I used some relatively simple tools: the MTA's published schedules, the MTA's General Transit Feed Specification data, and Google's My Maps feature.
To calculate frequency, I simply opened the PDF for each schedule, found a point where there were no branches, and counted the number of runs that passed by that point on a weekday between 12:00 and 12:59, inclusive. I did not look at how late the buses ran.
View Queens Frequent Bus Network in a larger map
Google's My Maps has an interesting limitation: if you try to display more than 250 points, it will split them into two pages. This means that I could only fit nine routes on the map. Because the network in Queens is so frequent, this meant routes with at least eight trips per hour, or headways of eight minutes or less. I also added the M60, which runs in Queens for a significant distance.
|Route||Weekday noon hour trips||Average weekday noon hour headway|
I converted the GTFS data to KML using KML Writer from the Transit Feed tools; for the NYC Transit buses I first had to take the "stop_times.txt" file out of the zipfile, or else KML Writer would crash. Then I copied the KML data for these routes into a new file. Often there were multiple trip geometries available; I usually chose the first one. I then uploaded them to Google Maps.
Already you can see that there's pretty good coverage in Central Queens. Pretty much everyone in that area is within a ten minute walk of a bus that comes at least once every eight minutes, so in under twenty minutes they can be moving.
One particular point of interest is Kissena Boulevard in East Flushing. Because of the geography of Flushing, bus planners (with the now-defunct North Shore Bus Company) decided to run three high-frequency services along this route, meaning that it sees 27 buses on weekdays between 12 and 1PM.
Still, that leaves wide areas without frequent bus service, including Western Queens, Southeastern Queens, Northeastern Queens, the Rockaways and scattered neighborhoods in the center of the borough. But if we add the subways and the buses with nine-minute headways, which we can display thanks to a handy trick, we get pretty good coverage. Then it is only a scattered handful of neighborhoods that are not served: northern Jackson Heights, Whitestone, Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck the southeastern neighborhoods of Saint Albans and Cambria Heights, Far Rockaway and Breezy Point. All those neighborhoods see buses at least every twenty minutes, if not fifteen.
There is another high-frequency corridor formed by the Q5 and Q85 on Merrick Boulevard. If you add in the Q4 and Q84, in the noon hour there are 24 runs along Merrick from Archer Avenue to Linden Boulevard. In this area there are also lots of dollar vans, so it's pretty well-served.
I think someone should definitely make - and maintain a map like this for Queens, or possibly some smartphone app functionality. It's definitely useful to see where the most frequent routes go, and it might get some people to try the bus. It's a lot easier for beginners than the full map (PDF). I think that even as I've laid it out, it could still be a bit denser, so I would probably add the 10-minute routes, which would round out the coverage.