency is making changes to its service one route at a time and asked that riders remain patient while they worked on fixing the QM 15.
&#8220The MTA is obviously trying, they get an A for effort,” said Addabbo. &#8220Since they have taken over there have been changes, there are more to come and we’re going to give them some time to implement a lot of these changes for the benefit of the ridership.”
Addabbo said his district residents can call his office 24 hours a day at 718-738-1111 to voice their concerns about bus service.

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