New MTA plan for Queens bus routes

Queens+buses

EMoreira042281 | wikimedia commons

Razia Islam

The Metropolitan Transit Authority released a proposal last week to redesign the Queens bus routes in collaboration with the city’s Department of Transportation. This plan is part of New York City’s new Fast Forward initiative, which intends to shorten commute times by upgrading the city’s aging transit system.

An initial plan for the redesign was released in 2019, but it received backlash from many Queens residents and faced opposition from all 15 Queens council members.

Residents expressed their concerns about proposed cuts to vital bus routes in areas without subway service in the original redesign proposal.

“We are deeply concerned about losing bus service on Little Neck Parkway and Braddock Avenue as well as throughout Glen Oaks,” said Northeast Queens Councilmember Barry Grodenchik to Queens Daily Eagle.

The initial redesign plan also did not include express bus service. Some council members noted that wait times for specific buses in their area would increase under the first plan.

Overall, the original proposal failed to consider that commuting to Manhattan is not a priority for all Queens residents and that interborough transit is just as important.

The 2019 redesign draft also planned to change Queens’ bus route labels to be “QT” and “QMT” instead of “Q,” causing residents to express concerns about potential confusion that may occur during a transition.

The MTA stated the new 2022 revised proposal has considered over 11,000 comments of feedback from public engagement. The new draft focuses on connecting bus routes with subways and railroads, as well as extending bus lines to accommodate more riders.

The proposed redesign would bring the total number of Queens bus routes to 85, an increase from the current 82 routes and the 77 routes in the 2019 proposal. There will be 20 brand new routes and 11 withdrawn routes, most of which will either be combined with new or pre-existing routes.

This proposal also works to expand connectivity to accessible subway stations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, addressing previous backlash regarding inattention to older adults and people with disabilities.

Furthermore, in efforts to improve accessibility, the MTA proposed installing “real-time digital service information screens on buses, and countdown clocks at bus stops,” according to Queens Gazette.

The MTA plans to spread out bus stops across the borough to speed up commute times. Under this plan, the Queens bus network will lose 1,685 stops in the plan, perhaps the most notable change.

Although this change may make commutes faster, it can also cause issues for older people and residents with disabilities who may have a harder time adjusting to new stop placements.

“The location of the bus stops are good. I think it’s very good for wheelchair users, it’s manageable and it’s accessible,” Venus Ilagan, a Queens commuter who uses a wheelchair, told NY1.
“If they make it further away then it can be very difficult, especially for those who are using manual wheelchairs.”

The MTA projects to release another revised plan once it compiles feedback from 14 public workshops, spanning from April to June 2022.

“This is going to be one of the largest bus redesigns in the country, with over 100 routes serving over 800,000 customers a day,” said Craig Cipriano, New York City Transit’s interim president.“We’re eager to hear what you have to say, and there’s lots of room to make changes.”

There is still no definite time for when these changes to Queens bus routes will be implemented.

But MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber promised that there will be no cap on how much money will be spent on the redesign.

“Queens has, historically, had less subway service relative to its size and population than the other boroughs,” stated Lieber in a press release. He cited this disparity in asserting the redesign proposal as the “most important” draft to be released.