Tag Archives: Riders Alliance

Jamaica and Flushing commuters sign petition calling for better bus service

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Riders Alliance

More than 2,000 people in Flushing and Jamaica reportedly signed a petition to demand improvements to the bus service along the Q44 bus route, according to a transit advocacy group.

Formed in 2012, the Riders Alliance organizes transit riders to call for better service and to influence transit funding and policy. The organization began collecting signatures for a petition meant to spur city agencies to adopt Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along the Q44 route, specifically on Parsons Boulevard and Main Street.

The Riders Alliance will deliver the petition to the Department of Transportation (DOT), Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and elected officials in Flushing and Jamaica. The DOT is currently studying the implementation of Select Bus Service along the Q44.

Josselyn Atahualpa, the Queens community organizer for Riders Alliance, said that she, along with other Riders Alliance members, began collecting signatures for a petition last October to gauge residents’ interest in the adoption of BRT. Though some community members vocalized opposition to the plan, Atahualpa said most people want to see changes to the route along Jamaica, which was recently named New York’s  neighborhood with the longest commute.

“We support the current proposal that they released in late May,” Atahualpa said. “We just want to see it implemented quickly and on time.”

The Q44, which links Jamaica, Flushing and the Bronx, serves 44,000 riders daily. The plan would add designated bus lanes on Sutphin Boulevard, Archer Avenue and Hillside Avenue in Jamaica. Main Street between Northern Boulevard and the Horace Harding Expressway in Flushing would also receive designated bus lanes.

As a senior, I don’t drive and I can’t walk long distances,” said Jeanne Majors, who is a Jamaica resident and member of the Riders Alliance. “I often rely on buses, but I’m tired of their unreliability and how overcrowded they’ve become. Buses come late, and older buses are difficult for me to board. I want reliable service and Select Bus Service can provide that.”

The DOT is planning to hold community meetings to discuss the proposed SBS service this fall but not all residents are on board with the plan. Yvonne Reddick, district manager for Community Board 12, said the Q44 along Jamaica has a short wait time and other bus services, such as the Q4 that runs through Jamaica and Cambria Heights and the Q41 that runs through Jamaica and 164 Avenue in Howard Beach, could benefit from SBS.

“I have monitored that Q44 that comes through Jamaica,” Reddick said. “That bus is the best bus that comes through Jamaica and I said that to the MTA. The longest you may wait for that Q44 is something like 3 minutes.”

Reddick said the Q4, which runs along Merrick Boulevard, has some of the longest wait times; she blamed part of the problem on the abundance of dollar vans that speed up and down the boulevard “like we’re in the wild west.”


Transit riders voice calls to ‘#FixWoodhaven’ in social media campaign

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photos via Twitter/@Jslyyynnn and @jam14063

Woodhaven Boulevard commuters took to social media on Wednesday afternoon to voice their frustration over crowded bus lines, deterioration and other problems along the thoroughfare.

The Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives organized the #FixWoodhaven event, which encouraged Queens subway and bus riders to use the hashtag on social media to call for bus rapid transit (BRT) and street improvements along the heavily used boulevard bisecting Elmhurst, Rego Park, Middle Village, Glendale, Woodhaven and Ozone Park.

“The Twitter campaign had over 250 tweets under the hashtag #FixWoodhaven,” according to a spokeswoman for the Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives.

“The people who were tweeting and part of the campaign included commuters who ride the bus daily along the Woodhaven corridor. The campaign was designed to speak to elected officials so they know the importance of BRT to their communities and constituents,” she said.

Volunteers with both transit advocacy groups also met with afternoon rush-hour commuters waiting for buses at stops along Hoffman Drive near Woodhaven Boulevard in Elmhurst. In pictures posted on Twitter and Instagram, riders were shown holding up signs noting that BRT would help reduce commute times and ease congestion.

In many instances, those who vented tagged or retweeted local elected officials seeking support for their cause, including City Council members Elizabeth Crowley and Donovan Richards and Assemblyman Mike Miller.

“The proposed layouts for Woodhaven have benefits for pedestrians also. It’ll be safer and prettier! #FixWoodhaven #VisionZero,” tweeted @SamSamuelitoo.

