Feb. 4, 2020 By Ryan Brady
Adding to a borough-wide chorus, residents ripped into the MTA’s Queens bus network redesign draft proposal at a packed public forum in Sunnyside on Monday night.
Criticism ran the gamut at the meeting, which began with a presentation by agency officials about the plan. Many in the crowd called on the MTA to not ax the Q32, Q53 and Q60 routes, which — with all other existing ones in the borough — the proposal would delete.
With around 100 attending, the event was just the latest of a litany across Queens where straphangers made their opposition to the redesign known to MTA officials.
“I think it would be wise to go back to the drawing board,” Community Board 2 member Karolina Tosi said.
She had brought up how eliminating the Q60 route would deny many Sunnyside and Woodside residents a single-ride bus into Manhattan via Queens Boulevard. Under the draft redesign, those who now take the Q60 would have to transfer to another route near LaGuardia Community College to cross the East River. The existing route is especially popular when the No. 7 train is out of service.
No one on CB 2’s Transportation Committee — which the presentation was for — or anyone else in the audience said anything positive about the plan. The MTA made repeated assurances that the proposal it shared is just a draft; it expects to publish a final plan at the end of 2020’s second quarter.
“Nothing is set in stone,” MTA-New York City Transit Assistant Director of Government and Community Affairs Lucille Songhai said.
Deleting all existing routes, the agency is taking a “blank-slate” approach with the new plan to reverse a ridership decline in Queens. The borough’s proposal — which comes after redesigns were created for the Bronx and Staten Island — aims to consolidate and increase the frequency of service.
The MTA began work on the redesign after accepting recommendations from Queens straphangers during a series of meetings with borough straphangers last year. But the plan’s met major backlash, a fact reflected by the borough’s delegation to the City Council declaring its opposition to the proposal last month.
Another bone of contention is the potential loss of the Q32, which utilizes much of Roosevelt Avenue on Jackson Heights-to-Penn Station route. While the MTA says the route will in parts be replaced by three proposed new ones, residents at the meeting on Monday weren’t impressed.
The Rev. Kevin Abels, pastor of St. Sebastian’s Church on Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside, said hundreds of his parishioners rely on the Q32. He predicted that the route’s elimination would “decimate our Mass attendance.”
CB 2 member Regina Shanley said the loss of the Q32 would force her to rely on Access-a-Ride, a program she called “terrible.”
“But it sounds like terrible is better than what this is going to be.”
Year-round service between Woodside and the Rockaways on the Q53 would also be eliminated under the redesign, residents lamented.
The draft redesign would change the average distance between bus stops from 850 to 1,400 feet, which critics say would create challenges for senior citizens and disabled people. According to Sunnyside resident Steve Suffet, who uses a cane to walk around, the proposed change represents “a contemptuous disregard for people with disabilities.”
Responding to the attendees, MTA Principal Transportation Planner Julian Bautista-Rojas thanked them for their input and said the agency would keep their comments in mind when it makes changes to the proposal.
The redesign draft is viewable online. Straphangers have more chances in the coming days to voice their concerns about it to the MTA at workshops throughout Queens. The agency also has an online form for submitting comments.