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Takeover of private buses unlikely by deadline: Beep

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Borough President Helen Marshall expressed doubt last Thursday that the city would be able to reach a deal with Queens’ private bus lines to arrange for a takeover of the vital routes that ferry residents throughout the borough, making it unlikely any transfer could occur by a June 30 deadline.

Marshall, speaking during a public hearing on the city’s preliminary budget at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, was responding to comments by Community Board 12 District Manager Yvonne Reddick, who decried the state of the private bus lines and said Queens residents want a solution that will create dependable and enhanced services.

“The takeover of the private bus lines is looking less feasible at this time,” Marshall said.

Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg was supposed to have made a deal with the borough’s seven private bus lines by December to arrange for the New York City Transit Authority takeover of the routes. When neither party could agree on the terms of an accord, Bloomberg extended leases for the private bus lines and thus the deadline for a deal to be struck by the end of June.

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who was also at the meeting and is chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, said he had canceled a public hearing scheduled for that day, when he was going to address borough residents’ concerns on all bus services. He said he was encouraged by the Bloomberg administration to postpone the meeting until Feb. 24 to allow the mayor more negotiation time with the private bus lines.

The mayor is banking on the Transit Authority’s takeover of the private bus lines and has already allocated $150 million in his preliminary budget based on the savings the city would get by ending funding to the companies. A failure by the city and private firms to come up with a deal would mean the city’s $2 billion budget gap for fiscal year 2005 would swell by the $150 million amount.

“We are a far cry from that being realistic,” Liu said of the mayor’s assumption that the bus deal would go through and subsequent allocation of the $150 million. “Regardless of the solution, we need a long-term plan to serve the riders currently using the private bus lines.”

Bloomberg’s signing into law of bill Intro. 596 Nov. 26 means the seven bus companies can continue to operate through June. The private bus lines service more than 350,000 borough residents and operate using a system of state and city subsidies that are intended to supplement the bus services provided by the Transit Authority.

Liu said service along the public bus routes for the Q83 route serving Queens Village, Q16 route in Willets Point and Q30 in Little Neck will be looked at during his hearing to discuss whether the lines are adequately serving the needs of their riders. He said he disagreed with changes in bus service that eliminate one line in favor of more frequency along other routes.

Said Liu: “That is just another broken promise made by the MTA.”

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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