“I support better, faster buses! Visiting fams in the Rockaways takes too long. #fixwoodhaven @RidersNY @brtfornyc,” added Twitter user @Jslyyynnn, who attached to her tweet a photo of herself holding a sign reading, “I live in Jackson Heights and I’m tired of overcrowded buses.”

“Let’s make public transportation, more efficient and desirable to ride! @transalt #FixWoodhaven @brtfornyc,” tweeted Juan Restrepo, @juan_john_hans.

For years, drivers, pedestrians and non-drivers have experienced commuting pains while traveling along Woodhaven Boulevard, especially during rush-hour periods. Buses operating on the roadway — including two limited lines, the Q52 and Q53 — are often packed with riders and are slow because of traffic congestion. The street also has a history of vehicular accidents involving pedestrians, many of which resulted in fatalities.

The city Department of Transportation in recent years started a “Congested Corridor” study for Woodhaven Boulevard and recommended physical changes to the road’s configuration to make it safer and easier to travel. Working with the MTA, the DOT also recommends implementing Select Bus Service, a form of BRT, along both Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards, with stations created at major intersections such as Metropolitan Avenue and Jamaica Avenue.

As the Select Bus Service plans are still being finalized, the DOT is presently creating bus-only lanes along Woodhaven Boulevard between Eliot and Metropolitan avenues as a means of speeding up bus operation. Only buses would be permitted to travel in these lanes during the morning and afternoon rush hours on weekdays.


Transit advocates challenge Cuomo to ride the 7 line

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo via Gov.Cuomo's Flickr/File photo

Fed up with rising fares and poor subway service, members of the Riders Alliance and the Straphangers Campaign wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo inviting him to take a ride on the 7 line during the morning rush hour.

The purpose of this ride-along, the transit advocacy groups said, would be to give the governor a firsthand look at the city’s public transit system and get him to agree to fully fund the MTA’s five-year capital program, which currently faces a $15 billion shortfall.

“It defies comprehension that Gov. Cuomo hasn’t taken up the issue of funding for our subways and buses,” said Nick Sifuentes, deputy director of the Riders Alliance. “The only reason we can think of is that he doesn’t have to deal with the dreadful rush hour commutes that average New Yorkers face every day.”

According to a report by City Comptroller Scott Stringer comparing commute times in 29 major American cities, New Yorkers have the worst commute in the country. Additionally, report by the New York Post provides MTA data that shows delays have increased in recent years.

“New Yorkers are paying more for less and they hate that,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the Straphangers Campaign.

If the MTA’s five-year capital program, which pays for new subway cars, buses, commuter rail trains, modern signals, track and station upgrades, as well as supporting expansions like the Second Avenue Subway, does not get fully funded, commuters will feel the consequences with more fare hikes.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office has reported that for every $1 billion that the MTA must borrow for its capital plan with no new revenue sources, it could be forced to raise fares an additional 1 percent.

“New Yorkers are fed up with fare hikes, bad service, and overcrowded trains — we’ve been hearing from frustrated riders for months,” Sifuentes said. “It’s about time the governor does too.”

The letter specifically asks Cuomo to join riders “on the 7 train, which is over capacity daily and which was recently stuck in a tunnel after yet another equipment failure during the morning rush.” It also asks him to ride other problem-plagued lines such as the C train in Brooklyn.

Public transit supporters will hold a rally on Tuesday, May 5, at noon on the steps of City Hall to call for greater investment by the city in its subway and bus system.


L train riders fed up with delays, look to Cuomo for help

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Service problems along one subway line serving Ridgewood has some riders asking, “What the L?”

In recent weeks, the L train has suffered from hour-long delays, overcrowded platforms and other service problems. Riders Alliance member Alexis Saba shared her experience with transit delays. “On [March 17], I waited forever on the L train before we actually left,” she said. “When we finally left, the train crawled to Bedford, and were told that a rail was out and that Bedford was the last stop—and I couldn’t physically get out of the Bedford station due to the crowds.”

The Riders Alliance, a grassroots organization of public transportation riders that pushes for better service and affordable rates, has invited disgruntled subway riders to visit its website and share their “subway horror stories.” As previously reported, the organization plans to present the horror stories to Governor Andrew Cuomo in hopes of enticing him and members of the state Legislature to fully fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) five-year capital plan.

