NEW YORK—Congressman Steve Israel and New York state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic joined other officials in calling for improved bus service to the far east Queens community of Douglaston on Monday.
“There are two significant challenges that Douglaston commuters have when trying to go to their jobs and get back from their jobs on a bus. One is that there just isn’t enough bus lines servicing their neighborhood, and secondly there is just infrequent service to existing bus stops,” said Israel.
There are 2 LIRR stations and 10 bus routes that serve the Douglaston area but no subways.
This reporter took public transportation from Manhattan’s Penn Station to 65th Avenue and Douglas Parkway where the press conference was held. After taking the subway to Jamaica and missing the connecting bus because it was too full, 1 arrived about an hour and a half later. According to Google maps, it can take as little as an hour with LIRR to get to this location.
MTA Refuses to Fund
“The MTA cut the budget in this area of Queens, and even though we’ve increased the MTA funding, a lot of those bus routes have not been restored,” said New York state Sen. Tony Avella.
The MTA said in an emailed statement, “This request [for improved bus service to this area] is new to us so we would like to hear from Rep. Israel and Assemblywoman Rozic on where they think service is needed. They have never reached out to us.”
The MTA also said it had covered the old Q79 route by expanding the Q36, and covered the section of the Q14 that was not covered by the Q15 with a new Q15A. The only line that was not covered or restored, the MTA said, was the Q75 because it had the fourth lowest ridership in the city, an average of 970 weekday riders.
Federal Funding for Public Transportation
Israel said that instead of badgering the MTA, he is going to Congress to fund better transportation in the city. He is hoping to secure funds from the Federal Transportation Authority’s (FTA) Bus and Bus Facilities, which has a budget of $427.8 million for the 2014 fiscal year.
In addition, Israel said he is going to see where he can trim the fat from special interest subsidies and redirect it toward funding public transportation.
Currently New York City gets about 13 percent of the federal bus and bus transit program funding. Israel understands that Congress is not likely going to open its pocketbook for more expenditures, but if he can find savings in the other areas of the federal budget, he hopes it would have a trickle down effect for Douglaston.
Holly Kellum is a special correspondent in New York.