Tag Archives: Transportation

For MTA info dial 5-1-1


| brennison@queenscourier.com

For any MTA-related issue or question, Queens residents now have to remember only three numbers, 5-1-1.

The MTA and New York State Department of Transportation announced this week that the New York State Travel Information Line will handle MTA-related inquiries, also.

The number will still provide information regarding roads and bridges, traffic and congestion, ferries and public transportation run by other agencies.

Dialing 5-1-1 provided limited MTA information before, but now will also allow callers to select additional functions such as Lost & Found, MetroCard Balance Protection, comments and concerns, ticket machines, ticket refunds, and group travel.

“This is a great example of how we are working to make it easier for our customers to get information and interact with the MTA at the same time that we reduce the MTA’s administrative costs,” said MTA Managing Director Diana Jones Ritter. “Customers now have a single phone number for all transportation-related questions, instead of a long and sometimes confusing list of agencies and departments.”

The MTA reduced what was 117 separate public phone numbers into just one.

Empty buses at J.H.S. 194


| bdoda@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photos by Bob Doda Assemblymember Simanowitz, Councilmember Dan Halloran and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein spoke to parents and students outside J.H.S. 194.

At the end of the school day outside William H. Carr Junior High School (J.H.S. 194), some school buses pulled away from the curb with less than 10 students on board.

“The reason why they’re empty is because the Mayor is doing something that he claims will save money, but at the end of the day, we know it’s not,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran, who called a press conference outside J.H.S. 194 recently in an effort to put pressure on the Department of Education (DOE) and the Mayor’s office regarding the slashing of school bus service to students in College Point; many of them commuting more than two hours travelling on city buses.

Surrounded by seventh and eighth grade students, frustrated parents and Assemblymembers Ed Braunstein and newly elected Mike Simanowitz, the councilmember explained that the fiasco regarding yellow bus service began three years ago when Mayor Bloomberg decided to cut out seventh and eighth grade bussing as a cost saving measure; a decision that Staten Island legislators instantly took to state court due to their lack of public transportation services. State Supreme Court Justice John Fusco ruled that the decision to eliminate school buses in Staten Island – as well as College Point in Queens which does not have a Junior High School or High School – was made “without concern for the welfare and safety of the affected students,” according to a December 2010 report.

City officials took that ruling to Federal Court where Fusco’s decision was overturned on the basis that each student throughout the five boroughs must be treated equally. Due to a miscommunication in the Department of Education, parents and students at J.H.S. 194 were not informed that bus service was cut until 24 hours before the first day of school. The message was delivered by phone in an automated message according to parents.

While there is no longer any legal recourse, Assemblymember Braunstein mentioned a bill that recently passed the State Senate and is now in the Assembly Education Committee would restore bus service for middle school students citywide based on proximity to schools.

The bill is named Aniya’s Law after a 13-year-old Staten Island girl who was killed last June while crossing an intersection to catch a city bus after school.

“It’s a common sense bill that hopefully we’ll be able to get passed,” said Assemblymember Simanowitz. “But even if it doesn’t get passed, the city should get this done on its own. They shouldn’t be forced to do it by statute or by law.

Again, the elected officials pressed the issue of filling out safety variance forms that can be found on their respective websites or through the DOE website in an effort to return bussing to those that meet specific circumstances regarding hazards or unsafe conditions on their public transportation route. Primary concerns for College Point parents have been the crossing of Francis Lewis Boulevard and other busy intersections to catch city buses, registered sexual predators along bus routes and dark wintery conditions that can be expected in the coming months.

“The question is no longer ‘It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?’ We know where they are because they are 10, 11 and 12-years-old. The question is “It’s 8:05 a.m., do you know if your kid got to school safe?” said Ann Marie Murphy, a concerned College Point parent of an J.H.S. 194 student.

Dangerous drop-off in Howard Beach


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Some parents in Howard Beach are worried about getting their children to and from school in one piece.

Parents of children who attend P.S. 232 said the intersection between 153rd Avenue and 83rd Street — between the school and the Waldbaum’s across the street — is so “extremely dangerous” that they worry for their children’s safety as well as their own.

“The cars don’t stop. They just keep going. They don’t care if the kids are crossing,” said parent Cynthia Loureiro. “I don’t even cross on this corner. I go out of my way to the other corner. That’s how dangerous it is.”

There is no stop sign or traffic light at the intersection, but the NYPD posts a crossing guard there during the morning drop-off and afternoon dismissal.

“You have to fear for her life,” Loureiro said of the crossing guard. “That’s how bad the cars are.”

Parents also expressed frustration at the double — and sometimes even triple — parked cars on 83rd Street in front of the school. But even more frustrating and terrifying, according to parent Laura Vontoussaint, is what some parents do to avoid parking at all.