Delays like this are nothing new for the MTA. According to the Riders Alliance, in February, the MTA NYC Transit and Bus Committee Meeting Report showed that subway delays had increased 45.6 percent from 2013 to 2014. With the most recent MTA rate hike, riders are now paying $2.75 for a single fare and $116.50 for a monthly Metrocard, and they are getting worse service, the Riders Alliance charged.

“What we’re hearing from riders is that they feel like we’re paying more and more for less and less,” Deputy Director for the Riders Alliance Nick Sifuentes said.

The MTA’s capital plan of $32 billion will build, repair, maintain and enhance current MTA infrastructure. But the plan faces a $15 billion shortfall, and if this gap is not filled, it will result in increased transit fares, further reductions in service and more repair issues in coming years, the Riders Alliance believes.

“I know the L train horror stories all too well,” state Senator Martin Malave Dilan said. “Frustrated riders write or call my office frequently, some send photos of overcrowded platforms with lines running up the stairs and riders dangerously close to spilling over onto the tracks.”

“The current budget proposal leaves the MTA unable to address these and many issues,” he added. “The MTA capital plan is $15 billion in the red. This year’s proposed $1.6 billion capital allocation will have little effect and the Senate majority’s proposal to reduce it only makes matters worse. It’s irresponsible to ignore these shortfalls. For the daily commuters on the L, it’s inconceivable.”

John Maier, co-chair of the Public Transportation Committee of Community Board 5, feels that “We are at a funding crisis.” With little funding from the government, all expenses have to be paid by the commuter. “Something needs to change,” he continued. “The system needs a lot of help.”

The city’s budget plan is due on April 1, so commuters, elected officials and the MTA must wait to see if any additional funding will be funnelled in to seal the $15 billion gap in the MTA’s budget plan.


Queens N, Q and 7 train riders share ‘subway horror stories’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Riders Alliance

Subway riders were given a platform Tuesday morning — the N, Q and 7 train platform to be exact — to share their angst of trying to catch a train in New York City.

As part of a weeklong citywide initiative to collect subway riders’ “horror stories,” the organization Riders Alliance, dedicated to winning better transit, gathered at the Queensboro Plaza subway station Tuesday morning to get riders of the N, Q and 7 trains to share their tales.

The decision to collect these stories arises after a drastic increase in complaints from Riders Alliance members. The complaints include signal malfunctions, unexplained train delays and general “deteriorating service” in the past weeks, according to Riders Alliance.

“Our transit system is better in every way than it was in the 1980s, but if we don’t invest the funds to maintain it, we’ll see the bad old days come back,” said John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance.

On Tuesday, riders were asked by Riders Alliance members to share their experiences and write them on a piece of paper provided of the organization that read, “My subway horror story is…”

“I rely on the 7 train to get me from Queens to work in the Upper West Side. But lately, weekend and late night service on the 7 train has been a joke,” said Carol Crump, a Rider Alliance member, who added that at times, she has to resort to taking a bus or car service. “We need a well-funded capital plan that will provide the money for countdown clocks, service announcements and faster trains.”

The stories, which can also be submitted online at www.ridersny.org/horror-stories, will be compiled and later presented to Governor Andrew Cuomo and different members of the state legislature.

In the upcoming months, a decision will have to be made whether or not to fund the MTA’s proposed over-$30 billion 2015-2019 capital plan.

“Signal problems have stranded me at night several times in the past year on the N/Q,” said Emily Hultman, another Riders Alliance member. “It isn’t safe to be kicked off a train to fend for yourself in a deserted part of town at night, especially when the only options to complete the trip are buses that run twice an hour or less. I pay my MTA fee to get all the way home, safely.”


MTA approves fare hikes  

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



Another year, another fare hike.

The MTA’s board voted to approve fare increases on Thursday, raising the cost of a MetroCard ride from $2.50 to $2.75 beginning on March 22, according to the transit agency.

Single ride tickets will also increase, from $2.75 to $3.00. Monthly MetroCards will go from $112 to $116.50, express bus fare will increase from $6.00 to $6.50, seven-day express bus MetroCards will go from $55 to $57.25, and Access-A-Ride fares will increase from $2.50 to $2.75. But the bonus on Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard will go from 5 to 11 percent and increase the purchase threshold from $5 to $5.50.

Most Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad rider will see fares increase 4.25 percent or less, according to the MTA.

