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Civic leaders want new Q79 service

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With many northeast Queens residents, particularly seniors, once again left without public transportation because the group van service that ran along the axed Q79 bus route ended last week, civic activists are calling on the city to quickly come up with solutions.

“It’s such an outrage,” said Bob Friedrich, president of the Glen Oaks Village. “We have thousands of people stranded in their homes with no affordable transportation alternatives.”

Community Transportation Systems and Alpha Van Lines announced two weeks ago that low ridership numbers prompted them to opt out of the city’s pilot program to run a group van service along the former Q79 route that went from Little Neck to Floral Park and the Q74 line that ran from the Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike subway station to Queens College. The pilot program had been expected to operate for another nine months, and city officials said they would look to restart the van service along the Q79 but not the Q74.

A total of 2,700 rides had been taken as part of the pilot program throughout the city that began in August, according to city statistics. City Taxi & Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said there were too few people using the Q74 route to merit restarting it.

Carl Perrera, a member of the Regional Rail Working Group, an organization that promotes better public transportation, and Friedrich said there were a slew of problems with the van service, including limited service and no signs indicating where people could catch the vans or numbers to call if the vehicles did not arrive.

“I live near the area, and whenever I passed Jamaica Avenue and Little Neck Parkway, only one time did I see a van there,” Perrera said. “The vans weren’t operating that frequently.”

Friedrich said signage for the service should have been better implemented.

“The signage was very poorly done and by extending the route a quarter mile to the Long Island Rail Road at Floral Park you could’ve doubled the amount of people that would’ve used it,” Friedrich said. “It would’ve made it work, but the TLC completely ignored these suggestions.”

There are a number of options for better public transportation in northeast Queens, Friedrich and Perrera said.

“I would like to see the group ride program started up again, see the route start at the Long Island Rail Road at Little Neck and go to the Long Island Rail Road at Floral Park, and see signage to indicate that the cars drive down the corridor periodically and to call these numbers for immediate service,” Friedrich said. “The local civics who are along the Little Neck corridor must be part of that solution. The TLC must work with them.”

Perrera said the MTA can look at a number of bus routes they could potentially extend or change to better serve individuals in Queens. He noted the Q36 route could be extended to the Glen Oaks shopping center, so people along Little Neck Parkway could have better transportation options. Perrera suggested the Q30 bus could go to the Little Neck Long Island Rail Road stop and run the Q12 into the Glen Oaks area as well.

Passed by the TLC July 15, the city’s pilot program was meant to provide group rides to people along five bus routes that were cut in June by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to help fill a budget gap of about $800 million.

The service allowed groups of up to 20 people to ride in livery vans to locations along the Q74 and Q79. Each trip costs riders $2.

State Sen.-elect Tony Avella said he planned to try to get the MTA to bring back the Q74 and Q79 buses and said he may try to use state discretionary funds, if there are any this year, to provide bus service along the routes if the city fails to relaunch the pilot program.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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