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MTA Rep: Blame Bus Woes On Bad Weather

Bad winter weather was to blame for sluggish service on local bus lines, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) representative told members of the Community Board 5 Transportation and Public Transit committees during the panel’s meeting last Tuesday, Feb. 25, in Glendale.

“It has not been a good winter for us in general,” the MTA’s Joe Raskin told the committees. Snowfall and bitter cold regularly combined to wreak all kinds of havoc on local bus lines, from bus breakdowns to long service delays.

Raskin mainly attributed delays during snowstorms to snow chains placed on rear tires. Under MTA guidelines, snow chains must be used when 2 or more inches of snow or ice cover roadways.

Bus drivers are also directed to travel no faster than 20 mph while snow chains are on the tires, thus leading to longer wait times for travelers, he added.

Older buses on the MTA fleet have also broken down on the job- or had difficulty getting started-due to extreme cold, Raskin stated. This also resulted in skipped scheduled buses.

“It’s been difficult to accomplish anything close to a schedule,” he claimed.

Absent drivers also compromise MTA bus service, Raskin noted. Though the authority attempts to have substitute drivers on hand when regular drivers are out sick, “it doesn’t always work out.”

“It’s not something we’re happy with, but we are working to correct it,” Raskin said.

Alex Maureau, a Glendale resident and representative of State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, reiterated bus service problems he mentioned during Board 5’s Feb. 12 meeting. In particular, he mentioned various issues with the Q54 line running primarily on Metropolitan Avenue between Jamaica and Williamsburg.

Though the posted schedules indicate that Q54 buses run every five minutes during peak rush hour periods, Maureau claimed that, in most instances, buses arrive every 15 to 20 minutes. The evening rush hour is particularly unkind to the line’s riders, he added, as it generally takes up to a half-hour to travel Metropolitan Avenue between 69th and 80th streets in Middle Village due to heavy traffic.

Robert Grant, an attendee at the meeting, suggested the MTA terminate some of its eastbound buses-which make the last stop at Jamaica Avenue and 171st Street-at the Van Wyck Expressway, then turn those buses back west toward Williamsburg.

Moving part of the Q54 in Jamaica from Jamaica Avenue onto Sutphin Boulevard and Archer Avenue would also speed things up, Grant added, as Jamaica Avenue deals with many of the same congestion issues plaguing Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village.

Committee member Dorie Figliola observed the Q54 seems to have become slower since the MTA moved the route from Metropolitan Avenue to run along 80th Street and Cooper Avenue in eastern Middle Village and Glendale. The Q54 used to run along Metropolitan Avenue between 80th Street and Cooper Avenue between sections of St. John Cemetery.

As a result, Figliola stated, the buses make additional stops and deal with heavy congestion along Cooper Avenue near The Shops at Atlas Park.

“It’s only going to get worse when they build that new [Glendale] Shopping Center,” she added, referring to the proposed mall planned for the Atlas Terminals site adjacent to Atlas Park.

Raskin stated he would relay the suggestions and concerns to the MTA for consideration.

Maureau also relayed to Raskin concerns from riders about the Q38 bus line between Rego Park and Corona. During a recent snowstorm, he claimed, one bus appeared to be operating on the entire route, forcing commuters to wait up to 90 minutes.

At other times, Maureau noted, riders often complain of long delays and skipped buses. He charged problems on the Q38 have been more frequent since its base was relocated from the LaGuardia Bus Depot to an MTA facility in College Point.

Raskin said he received similar complaints about the Q38 during a recent Community Board 6 meeting and relayed them to the MTA’s Road Operations Unit. An inquiry is ongoing.

Bus Time may ease the pain

While it may not make the buses run faster, Raskin stated the introduction of MTA Bus Time-a bus tracking program accessible through the Internet, smartphones and text messaging-will better accommodate commuters.

The program will be introduced this Sunday, Mar. 9, to all bus routes in Brooklyn and Queens.

Riders can use MTA Bus Time to find out bus arrivals in real time and better plan their trips without having to wait long periods outside, he added. Because all of the buses are equipped with GPS, Raskin noted, MTA Bus Time also helps the authority keep tabs of service, identify problems and work to find solutions.

“In general, it’s going to improve the operation of the bus system,” he said.

Offering bus service changes

Several residents provided the MTA and the committees with a host of ideas to improve bus service in the area.

Derek Sokolowski presented a plan to have the Q18 run the full length of 65th Place between Jay and Woodside avenues in Maspeth and Woodside. The bus presently runs partially on 65th Place and switches between 50th and 53rd avenues to and from 69th Street.

Sokolowski said the diversion causes frequent delays on service, as both 50th and 53rd avenues are narrow and difficult to accommodate two-way traffic.

The committees agreed to refer the plan to the MTA for consideration.

Three residents also told Raskin to consider suggested bus stop relocations designed to make it easier for commuters to make transfers.

Ernie Chirichella wanted the Corona-bound Q38 bus stop at the corner of Eliot Avenue and 80th Street moved from the southwest corner to the southeast corner. The location is closer to a LaGuardia Airport-bound Q47 bus stop at the northeast corner of 80th Street and Eliot Avenue.

Grant suggested the Rego Parkbound Q38 bus stop at the corner of Penelope Avenue and 79th Street be moved one block east to the corner of 80th Street, also to make it easier for riders to transfer to the Q47 line.

Another attendee also called for the Spring Creek-bound B13 bus stop at the corner of Myrtle and Wyckoff avenues in Ridgewood to be relocated to the Ridgewood Intermodal Terminal at the corner of Palmetto Street and Myrtle Avenue.

Raskin said the MTA would consider the bus stop change requests.

Regarding the Ridgewood Intermodal Terminal, Public Transit Committee Co-Chair John Maier inquired about the status of electronic signage informing bus riders of arriving L and M trains at the Myrtle- Wyckoff Avenues station. The signs, Maier noted, were to have been installed shortly after the terminal’s completion back in 2010.

According to Raskin, the work was delayed due to problems with technological issues in Coney Island which needed to be addressed. Once it is resolve, the MTA will move to install the Ridgewood Terminal electronic signage system.

Renewal almost complete

Turning to subways, Raskin reported the MTA “Station Renewal” work at the Fresh Pond Road, Forest Avenue and Seneca Avenue M train stations is nearing completion. At Fresh Pond Road, the MTA plans to install a fence along the sidewalk leading from the street to the station entrance adjacent to the Fresh Pond Bus Depot entrance-a barrier previously requested by Board 5.

The fence is currently being fabricated and will be installed in March, Raskin added.

M train service, however, will be disrupted on one weekend this spring in order to repair expansion joints at the Seneca Avenue station, he noted.

Raskin added the MTA plans to repaint the full length of the elevated M train structure between Ridgewood and Bushwick in 2015, as part of its 20-year repainting cycle. Funding for the project has been included in the MTA capital plan.

Community Board 5’s Transportation and Public Transit committees will next meet on Tuesday, Mar. 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the board’s office, located at 61-23 Myrtle Ave. in Glendale. For more information, call 1-718-366-1834.

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