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Via Garibaldi 8

Problems with express buses — just not what you think

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POINT OF VIEW

Problems with express buses — just not what you think

Posted December 15, 2019

By VITTORIO BUGATTI

(re: “Bronx bus redesign is important,” Nov. 21)

In a recent letter, New York City Transit president Andy Byford attempts to explain the reasons why the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is undertaking a borough-wide approach to “fixing” bus service in the Bronx.

In it, he states how the transit agency is “re-imagining the bus map to better reflect (its) customers’ needs, and to account for substantial development and growth in the Bronx.” He further states that for Bronx express bus service, “the vast majority of ridership occurs during peak periods, and off-peak ridership has plummeted,” as if Bronxites in subway deserts suddenly stopped having a need to use the express buses outside of rush hour.

What he fails to mention is that express bus service, not only in the Bronx but citywide, has been performing poorly for years. In fact, according to the city comptroller’s express bus audit released in 2015, nearly 33 percent of all express buses were not on time, with passengers waiting anywhere from “six minutes to 28 minutes after a scheduled departure time for the next available bus,” and “delayed and late express buses made up nearly 40 percent of all express bus customer complaints” at that time.

Furthermore, the audit notes that until recently, the MTA did not even track on-time performance for express buses on a regular or consistent basis.

Is it really a surprise to Mr. Byford that off-peak ridership has “plummeted” when the MTA eliminated the monthly express bus pass and student discounts, and significantly curtailed the senior discount on express buses while continuing to raise the fares every two years, with the most recent fare hike coming earlier this year?

It should be noted that while express bus riders tend to live in historically two-fare zones prior to the MetroCard, we are the only commuter group in New York City that does not have a monthly pass.

Subway and local bus riders — as well as Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road riders — all have a monthly commuter pass, but express bus riders that either lack or are devoid of subway service only have a weekly pass, which not only is more expensive, but also requires finding the nearest subway station and refilling several times to cover an entire month — a process which is tedious, particularly when MetroCard machines are malfunctioning in the entire station, which has been a regular occurrence in the most recent months.

The MTA charges $13.50 round trip for what they call a “premium service.” Meanwhile, I have had to cancel countless appointments during off-peak hours due to missing or late express buses to and from Riverdale and elsewhere. In fact, the situation became so abhorrent that I created an advocacy group via social media back in October 2018 — the Express Bus Advocacy Group on Facebook — to understand just how rampant the situation was after dealing with long waits and missing buses during both the morning and evening rush, making me late to work for important meetings, and having to endure extended commutes to return home to Riverdale.

It is ironic that Mr. Byford talks about the need to “use (their) limited resources efficiently and effectively” (taxpayer dollars), yet we are now in the fourth quarter of 2019 fiscal year, and the MTA continues to hemorrhage hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of fare beating.

In fact, over the last two years — according to the MTA’s own estimates — they have lost almost $500 million due to fare beating, monies that could be used toward their ailing operational budget.

Express bus commuters expected more service from this redesign, not less. The idea that the MTA would bury the proposed service cuts in a proposal of more than 300 pages is disturbing, while attempting to highlight the ways in which we would supposedly benefit from this disastrous plan.

At a time when the MTA is asking lawmakers to approve of their $52 billion capital budget plan, along with the fact that they are due to receive billions via congestion pricing in the coming years, it is a slap in the face to outer borough residents in subway deserts to not only receive a fare hike this year, but also face the possibility of losing massive amounts of express bus service should this plan be enacted next year — a service that has served dozens of communities in the Bronx for decades, from Riverdale to areas of the Grand Concourse and beyond, where many disabled and senior riders depend on the express buses due to ADA accessibility issues.

It has been noted over the years that only about 25 percent of our subway stations are ADA accessible, and yet the MTA — a public agency that supposedly is serving the public’s needs — seems quite comfortable trying to justify cutting express bus service as a way to be “fiscally responsible” to us taxpayers.

At a time when the Bronx continues to see substantial population growth, the MTA must look at ways to better promote bus service, not cut it. If they were truly interested in resuscitating bus ridership, they would look at the success that Metro-North and the LIRR have had off-peak with its City Ticket program, and offer similar promotions.

Source: https://riverdalepress.com/stories/problems-with-express-buses-just-not-what-you-think,70777?fbclid=IwAR1E2QLxcaF1nLBTFRd6A-WWSLIzJiiBsx6oLmgajriyFjyQG9EM2V_ndRU

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8
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On 12/16/2019 at 10:44 AM, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

"If they were truly interested in resuscitating bus ridership, they would look at the success that Metro-North and the LIRR have had off-peak with its City Ticket program, and offer similar promotions."

Source: https://riverdalepress.com/stories/problems-with-express-buses-just-not-what-you-think,70777?fbclid=IwAR1E2QLxcaF1nLBTFRd6A-WWSLIzJiiBsx6oLmgajriyFjyQG9EM2V_ndRU

True.

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Off peak ridership on express buses plummet because more people are taking the MNRR or LIRR into Manhattan.

The PW Branch gets most of it's riders from NE Queens and Great Neck because it's faster than the (7) and the Express Bus. 

It doesn't help that most of these routes end at Herald Square or go thru Herald Square just to get to Lower Manhattan or Manhattan above 59th Street.

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58 minutes ago, NY1635 said:

Off peak ridership on express buses plummet because more people are taking the MNRR or LIRR into Manhattan.

The PW Branch gets most of it's riders from NE Queens and Great Neck because it's faster than the (7) and the Express Bus. 

It doesn't help that most of these routes end at Herald Square or go thru Herald Square just to get to Lower Manhattan or Manhattan above 59th Street.

No Queens express bus route goes through Herald Square to get to Lower Manhattan. If you are going to make such claims, at least get your facts straight.

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On 12/28/2019 at 3:56 AM, 78 via Stew Leonards said:

Where are these advocacy pages and when are the meetings taking place?

If you bothered to read the article it’s pretty clear.

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