2013-01-23 / Features

‘Return’ of the Little Neck Parkway Q79 Bus

BY LARRY PENNER

How refreshing that this past Monday morning, I was able to board the first bus leaving the Little Neck Long Island Rail Road station at 6:41 a.m. The Q36 resumed weekday service on the old Q79 Little Neck Parkway bus route. My wife and I had the opportunity to be the last two riders prior to the demise of our old New York City Transit Q79 Little Neck Parkway bus. Thirty months ago on Saturday, Jun. 25, 2010 at 6:23 p.m., right on time, we boarded the Q79 bus departing Little Neck for its last run to Jericho Turnpike in Floral Park. Many of my neighbors residing in Great Neck within walking distance of the City Line periodically used this bus route.

Service began on Jun. 4, 1950. The newly created New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) in 1953 assumed operations. Growing up in the neighborhood during the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was known back then as the Q12A and was part of my life and that of many others. On Apr. 12, 1990 it was renamed the Q79 probably to avoid confusion with the Little Neck to Flushing Q12 route. The bus would take me to Union Turnpike and after a short walk, to the old Glen Oaks Movie Theater along with Mays Department Store.

A transfer to the Q46 Union Turnpike bus provided connections to the Lake Success Shopping Center with a full Sears Department Store, other businesses and the adjacent bowling alley.

Many have long forgotten that there was a time when bus drivers actually had to make change and drive all at the same time. No one dared bring any food on the bus or leave any litter behind. Air conditioned buses were just becoming a more common part of the fleet as older non-air conditioned buses were retired.

After I finished college and began commuting on the Long Island Rail Road, the Q79 provided other options. On very cold winter nights or hot summer days – rather than walking up Little Neck Parkway toward either home or Scobees Diner – I would frequently take the Q79. As my train pulled into the Little Neck Station, a quick look out the window would confirm if the bus was waiting.

When the MTA introduced Metro Cards in 1996 with free transfers between subway and bus, riding the Q79 became an even better bargain and a more frequent part of my journey.

If service was suspended or seriously delayed on the Port Washington Branch, the Q79 was my little secret lifeline. I would use the Hempstead Branch Floral Park Station. A quick three block walk to Jericho Turnpike would reunite me with my good old friend the Q79.

It was always sad that residents of Floral Park practiced the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) philosophy and refused to grant permission to extend the Q79 to the Floral Park LIRR Station.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its operating agency, New York City Transit always seemed to have a policy of only running the same standard 40 foot local buses on all routes. Too bad that neither would budge.

Imagine if the MTA/NYCT, like other transit agencies, had purchased smaller 35, 30 or 25 foot buses. Perhaps the Village of Floral Park would have agreed to accommodate smaller buses on their streets.

With a direct connection between both the Floral Park and Little Neck LIRR Stations, there might have been a sufficient increase in ridership to justify keeping the Q79. Sadly, we will never know.

Over the past decades, I’ve witnessed many other changes to our neighborhood. On Northern Boulevard, our old Bowling Alley, the original Scobee Diner, the mini- Sears Roebuck on Great Neck Road, Little Neck Movie Theater, Bill’s newsstand by the Q12 Bus Stop, Mangels Delicatessen, the old 5 & 10 Virginia Variety, Patrick’s Pub, Villa Bianca Restaurant and Bakery along with other stores have come and gone. Most recently, Pats Little Neck Inn, Subway and Staples have also departed our neighborhood.

Walking down Northern Boulevard in the evenings, my wife and I see fewer people dining out and shopping except on Friday and Saturday nights. Years ago, we would never see any vacant storefronts. Today, there are too many from Jason Avenue in Great Neck to Marathon Parkway in Little Neck.

Many neighbors I looked up to over the decades have moved away or succumbed to old age. I’ll never forget the wisdom that the Uhls, Houstons and others passed on to me. Who knew at 59 years old, having lived in the same neighborhood for 48 years, I would become one of the few remaining resident historians.

Extending the Q36 route from its previous terminus on Jericho Turnpike at the City Line north along Little Neck Parkway to the Little Neck Long Island Rail Road station restores all the old Q79 connections and adds many new ones.

At Northern Boulevard, you can transfer to the Q12 Flushing bus. Last stop is the Main Street Flushing 7 Subway Station. There are more than 16 other local NYCT bus connections available in Downtown Flushing. Don’t forget the N20 or N21 NICE (Nassau Inter County Express) with connections to Great Neck, Roslyn or Hicksville along with rush hour service to Glen Cove.

At Horace Harding Boulevard and Long Island Expressway, you can transfer to the Q30 bus. This bus route provides connection to the subway (F line at 169th Street along with the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road Station (with connections to all LIRR branches except Port Washington along with the subway E, J and Z lines).

At Union Turnpike, there is the Q46 bus providing service to 260th Street Glen Oaks, the City Line (including Long Island Jewish Hospital or Lake Success Shopping Center a short walk away) or the Union Turnpike Subway Station (E or F subway lines).

This new, enhanced Q36 bus service now provides a one-shot bus ride for those boarding along Little Neck Parkway with a direct connection to the Hempstead branch Long Island Rail Road at the Queens Village Station (at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and Springfield Boulevard) and F subway line at either the 179th Street or 169th Street stations along Hillside Avenue. There are also numerous other local bus connections available along the Jericho Turnpike and Hillside Avenue portions of the Q36 bus route. Don’t forget all the other connecting bus routes available at the 165th Street Bus Terminal.

It is now up to the thousands of Queens and Nassau County residents who live within a one to 10 block walking radius west and east of Little Neck Parkway to utilize this new bus service. Without sufficient ridership supporting a reasonable fare box recovery rate, it may be difficult to continue justifying this service.

Buy your individual, weekly or monthly Metro Card and patronize the new improved extended Q36 bus service today. Your support is critical to ensure that this important local community service is still available tomorrow.

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