“We would like to take a holistic approach to our entire bus network,” said MTA Bus Company president Darryl Irick. “We operate over 5,700 buses in over 300 routes, but the problem is that most of those routes have evolved from the old trolley network.
“As New York changed, we have not changed along with it,” he added.
There are 77 local and 30 express bus routes in Queens with an average of 714,000 weekday customers. However, Queens ridership declined by 2.5 percent between 2016 and 2017 as bus speeds continue to decline.
The project will assess all local and express buses, including Select Bus Service (SBS) and Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) buses.
It will also look at current and future market needs, travel trends, and bus performance and reliability, as well as adding more sustainable buses to the fleet.
“Some of you many have noticed an influx of blue-and-gold buses throughout the borough, and we plan to keep that going as a trend in the months ahead,” said Mark Holmes, vice president of Planning for MTA Bus.
Residential and commercial development in Queens is a driving force behind the redesign, as wel as the vast job growth in the borough, specifically in areas located farther from the subway like universities, hospitals and the two airports.
Working with the Department of Transportation, MTA Bus will modify low-performing bus routes, reduce route redundancy and improving off-peak service while increasing capapcity on busy corridors.
“All of this will be done in close collaboration with the riding public,” said Holmes. “We plan to take advantage of survey research and public feedback and make informed decisions that will help us,” said Holmes.
“This is an extremely important subject, as Queens is covered one-third by subways and two-thirds by buses,” said Borough President Melinda Katz.
Board members expressed concerns that bus stops in Forest Hills and Rego Park were recently moved without community input, and how buses in neighborhoods like Ridgewood are considered part of Brooklyn’s bus network.
Other community board members also questioned statistics that show bus ridership is down.
“It’s reflective of fares not being collected, as I can tell that ridership is up,” said Dolores Orr of Community Board 14. “I see it particularly on the SBS buses, where people are getting on the bus without getting their paper.”
Despite the concerns, the Bus Turnaround Coalition is optimistic about the future of the Queens bus network.
"We strongly encourage all Queens bus riders to take an active role in planning the new network so that bus service best meets their needs,” read a statement from the coalition. “We are eager to work closely with the MTA and elected officials to make the Queens bus network redesign a success.”
The next step will be the release of the surveys next month, which will coincide with the kickoff of the public open houses. The final plan will be complete in April 2020.