Unsatisfied with the agency’s efforts to inform residents of impending changes to their commutes, transit advocate Jim Burke and Nuala O'Doherty Naranjo, a candidate for state Assembly, have taken up their own campaign of public outreach.
The pair have taken to the streets each morning for weeks, riding the buses and letting people know about the proposal.
They’ve given out nearly 15,000 flyers urging riders to go online and leave feedback, as well as letting them know about upcoming MTA workshops.
“I wanted better bus service,” said Burke. “I was dying for better bus service. That’s why I found the proposal when they posted it after hours on December 30.
“We wanted our buses redesigned, but we wanted more frequency and accessibility,” he continued. “Destination matters. You don’t take the bus halfway or a third of the way to where you want to go. You want a bus that takes you all the way to where you want to go.”
Burke, who has attended many of the redesign workshops, is suggesting that customers who attend these sessions ask MTA facilitators how many legs and types of transportation they would need to take under the new network.
Transit officials have explained that with eliminated redundancies in the network’s lines, commuters may see their one-seat ride transition to a two-seat ride.
In many cases, however, the proposed map’s simplified grid creates a complicated itinerary of transfers that would prove difficult for riders, especially the elderly and disabled.
For Burke, what is today a nonstop ride on the Q53 to get back and forth from Jackson Heights to the Rockaways every day would become a three-bus route with the proposed changes.
Also present at Thursday’s rally was Councilman Costa Constantinides, who earlier this year introduced a bill with Councilman I. Daneek Miller that would require the Department of Transportation to craft a distinct transit plan for each of the five boroughs.
Constantinides referenced a lack of representation for Queens on the MTA Board at a redesign town hall attended by State Senator Jessica Ramos, who admitted that the agency made poor assumptions about service needs in the borough.
“I was in shock,” Constantinides said. “It’s not that they used outdated data, but people in Manhattan who don’t ride our buses and don’t live here made poor assumptions about what our bus service should be.”
Protestors rode the Q66 down Northern Boulevard to a redesign workshop at the Langston Hughes Library and Cultural center, continuing to rally on the bus. The line at the workshop wrapped into the book shelves, leaving residents with wait times of more than an hour to get inside.
The next morning, Burke and Naranjo were back at it on the steps of Borough Hall at a rally led by members of the City Council’s Queens delegation.
“This plan has united all of Queens,” said Councilman Donovan Richards. “Every pocket of the borough is against this plan because we see it for what it is.
“There was very little community input from the get go,” he continued. “The MTA has come back to us with a flawed plan that only decreases the service it says it is speeding up.”
Miller, a former city bus driver, criticized the MTA’s proposal as one that does not meet standards when it comes to the connectivity and transportation equity that was promised by the agency.
“We’ve been saying for a long time in the City Council that transportation is the great equalizer,” he explained. “If you want to grow a community, enhance its transportation options. Conversely, if you want to suppress a community or borough, suppress its transportation options.”
Miller pointed out that investment of funds and resources are necessary to heal a system that has been broken for decades, rather than abiding by a cost-neutral goal for the redesign. Otherwise, he says, all Queens residents are getting is “consolidation disguised as a new network.”
“We’re standing here today to let the MTA know that we need a unified system,” said Councilwoman Adrienne Adams. “Not one that is Manhattan-centric, but one that takes into account Queens, the forgotten borough when it comes to transit.”
On Friday, the MTA announced a slate of new public outreach workshops. See the full list below, or visit new.mta.info/queensbusredesign for more information.
• Wednesday, Feb. 3, 6 p.m.
American Legion Hall
89-02 91st St.
• Wednesday, Feb. 3, 6 p.m.
Queens Community Board 2 transportation committee
Sunnyside Community Services
43-31 39th Ave.
• Tuesday, Feb. 4, 6-8 p.m.
Jacob Riis Settlement
10-25 41st Ave.
Long Island City
• Wednesday, Feb. 5, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
RISE/Rockaway Waterfront Alliance
58-03 Rockaway Beach Blvd.
• Thursday, Feb. 6, 7-8:30 p.m.
207 Beach 73rd St.
• Tuesday, Feb. 11, 6-8 p.m.
Community Board 12 Transportation Committee
York College, Faculty Dining Room
94-20 Guy R Brewer Blvd.
• Wednesday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m.
Queens Community Board 6
Kew Gardens Community Center
80-02 Kew Gardens Rd. #202
• Wednesday, Feb. 12, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
63-60 80th St.
• Thursday, Feb. 13, 6:30 p.m.
Community Board 1 Transportation Committee
45-02 Ditmars Blvd., LL suite 1025
• Thursday, Feb. 13, 7 p.m.
Community Board 13 Transportation Committee
Jean Nuzzi I.S. 109
213-10 92nd Ave.
• Wednesday, Feb. 19, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
65-30 Kissena Blvd.
• Thursday, Feb. 20, 7-8:30 p.m.
Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York
203-05 32nd Ave.
• Tuesday, Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m.
Community Board 5 Transportation Committee
Christ The King School
68-02 Metropolitan Ave.
• Tuesday, Feb. 25, 7 p.m.
Community Board 14 Transportation Committee
Knights of Columbus 333 Beach 90th St.
• Wednesday, Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m.
Community Board 7 Transportation Committee
Union Plaza Care Center
33-23 Union St.
• Thursday, Feb. 27, 7-8:30 p.m.
Cross Island YMCA
238-10 Hillside Ave.
• Wednesday, March 4, 6-8 p.m.
• Thursday, March 5, 7-8:30 p.m.
114-4 14th Rd.
• Thursday, March 12, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
August Martin High School
156-10 Baisley Blvd.
• Tuesday, March 16, 7-8:30 p.m.
Community Board 8 Transportation Committee
Hillcrest Jewish Center
183-02 Union Turnpike
• Wednesday, March 18, 7-8:30 p.m.
Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church of Whitestone
12-01 150th St.
• Thursday, March 19, 7-8:30 p.m.
North Shore Towers
272-48 Grand Central Pkwy.