At a session held at Borough Hall last Tuesday, comments ranged from considerations of the elderly and disabled to specific lines and transfers. Some riders were well-informed how some changes would affect them, while many others looked to facilitators to explain the intricacies of their new commutes.
One resident was quick to point out concerns of her elderly neighbors, not only regarding physical obstacles presented by the MTA’s proposed network, but also with observed issues with how the plan itself is communicated.
“My parents and in-laws cannot work a computer or an iPhone to save their lives,” she said. “How is this going to be communicated to them and to the community besides online?”
Though a representative from the MTA assured that updated printed pamphlets will be in circulation when the new map is in place, the majority of interactive engagement with the proposal is only available online.
Questions as to why the agency hasn’t posted more signs advertising the “blank slate” redesign on buses and in train stations have come up at previous workshops.
Residents drew attention to routes along Queens Boulevard, a main thoroughfare in the Forest Hills, Rego Park and Kew Gardens neighborhoods. The discussion drifted to replacement service for the Q60 in particular, a line that sees heavy ridership from the elderly.
One man criticized the proposal’s lengthened bus spacing to an average of 1,400 feet, which translates to a little more than a quarter of a mile.
“Nobody’s going to want to walk a quarter of a mile in the snow,” he said. “And the old people won’t even want to leave their houses. You’re shutting out a lot of the population. There’s a lot more to it than just rerouting buses.”
In the last month, concerns were raised about new buses routing people to local train stations that are not ADA accessible, especially in the Jackson Heights area.
According to the draft plan, Q60 service along Queens Boulevard would be replaced by the QT60, which would no longer cross the Queensboro Bridge.
Instead, the QT60 would travel down Jackson Avenue to Hunters Point, and for bus service into Manhattan riders would need to transfer to the QT61 or QT75 at 46th Street and Queens Boulevard.
The current Q23 line is also a central bus in the area, and one that was mentioned several times throughout the evening. As it stands today, the Q23 is a key connection between East Elmhurst and Corona and Union Turnpike in Forest Hills.
Under the proposed map, service south from Ditmars Boulevard in East Elmhurst is replaced by the QT82 along 103rd Street and by the QT11 down 108th Street.
In order to access stops on the south side of Queens Boulevard, riders would need to transfer at the transit hub on 71st Avenue to either the QT86 for service down Yellowstone Boulevard or the QT87 for stops on Continental Avenue.
By splitting and rerouting service south of Queens Boulevard, the proposed map eliminates buses from congested Austin Street, a move which Forest Hills customers seem to approve of.
However, residents of the local Van Court and Gardens private communities indicated they would not appreciate buses traveling down their quiet residential streets as is proposed in the draft plan.
The families in this area, residents say, don’t typically ride the bus, in addition to paying yearly fees to be part of a quiet, private neighborhood.
“We’re concerned that all of this is happening and we’re not meeting the needs of the people by giving the service to people who actually need it,” one resident of Van Court noted.
A consistent feature of the simplified grid system employed in the redesign is a frequent requirement for commuters to transfer more than the one time permitted by contemporary MetroCards to reach their destination.
One MTA facilitator at the workshop hesitantly revealed that the agency is looking into methods of reinstating the allowance of three-legged trips within a certain time constraint once the new network is rolled out.
They also explained that the MetroCard will be gradually phased out over the next two to three years in favor of OMNY, a new contactless fare payment system that recently emerged in some subway stations throughout the city.
The hope is that eliminating the time it takes to dip your MetroCard on the bus will help make trips faster for riders. It is unclear, however, whether or not the OMNY system will offer the option of unlimited weekly or monthly rides.