Jan. 14, 2020 By Kristen Torres
Council Member Costa Constantinides is urging MTA officials to add more busways, prioritize inter-borough travel and enhance public outreach as it works on redesigning the borough’s bus network.
Constantinides penned a letter to MTA New York City Transit President Andy Byford and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg on Jan. 9 asking the officials to add additional elements to the Queens Bus Network Redesign draft plan after fielding resident complaints since its Dec. 31 release.
“While I understand the methodologies being used to develop the draft, there are components I disagree with and believe we can significantly improve on,” Constantinides wrote.
The Council Member called on officials to include bus-only streets in the redesign in order to expedite travel times, and pointed to the success of Manhattan’s 14th Street Busway Pilot Project—launched in October 2019—as evidence.
Ridership on Manhattan’s M14 Select Bus Service line has jumped 24 percent since the pilot launched, and cut average travel time along the route by more than five minutes, according to a preliminary report on the program. As part of the pilot, only buses and trucks are permitted on 14th Street between 3rd and 9th Avenues from 6 a.m. through 10 p.m.
Constantinides called on DOT officials to work with the MTA on developing similar busways in Queens, though he didn’t specify what streets they should study.
“If we wait too long to seriously consider busways, our bus network could continue to suffer from decreasing ridership, lose the people’s trust, and fall short of meeting the needs of riders in transit deserts,” Constantinides said.
Constantinides also urged the MTA to put greater emphasis on travel within the borough.
The council member pointed to proposed changes on the Q18 bus line—which currently connects Astoria to Maspeth and whose peak wait time would increase nearly 12 minutes under the draft plan—to illustrate proposed changes to the current network that would hinder inter-borough travel.
“Our mass transit system was built to connect workers to Manhattan. It’s time to plan for how we connect people to one another within our borough, not just how we get to work,” Constantinides said.
The need for more public outreach surrounding the plan has been echoed across the borough by local officials and transit advocates since its release, and Constantinides mirrored the sentiment in his letter.
He urged transit officials to hold targeted community forums at senior centers and public housing developments, along with canvassing households that are not within walking distance to subway stations.
“These are the communities who would be most affected and they may not be members of their
Community Board or have access to many of the online tools the MTA has developed to discuss
this process,” Constantinides said.
The MTA’s community outreach plan surrounding the draft proposal includes community meetings to take place throughout the borough in January and February, with more to be announced, according to officials.
A final draft of the Queens Bus Network Redesign is set to be released in spring 2020.