MTA’s Proposed Queens Bus Redesign Could Give the Q53 the Axe

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On New Year’s Eve, while most were celebrating the upcoming New Year, the MTA released a sweeping 432-page draft bus plan that would overhaul the entire borough of Queens’ bus systems, and the Q53-SBS bus, which serves the western end of the Rockaway peninsula, may potentially be going under the guillotine, leaving many residents concerned. Several locals took to Facebook expressing their dismay about losing a bus they heavily depend on to get to work and children to school. The bus redesign may be the first major one in Queens in over a century, but some argue it will negatively overhaul locals’ commute.

On Facebook, one frustrated local stated, “The Q52 bus runs half empty most of the time! The Q53 brings in beachgoers. The buses are packed in the summer. The shuttle is completely unreliable. I live near the Q52 but walk the extra couple of blocks because it (the Q53) comes more often.” Another outraged local said, “The bus ‘REDESIGN’ is supposed to be better service. However, it’s a back doorway for service cuts! The Q53 is a good bus with frequent service that goes to Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Woodside from Beach 116th. NYCTBUS will ‘modify’ service and the Q53 will no longer exist!! That’s an example of a drastic cut. It will be a blow to the people and businesses, especially to Beach 116th. We have to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

Under the proposed bus draft redesign, the Q53 bus will be eliminated and replaced by the QT52 which will run from Arverne/Beach 54th Street to Elmhurst/Woodhaven Blvd Station. Riders on the west end of Rockaway (Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor, Neponsit, Roxbury and Breezy Point) would need to take the modified QT35 route on Rockaway Beach Blvd to Beach 108th, transfer to the new Q22T, and take that to Beach 90th, and change again to the QT52 to get to Cross Bay Boulevard and Woodhaven Boulevard. The “old” Q22 would no longer run west of Beach 116th. Riders will need to take the new Q35T route along RBB to Beach 116th or at Beach 108th, and switch to the “new” QT22 to go further east toward Arverne and Far Rockaway. The QT22 will exclusively operate between Cedarhurst/Falcaros Plaza and Rockaway Park/Beach 116th  Street. The new QT35—Brooklyn College-Rockaway Park route—will operate between Rockaway Park/Beach 116th Street and Brooklyn College/ Flatbush Ave Station.

According to the MTA, the draft plan, which is part of the MTA's Fast Forward plan, a sweeping initiative launched in May 2018 to overhaul the city's subway and bus systems, had several goals: to develop a plan to provide more frequent and reliable bus service that better satisfies the needs of the borough and address the problems in the borough’s current bus network, which has not substantially changed in decades despite the many changed dynamics of Queens. The project has included numerous public workshops and other forums during which NYC Transit received input from residents on how Queens bus service can best be improved.

The Rockaway Times reached out to the MTA press office for some clarification, and to express locals’ concerns. Press officer Amanda Kwan stated: “The Queens bus redesign is the most dramatic one we are doing. Concerned residents should know that this is just a draft. The ‘T’ designation on the proposed new bus routes just indicate ‘temporary.’ The plan may not look the same in the final version. We are redoing the entire Queens bus network to expressly serve residents by streamlining and creating shorter bus routes. This draft is not a done deal. For Rockaway residents concerned about the summer traffic, we have already taken in consideration a seasonal variant for the QT52 route to serve Belle Harbor, Neponsit, and Jacob Riis Park during summer months.

“We are excited by the feedback we’ve received so far on our draft plan to dramatically reimagine the Queens bus network, because the redesign is an interactive, customer-led process that will result in better service for hundreds of thousands of customers. What we have proposed is a draft that will change as we get more public input, and everyone will have the opportunity to share feedback. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to give Queens residents the bus service they deserve.”

The RT also reached out to local pols to see where they stand on the new MTA bus redesign for Rockaway.

Councilman Eric Ulrich stated: “I vehemently oppose the MTA’s proposal to eliminate and alter crucial bus routes in Rockaway, including the Q53 in its entirety, as well as stops along the Q22. The Q53 is a major north/south mode of public transportation along the peninsula. And the proposed changes along the Q22 route would require several hundred students and others to transfer to another bus—sometimes two—to reach the same destination. Rockaway is already a transportation desert with few options. Instead of expanding alternatives for residents, the MTA is proposing to eliminate them. I urge my constituents in Rockaway to vocalize their concerns by submitting feedback and attending next month’s public session.”

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato agreed: “It's no secret that south Queens, especially Rockaway, has extremely limited transit options. The proposed draft redesign has aspects that will benefit this community, however the plan also proposes the removal of the Q53 which is not welcome in the slightest. That’s why I encourage all folks, especially everyday commuters and students, to come to the RISE Center on February 5 to tell the MTA exactly what they think about these proposals and how they will affect their daily lives, and to leave feedback on the MTA's proposed bus redesign map. This is the first step of many, and we must make sure that we keep what we like and advocate relentlessly for what we need.”

Senator Joseph Addabbo is also not a fan of the plan. “I share the concerns that my constituents have expressed to me about the proposed termination of the Q53-SBS route. This route is one of Rockaway’s main transportation options, on a peninsula that for years has witnessed the dire need for more transportation measures, certainly not less. I have reached out to the MTA, and they assured me that there will be no changes as of yet; these are only proposals. I will work to protect the Q53 route and seek to improve all transportation options across the peninsula.”

Locals will have a chance to let their voices be heard at the MTA Queens Bus Network Redesign Public Workshop on February 5, 6 p.m. at RISE/ Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (58-03 Rockaway Beach Blvd.) Can’t make the meeting? See the full draft plan and express your comments online by visiting: new.mta.info/queensbusredesign

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