Need More Buses, Not Less
Hearings on the proposed MTA fare increases and service reductions were held at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing—on Tuesday, January 20, "the same day that a new chapter is being written in the pages of our nation's history", Borough President Helen Marshall's testimony noted. "Many hard-working New Yorkers who did not have the opportunity to watch today's historic inauguration are rushing home to view the day's newscasts and to celebrate the wonder of our great democracy," her testimony declared. "They are among those who are not here tonight. Do not take their absence as acceptance."
Among those representing their unaccepting although absent neighbors was Patricia Dolan, president of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association, who spoke for local housing complexes and institutions as well as the more than 3,500 households represented by the association. Dolan's testimony centered on the Q74 bus route, the loss of which, she said, "will not simply inconvenience local residents. It will, in fact, affect and debase residents' quality of life and decrease the value of their homes and damage institutions that are world-class leaders in their fields."
The Q74, begun after World War II as a shuttle between the residential area of Kew Gardens Hills and the Union Turnpike subway station, today serves faculty, staff and students of Queens College; the Georgetown Mews and Mainstay co-ops; Townsend Harris H.S., which draws students from across the city; a major shopping strip (the largest kosher shopping area in the city after Borough Park); two large yeshivas; three senior centers, and three public schools. "It is today as much an extension of the subway as the last car is of the E or F train," Dolan noted.
"Queens College, which will open its first residence halls in September, is a national leader in environmental studies and trains teachers for New York City schools," she pointed out further. "The college has worked with the community to reduce auto use in favor of public transit. Loss of the Q74 will drive students, faculty and staff back into cars, which pollute the atmosphere as drivers seek parking spots around an already over-parked neighborhood. The same scenario will repeat itself throughout Kew Gardens Hills as residents, school and college staffers, workers; business operators seek viable ways to travel to, from and around town. We urge you to find a better and more equitable way to plug the MTA's $1.2 budget gap than killing the humble and essential Q74 to save a minimal amount of money."
City Councilmember John Liu also testified by means of a staff member that service cuts, including those slated for the Q74 route, would seriously impact Queens residents. Of the Q74 route specifically, Liu's testimony declared: "Queens College of the City University of New York hosts nearly 20,000 students, staff and faculty, yet it is already difficult to reach by public transportation. The closest subway stations are several miles away from campus, and all subway commuters must transfer to a bus in order to reach the college. These bus routes are already congested and stop infrequently, multiplying the length of the commute and in effect provide incentive to commute by private vehicles."
Besides the Q74 route, the MTA proposal would involve eliminating all service on the Q26, 56, 75, 84, QM22 and QM23 bus lines. Marshall's testimony detailed the effect of eliminating the seven routes, and Liu concurred. "As we all know, bus service is the lifeline of our transportation system in Queens. Thousands of commuters rely on these bus lines as their only means of transportation and often are the only alternative to auto travel", Marshall's testimony declared. Liu added, "Any cuts would seriously hinder the ability of people to get to and from work, of students getting to and from school, of seniors going about their daily routines and appointments. We need more bus service, not less. We have all witnessed the gradual reduction of bus service by the MTA over recent years. In Queens, where many neighborhoods have no ready access to subways or buses as it is, any further cuts would be detrimental to the livelihoods of Queens residents and communities throughout the city who also depend on the MTA for their commute. Cutting service on buses when they're already jam-packed simply does not make sense, especially in bus-intensive Flushing, home of the heaviest transit hub outside of Manhattan. It goes without saying that mass transit is the lifeblood of our economy," Liu said. "At a time when the economy is in dire straits and it is more critical than ever to maintain the infrastructure and keep the city's blood flowing, any additional cuts are plain wrong and a brazen disservice on the part of the MTA to its loyal customers—the millions of New Yorkers who ride our subways and buses."
"We cannot serve transit riders effectively, nor build a better city with the plan before us," Marshall summed up. "I believe that if we continue to work together, including all levels of government, we can fill our budget gaps, while meeting our customer needs."
Additional MTA hearings are scheduled for Wednesday, January 28, at the Westchester County Center, Rooms A-C, 198 Central Ave., White Plains and the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, 333 Adams St., Brooklyn; Monday, February 2 at the Palisades Center, Raso Community Room, 1000 Palisades Center Dr., West Nyack, and Wednesday, February 4, at Lehman College, CUNY, Lovinger Theatre, 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West, The Bronx. Registration to speak is open from 6 to 9 p.m. on the dates of the hearings. Oral testimony is limited to three minutes per speaker.