If you read pro-transit blogs and tweets, you would know that the buses contain thousands of bus riders: about 33,000 trips per day. Apparently there has been some representation of these riders by the Straphangers Campaign, but the meetings seem to be completely dominated by people who identify as either drivers or taxi riders.
Other than the Department of Transportation staff themselves, no one has acknowledged that the majority of these riders don't even live in Manhattan. There are more than twenty express bus routes from central and eastern Queens, and a little bit of southern Brooklyn, that bring thousands of riders into Midtown every day. They travel down the Long Island Expressway through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, west on 34th Street, north on Third or Sixth Avenue, east on 57th Street, back across the Queensboro Bridge, and down Queens Boulevard. Here are figures from the 2009 ridership data released by the MTA:
|Route||Ridership||Major corridor||Neighborhood||Council district(s)|
|QM1/QM1A (now QM1, QM5, QM6, QM7, QM8)||5362||Union Turnpike||Fresh Meadows||23, 24|
|QM24||1682||Fresh Pond Road||Ridgewood||30|
|QM2A||1187||Willets Point Boulevard||Bayside||19|
|X63||750||Francis Lewis Boulevard||Rosedale||31|
|X68||650||Hillside Avenue||Bellerose||27, 23|
|QM21||606||Guy R Brewer Boulevard||Locust Manor||28|
|QM12||578||Yellowstone Boulevard||Forest Hills||29|
|QM10||517||63rd Road||Forest Hills||29|
|QM11||503||63rd Road||Forest Hills||29|
|BM5||500||Linden Boulevard||Spring Creek||42|
|X64||450||Linden Boulevard||Cambria Heights||23|
|QM17||363||Beach Channel Drive||Far Rockaway||31|
|QM16||337||Rockaway Beach Boulevard||Rockaway Park||32|
|QM18||273||Lefferts Boulevard||Ozone Park||32|
There have been at least five meetings about this project in Midtown Manhattan, but to my knowledge there have been no meetings in Queens. There is a Community Advisory Committee for the project, but are there any representatives from Fresh Meadows or Bayside? I certainly haven't heard from them in the news, the blogs or the Twitter feeds.
It's true that this is a pretty good case of a situation with concentrated costs and diffuse benefits, and these often get hijacked by the people who perceive themselves as having something to lose. While it may be no big surprise that Steve "real New Yorkers don't like pedestrian plazas" Cuozzo and Debra "Alt Side" Alfarone don't bother to get the bus passengers' perspective, it would be nice if Jill Colvin and Noah Kazis could at least find one person from Queens willing to talk about it.
The DOT is in a weird situation: they're supposed to be serving the public, and in this case I think they are. But if everything they hear from "the public" is anti-transitway, they're going to be hard pressed to continue the project. It seems reasonable to me that they would reach out to Queens bus passengers, but as far as I know they haven't.
As far as I know, we have also heard nothing from the City Council members who represent these riders. Here they are, roughly:
|District||Last Name||Weekday trips|
The numbers fall into four nice groups: Manhattan with almost 6,000 trips per district; Northeast Queens with 3-4,000 trips; Central Queens and the Rockaways with 1,000-2,000 trips, and Southeast Queens and James Barron's district in Brooklyn with less than a thousand trips each.
It would be nice to see more participation from people representing express bus riders, particularly from Gennaro, Weprin and Halloran. A few letters probably wouldn't hurt. And I'll give a tip to anyone interested in organizing the bus riders: after sitting in clogged traffic on 34th Street, they're usually pretty annoyed with the deal. Transportation Alternatives and the Straphangers Campaign could probably get a whole bunch of supporters signed on just by handing out leaflets at the bus stops in Manhattan.