Tolls were also reportedly discussed and board members agreed to keep toll increases lower for E-ZPass users, as opposed to those who use cash. They are expected to increase by about 4 percent for E-ZPass users, and 6 percent for cash paying customers.

When the subway opened in 1904, it took an additional 44 years for the fare to be doubled from 5 cents to a grand total of 10 cents, reports said. Since 1995, when the fare was at $1.50, the MTA has almost doubled the cost of a subway or bus ride within a mere 20 years.

Last March, fare hikes raised the cost of a MetroCard ride by 25 cents. The transit agency also introduced a “New Card Fee,” where riders pay $1 each time they buy a new MetroCard.

“The MTA has been able to limit these fare and toll increases to the equivalent of 2 percent a year thanks to our continued aggressive cost-cutting, while still adding service and improving service quality for our growing number of customers,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast. “Our financial plan assumes modest biennial fare and toll increases, and the board has chosen options with lower increases for our most frequent customers.”

The agency also said it has cut over $1 billion from its annual spending and has plans to make cuts every year to bring its annual savings to $1.6 billion by 2018.

But John Raskin, executive director of transit advocacy group Riders Alliance, said in a statement that “the real scandal may be yet to come,” if Albany doesn’t step in to help stop the continuing fare increases. 

“If Governor Cuomo and members of the legislature don’t decide on new revenue sources to fund the MTA’s five-year capital plan, larger fare increases are lurking around the corner,” he said. “Paying for public transit with fare hikes is a regressive way to fund a public service that the entire region relies on. We urge Governor Cuomo and the legislature to act quickly to fund the next MTA Capital Plan, instead of passing on the cost to overburdened riders.”



Curbside bus lanes heading to Ozone Park

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

The busy traffic corridor of Woodhaven Boulevard in Ozone Park will soon be home to new curbside bus lanes on both sides to help alleviate congestion and make for an overall smoother ride for passengers.

Red painted bus lanes going southbound between 101st Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard and northbound between Plattwood Avenue and Liberty Avenue are set to be installed this fall, according to a DOT representative.

The lanes will serve the Q11, Q21, Q52, Q53 and the QM15 bus lines.

The exclusive lanes also help the buses reach subway connections more quickly without removing any travel lanes, according to the DOT.

The lanes will be “bus-only” for specific periods. Between Liberty Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard going southbound, the lane will be in effect from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

All other sections, going in both directions, will be bus-only during rush hours, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“This part of the boulevard is definitely a problem area,” said Jessica Nizar, a representative from Rider’s Alliance and an advocate for the Bus Rapid Transit for NYC coalition effort. “These lanes will help to alleviate some of the major problems that cause traffic here.”



Proposed Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard met with skepticism

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Woodhaven residents are bracing for a plan to bring Select Bus Service to one of New York City’s largest vehicle corridors, Woodhaven Boulevard.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering the boulevard, which is bordered by Queens Boulevard in the north and Rockaway Boulevard to the south, as a candidate for the next area in New York City to have Select Bus Service (SBS).

Members of the neighborhood met on Monday with the nonprofit organization Riders Alliance to prepare for a workshop on June 25 with the DOT, where the community will be invited to help create an express bus service that will shorten the travel time for bus commuters on the 3.2 mile boulevard.

Kenichi Wilson, who has lived in Woodhaven for 33 years and is the chairman of the Community Board 9 transportation committee, believes that not much will come out of meeting with the DOT.

“They’re doing it and that’s that,” he said.

But the Riders Alliance believes that with enough community participation, the city agency will tailor the express bus service to the area’s specific needs.

Wilson stressed that the area is filled with many businesses that would be negatively affected if the DOT creates lanes dedicated to the buses because it would prevent delivery trucks from double parking in front of businesses on the boulevard.

“I have nothing against it except for having dedicated lanes doesn’t alleviate congestion for everyone. That’s not playing fair,” said Wilson, who is a local business owner. “I have a lot of friends who are restaurant owners who are concerned over deliveries.”

According to a report by the DOT, dedicated bus lanes aren’t the only solution. “Ideas for consideration could include physically-separated bus lanes, center-running (as opposed to curb-running) bus lanes, and use of rail and highway rights-of-way,” the report states.

And Wilson believes that unlike other areas — like Harlem — where SBS has been implemented, bus lanes on Woodhaven Boulevard would not only be unnecessary but would actually increase traffic and congestion, something the express bus service is meant to alleviate.

