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After delays MTA acquires private Jamaica Bus Lines

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), chairman of the Council's Transportation Committee, hailed the takeover of Jamaica lines Monday. "We're happy the takeover has been finalized and Mayor Bloomberg is to be congratulated," Liu said. "However, this has been an overly drawn-out process where Queens bus riders were often used as pawns." Bloomberg said the MTA would take control of Triboro Coach sometime in February. "I am very pleased that we have finished this agreement and only have one more to go to complete the transfer of the private bus lines to the MTA," Bloomberg said. "We believe this transfer will improve service for the riding public as well as provide better value for the taxpayers. I look forward to working with the Transit Alliance companies and the MTA over the coming months on the transition to the MTA of the remaining bus lines." In mentioning the Transit Alliance, Bloomberg was referring to the company owned by Jerome Cooper, a Jamaica attorney. The company for many years operated Jamaica, Command, Green, Triboro bus lines. Those lines, along with Queens Surface, Liberty and New York bus lines, had for many years been operated with subsidies from the city Department of Transportation. The seven private lines served 400,000 passengers daily, 350,000 of them in Queens. Command, Liberty, Jamaica and Triboro operated 693 buses on 34 local and 17 express routes.The MTA established a separate transit agency known as the MTA Bus Co., to operate the former private lines and some union officials and critics of the MTA have expressed concern the agency might try to abolish some express bus routes.Passengers waiting for the newly taken over bus lines in Jamaica Monday were largely ambivalent about the change, meeting questions about the city takeover with shrugs and blank stares.Carol, a woman who takes the 110 or 111 to work everyday, said the bus is generally reliable. She said she had "no idea" whether the city takeover of the lines would improve service but is holding out hope.MTA employees were also in Jamaica Monday to monitor the flow of their new bus lines. "Service will improve," said Robert Porcelli, an MTA supervisor, stationed near the corner of 88th Avenue and Parsons Boulevard during peak commuter hours. Porcelli said the MTA would try to run the new lines once every 10 minutes to provide more "continuity" and avoid having buses serving primarily the same routes arrive and depart at the same time.Porcelli said that no major service changes were expected on the bus lines, but schedules might be altered slightly in the coming weeks and months.Negotiations to bring the private lines under the MTA went on for years at a time when breakdowns resulting from dilapidated buses, forcing tens of thousands of straphangers, particularly those in eastern Queens and parts of Brooklyn to wait longer and longer. At times struggles erupted at bus stops with passengers trying to board already jammed buses. Liu said he planned to call public hearings "to assess the costs as well as the benefits to this long-delayed consolidation of bus services." "New Yorkers deserve to know the net impact of the city handing over these bus lines to the MTA," Liu said. Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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