Statement of the New York City Transit Riders Council to the Transportation Committee of the New York City Council on Improving Transportation Options for Southern Queens
April 24, 2007
My name is Andrew Albert I am the Chair of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC). The Council was created in 1981 to represent the users of the New York City Transit system and consists of 15 volunteer members appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the Mayor, the Public Advocate and the five Borough Presidents.
The NYCTRC welcomes this effort to examine the service currently provided in Southern Queens and specifically, Southeast Queens — an area the Council has long felt was underserved by New York City Transit. Today the inadequate bus and subway service in many Southeast Queens neighborhoods, such as Springfield Gardens, Rosedale and Cambria Heights, lead residents to utilize “dollar” vans in order to reach Jamaica station. This adds another $3.00 per day to commuting costs, and unfortunately the network of dollar vans has a number of serious issues to contend with. These issues include the potential of riding with unlicensed drivers, unsafe and uninsured vans, and the threat of being disembarked by MTA police due to the van operating on an MTA route and then having to wait as full vans pass them buy.
Many, many residents use this anxiety-ridden service to reach Jamaica station where they take the subway into Manhattan. Total travel time can easily take up to two hours as multiple transfers are often needed to reach a desired destination.
Alternatively, many other residents in the area choose to use their cars to reach Manhattan’s central business district (CBD). According to Bruce Shaller’s recently released report “City in Flux”, over 5,000 people commute into Manhattans Central Business District by car from Queens Community Board 13. This represents 25-35% of commuters from the district driving into Manhattan’s CBD.
These transportation choices are not only limited, but unacceptable in terms of quality of life. Census data shows that mean journey to work increased 16% to 47.7 minutes for Community District 13 over the period 1990-2000. Clearly, serious options need to be examined to improve the access to the MTA system for residents of Southeast Queens.
First the MTA needs to examine the potential for converting a portion of the LIRR to NYC Transit service. By converting the St. Albans portion of the West Hempstead LIRR branch to a NYC Transit line, the service would be far more affordable to the communities it runs through. We recommend that the MTA look at running the service through Jamaica station and also convert the LIRR Jamaica station to Flatbush Avenue service to NYC Transit service, where
passengers would then disembark to the multiple connecting transit lines provided at the terminal. In addition, to being more affordable the service would ease the overcrowding on the E line and substantially reduce travel times as an express service to Flatbush Avenue terminal with only a few stops.
Second, the MTA has plans for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) pilot program along Merrick Boulevard. This pilot program expects to see travel time savings between 10% (3 minutes) to 22% (7 minutes) on the half hour run it currently takes to get from Rosedale station to Jamaica Center. Several bus lines will intersect with the BRT pilot stations, including the Q77 at Springfield Boulevard, and the Q3 at Farmers Blvd. The Q77 currently runs on 6 minute headways before 8:30 am and then drops to 10 minute headways. The Q3 also runs on 6 minute headways but only until 7:34 am when it switches to 10 minute headways.
For residents that require one or more transfers 6 and 10 minute headway are too long. The MTA needs to look at decreasing these headways to 2-4 minutes during rush hour. This change should be incorporated into the pilot program to examine the ridership gains that can be achieved by decreasing the headways for these connecting buses.
In the coming months the New York City Transit Riders Council will be investigating these and other opportunities in the area. We appreciate the Councils concern on this severely underserved area. And look forward to hearing the concerns and suggestions that will come forward this evening.