That was the message given to representatives of the MTA by Community Board 6 at last week’s meeting. Angry that bus stops have been removed from the Q60 line along Queens Boulevard, board members and elected officials took aim at the MTA for refusing to disclose the location of decommissioned bus stops throughout the borough.
The MTA took over New York City buses three years ago from seven private companies, and in that time have sought to bring the bus routes up to a more modern standard through the redirection of bus lines and rearrangement of stops.
“The Q60 bus is greatly improved, with more frequent stops and overnight service,” said Norman Silverman, vice president of Operations for MTA Bus Company.
He explained to members of CB6 that many of the stops along Queens Boulevard were spaced too close together, and that the excessive stopping was making the route inefficient.
“We have determined that an appropriate stop spacing for modern bus routes is a minimum of 750 feet,” Silverman said. “There were many stops along Queens Boulevard much closer together than that. If they are too close, than it affects reliability and travel speed. The removals were not made to inconvenience people.”
He indicated that Queens Boulevard is one of the most difficult routes to manage in the city.
Despite Silverman’s reasoning, many community leaders insisted that the stop removals have been nothing but an inconvenience.
“The removal of bus stops along Queens Boulevard seems to be done in order to speed up travel times from Queens to Manhattan, rather than serve the people of Queens Boulevard,” said CB6 Chairman Joseph Hennessy. “The board has sent a letter to MTA requesting a notification of any changes to bus routes in our neighborhood.”
Silverman explained that individual stop changes are not communicated in advance to any authority, as they are often executive decisions done for safety reasons.
“While I understand that changes have to be made, you have to talk to the community boards, local elected officials, and the people who are affected,” said Councilwoman Melinda Katz. “You’ve got to come to talk to the community anytime there is a change.”
Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz, an avid bus rider, brought up a number of key bus stops along the Q60 route that had been removed or relocated in ways that she felt were detrimental to the residents of Queens.
A Q60 stop at 70th Road was reported to have been taken down, eliciting concerns because of the seven-block distance between stops at Continental Avenue and 68th Street, but Silverman indicated that the stop had never been removed. An outpouring of disagreement with his statements, and the conclusion that as of very recently, the stop had returned, led many to believe that it may have been removed due to construction.
A stop near the Queens Center Mall was recently moved to the other side of Woodhaven Boulevard, requiring riders to cross heavy traffic in order to get to their shopping destination.
“You are asking residents to cross a major, major intersection,” said Hennessy.
Silverman said that the change was made due to safety concerns, and that the original bus stop was likely to cause an accident. Hennessy countered the MTA’s argument by saying that no accidents had ever occurred at that stop, and that he had no reason to believe that any ever would.
Another change in stops, which led to the removal of a stop outside of a senior center in Sunnyside, was described by Koslowitz as the most egregious. The stop, removed from 39th Place, served the seniors visiting Sunnyside Community Services, and according to Koslowitz, “the seniors are up in arms.”
Silverman defended the removal, saying that a nearby stop added only 70 feet to the distance between the senior center and a bus stop. According to Silverman, 70 feet is too small of a distance to be seriously considered as a problem by the MTA.
“For a lot of seniors, 70 feet is a major distance,” said Koslowitz.
“If convenience was the most important part of planning bus routes, we would have a stop every 50 feet,” said Silverman. “But 750 feet between stops, especially on long routes, is very reasonable. There has to be some mobility.”
He ended by saying that the Q60 route has greatly improved since it was taken over by the MTA, a statement that many at the meeting could agree with.