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Less is More?

Dear Editor:

Once again the MTA invites travelers to and from Rockaway for a “participatory” trip down a rabbit-hole. Drafters of the latest bus “plan” seem to be claiming is “Less is more”.

The main argument in favor of public transportation is that it offers inexpensive and widely available  travel options for the public and that this is the lifeblood of modern urban economic life: it’s what gets workers to and from their jobs, and brings people to medical care, schools, shopping, banking and entertainment.  The MTA has many shortcomings but imagine the City without it… or without parts of it.

More than that, politicians, scholars, transportation pundits, environmentalists, all love to spout out the societal benefits of a vibrant public transit system: getting people out of cars and onto publicly owned conveyances reduces road congestion, cuts greenhouse gas emissions, and helps in the struggle against climate change with its consequent weather disasters, etc.  Moreover, by charging everyone a reasonable and equitable rate for these services, one doesn’t exacerbate class differences by charging differential rates, as do ride-sharing apps, taxis and limos. That is, a fundamental element of public transit is egalitarianism

But let’s get down to nuts and bolts: Somehow the MTA hopes that cutting service, eliminating routes, moving routes further from their clientele—not to mention further from neighborhood shopping streets, medical services, and  the post office, while simultaneously increasing distance between bus stops on a “new” Q35 route, will improve things and increase everyone’s feeling of well-being. Really? It certainly will not increase ridership or passenger and business-owner satisfaction. It will inconvenience everyone and force many back into gas-guzzling, road congesting personal vehicles.

No, the MTA, not for the first time, is trying to cut the service that serves working- and middle-class residents of the Rockaways. Juggle a few numbers, change a route, eliminate another one, and, presto, no one will notice. Maybe that’s why this time around there is a poorly announced web session but no public meeting. Sort of eases the way to a fait accompli.

What they propose is the elimination of the Q22 between Roxbury and B 116th Street. Then they want to shift the Q35 onto that stretch of RBB with passengers bound further east having to change to a truncated Q22 at B116th St. That’s foolish enough just on passenger convenience grounds. You have a narrow peninsula with a bus route, the Q35, running down the center. Its catchment area is on either side of its route but mainly consists of commuters, students, employees of local businesses and home care workers on the northern three-fourths of the peninsula.

Moreover, the current Q35 route provides easy access to all the small businesses on B. 129th St. between Newport and Cronston. These businesses are successful in large part because it’s easy to reach them from the Newport Avenue stops. One long additional (and possibly two or three short blocks if between-stop distances increase) will certainly hurt small business proprietors and customers…our friends and neighbors. Businesses on Beach Channel Drive East of B. 116th Street: bakeries, medical services, dentists, opticians, physiotherapists, Duane Reade and US Post Office will also be adversely affected.

Overhead Google views and census information reinforces this observation: in the stretch of the peninsula from B.149th street to B. 116th, one can see the population and housing density is greater on the northern three-quarters,  i.e. from Rockaway Beach Boulevard to Jamaica Bay. In the other direction, RBB to the ocean, houses are larger and have fewer occupants per house. Without being “classist” it’s fair to say that beach block residents tend not to be bus passengers.

Moving the route from Newport to RBB would involve much longer distances to walk to and from a bus stop for the bulk of current Q35 users. To add insult to injury, as previously noted, the MTA proposes to increase the distance between bus stops — currently two blocks — on the new route!!! Even longer walks, extra blocks in winter storms and summer heat! Bizarro!

To serve the maximum number of potential passengers and to minimize the average walk between homes and the nearest bus stop retain the Q35 on Newport Avenue as the one remaining east-west route. Current Q35 passengers from Brooklyn wanting the Q22 to go further east can now change for the new Q22 “ferry route” which begins just around the corner from where the Q35 now ends, at Newport and B. 116th. In other words, the Q35 in its present route is just fine.

Stephen Keller

(To submit a comment on the bus plan, head to: https://contact.mta.info/s/forms/bus-network-redesign )

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