“It’s not alleviating congestion. It’s actually going to create more congestion,” he said and noted that most of Woodhaven Boulevard doesn’t suffer from bumper-to-bumper traffic. “They’re implementing bus lanes in non-congested areas. That doesn’t make sense.”



MTA increases G train service

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

G train riders can expect an easier commute starting Monday after local lawmakers and transit advocates pushed for better service.

The MTA is boosting weekday service on the subway line, which connects Queens to Brooklyn, between 3 and 9 p.m. Trains will now operate every 8 minutes instead of every 10 minutes.

“This added service will address increased ridership and demand along a growing corridor between Brooklyn and Queens,” the transit agency said.

The MTA is also adding public announcement systems to 12 G train stations that currently do not have them, according to an agency spokesman.

The G train changes are the result of the MTA’s full-line review of the subway line that was requested by state Senators Daniel Squadron and Martin Malavé Dilan.

“Today the G rarely means the beginning of a great ride,” Squadron said. “These improvements will help commutes on this important line—and hopefully make lives a little easier for the riders who depend on it.”

Other G train changes expected as a result of the review include stopping the four-car train at the same place on the platform at all times, marking where on the platform the train will stop with clear signage and running morning trains at more evenly spaced intervals, according to the Riders Alliance, a grassroots organization of subway and bus riders, which made recommendations that were incorporated into the review.

John Blesso, a Riders Alliance member who lives off of the Broadway G train stop, said the implementations are “a solid first step by the MTA and hopefully many more will follow.”

“The G train is increasingly becoming a major artery for Brooklyn and Queens residents, and we need to make sure that service keeps up with ridership on the line.”



LIC welcomes better bus service

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

The Astoria and Long Island City waterfront is getting better bus service.

Improvements to the Q103 bus line, which runs along Vernon Boulevard between Hunters Point and Astoria, began on Monday, September 9. Instead of 25 runs a day, the Q103 will now have 30. It will run every 15 minutes during the morning rush-hour. The line will also start earlier, at 5:40 a.m., instead of 6:10 a.m., and end later, at 7:50 p.m., instead of 7:18 p.m.

The bus service changes are in response to months of State Senator Michael Gianaris and community group Riders Alliance pushing the MTA for better waterfront bus service, along with other MTA improvements.

“As western Queens continues to include our city’s fastest growing neighborhoods, we need to make sure public transportation keeps up,” said Gianaris. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Riders Alliance and members of our community to improve mass transit in western Queens.”

The MTA will also fix the schedule of the Q102 bus in order for the posted times to be closer to when the bus actually arrives at the stops.

“Knowing that my bus will come more often and according to schedule is a welcome change,” said Bobby Preti, Riders Alliance member. “It’s clear that our petitioning worked, the MTA heard us, and we thank them.”




Pols call for review of ‘G’ train performance

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of State Senator Michael Gianaris

An important transit option for Queens and Brooklyn, local politicians are calling for the MTA to review the “G” line and its numerous service issues.

The train, which travels from Long Island City to Kensington, Brooklyn, and is the only subway line that doesn’t go through Manhattan, was extended recently to Church Avenue.

But that change didn’t remedy other issues, such as frequency of trains, communication with riders about service changes and disruptions, and the lack of free out-of system transfers.

These complaints were highlighted in a recent petition campaign by the Riders Alliance, and in a letter to the MTA’s interim president, Thomas Prendergast.

Sent by State Senators Daniel Squadron and Martin Malavé Dilan, the letter asked for a full performance review of the “G” line, as the MTA did with the “F” and “L” trains.

The request is also supported by over a dozen other politicians and transit advocates.

“Constant service disruptions, a lack of service change notifications and increased commuter expenses due to limited free transfers make clear that the MTA treats the G train like the ugly duckling of the MTA system,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris, who attended the Rally For a Better G Train held in Williamsburg yesterday. “It should provide commuters with direct, convenient access between Queens and Brooklyn, rather than forcing travel through Manhattan to get from one borough to the other.”

“The G Train is critical to residents and businesses throughout Brooklyn and a key connection for the growing number of workers commuting between Brooklyn and Queens. Everything possible should be done to ensure this important subway line keeps pace with the thriving communities it serves,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.