“The parents drop the kids off in the middle of the street. It just happened this morning [on Tuesday, September 20]. A lady opened up her doors at the yellow line and tried to let her child out in the middle of the intersection,” Vontoussaint said.

Despite rumors, the NYPD said they will not shut down 83rd Street during afternoon dismissals at 2:15 p.m.

“It has never been an accident-prone location,” said Kenneth Zorn, Community Affairs Officer for the 106th Precinct. “The numbers of accidents don’t match up to the complaints.”

Principal Lisa Josephson was unavailable for comment.

“You need a stop light. That’s the best thing for the safety of everyone– the kids, the parents and the crossing guard,” Vontoussaint said.

MTA ‘On the Go’ Info


| rcasiano@queenscourier.com

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The MTA is testing touch-screen displays that would be installed at subway stations in the city, including one in Queens, in an effort to provide commuters with easier access to vital information without the need of a computer.

So far, one On the Go! Travel Station is up in Manhattan and four more will be rolled out at four other subway and commuter rail hubs in the city. The Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue station is expected to get a new touch screen in a couple of weeks, according to a spokesperson from the MTA.

“With On the Go, we are adding yet another layer of state-of-the-art customer communications into our subway system,” said MTA NYC Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast, at the launch of the MTA’s new touch-screens at Manhattan’s Bowling Green station on September 19. “On the Go will provide riders with instant information that makes using the transit system more efficient.”

The 47-inch colorful displays will show commuters information about trips and will include real-time train service status, escalator and elevator status and local neighborhood maps as well as access to the online trip planner service. In addition, news and weather information will be featured on the screen as well.

These travel stations are supported by ads and third-party applications “mycity” and “Zagats” that add local history, shopping and dining options and more to the On the Go displays.

Besides Queens, more displays will be added to Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, and Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street in Brooklyn. The displays may expand to additional subways stations throughout the city if the On the Go stations are successful and well received by customers, a spokesperson for the MTA said.

The new displays were designed by Antenna Design New York Inc. for the MTA and they use the Cisco Interactive Services Solutions software.

Bus Stopped


| bdoda@queenscourier.com

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DOE tell parents one day before class school buses are cut

“There’s no switch you can flip that says you’re mature now,” said one angry mom to Department of Education (DOE) officials, who informed parents one day before the start of the new school year at William H. Carr Junior High School (J.H.S. 194) that buses for seventh and eighth graders have been slashed.
Now, her 12-year-old son who attends the Whitestone school will have to rely on city transportation, much to the angst of parents in College Point who say they have lost some peace of mind.

In years past, school bus operations for seventh and eighth graders throughout the city were limited to those who lived one-and-a-half or more miles away from a specific school. Many students who used to get bused in from College Point – where they lack both a junior high school and a high school – are now taking multiple city buses each day to attend class at J.H.S. 194. Due to a miscommunication at the Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) over the summer, the notice that the school-wide bus variances were elimated throughout the city did not come until 24 hours before the first day of school, on September 8, forcing many parents to coordinate rides or teach their children the city bus system – very quickly.

“Let’s remember that we are talking about 11, 12 and 13 year olds,” said Assemblymember-elect Michael Simanowitz to concerned parents at J.H.S. 194. “We are living in a time when we are trying to encourage kids to go to school and to do their homework and be involved with school activities. When you have to take three busses to go to school and to get home, that’s not encouraging.”

Also in attendence were Assemblymember Ed Braunstein along with Councilmember Dan Halloran, who called the zero-hour announcement by the OPT and DOE “unacceptable.”

Each of the elected officials at the meeting instructed parents to fill out variance requests provided by Eric Goldstein, OPT chief operating officer, and Robert Carney, OPT chief of staff. Through the variance, parents or guardians must fill out a form including hazardous conditions along the route to school or to a public bus stop or subway station; emergency circumstances such as victimization, joint custody or temporary homelessness; or disagreement with the DOE’s measurement of distance from home to school.

But what parents seemed more worried about were the potential for sexual predators on city buses, the crossing of six-lane streets to bus stops and other safety concerns.

“She’s a nervous wreck,” said a parent of a seventh grader. “She has anxiety taking the bus. Does that qualify her as a special needs child? I’m not a happy camper. I think this is so wrong what they did here.”

“For years, on the issue of student transportation, the DOE has gone above and beyond what the state requires, offering busing to students who would not ordinarily be eligible,” said a DOE spokesperson. “In September 2010, the DOE discontinued these variances for about 5,000 students in 71 schools across the city . . . public and private school students no longer receive pupil transportation, but are eligible for student MetroCards. We eliminated all those granted to schools because of the tight budget. However, individuals, based on where they live, may still qualify for a variance by applying for one. We eliminated the variance that says ‘you qualify if you attend the school.’ We will work closely with the schools and the MTA to ensure that all affected students apply and receive student MetroCards for which they are eligible.”