Borough President Helen Marshall opened a transit forum by proclaiming that buses are Queens' transportation lifeline — with most straphangers agreeing and some questioning the lifeline's reliability.
Marshall then told transit officials at the June 18 Transit Riders Bus Forum at Queens Borough Hall what she wanted done: "We must retire non-clean-air buses and add local bus routes and buses, particularly in eastern Queens."
"Under the leadership of Joseph Smith, I expect to see expansion of bus routes as well as more frequency along existing lines," Marshall said.
Smith was recently appointed to head a consolidation of New York City Transit buses, MTA buses and Long Island Bus. He, along with an array of MTA bus division directors and specialists, took questions, and in some cases provided answers.
Andrew Albert, chairman of the Transit Riders Council, which sponsored the bus forum and a non-voting member of the MTA board, was in charge of the forum.
Julia Nordlund of Jamaica expressed reservations about the effectiveness of the new bus consolidation.
"I wish I could say it would help," Nordlund said. "But as these entities get larger, they sometimes get further from the people who use them."
"I have a statement and a question," said Tess Monteleone of Glendale.
"The Q60 is the worst bus in the fleet for the disabled and why cannot people with a disabled status MetroCard get it refilled at so few locations?"
Bus riders, many expressing what appeared to be long, pent up frustration, in some cases railed at the MTA men in their representations.
Shouts and applause frequently erupted in support of speakers.
Complaints ranged from indifferent or uncommunicative drivers, bus bunching and delays to a lack of Sunday service, crowding and poor announcements.
Several speakers denounced what they saw as anarchic conditions aboard buses and asked why drivers permitted what they called "open containers" — alcoholic drinks — to be brought aboard.
"The most important responsibility of the bus operator is to keep his eyes on the road and to operate his bus with safety," Smith said. "I do not require that our drivers challenge every passenger."
As the forum concluded, many in the packed hall rushed forward, seemingly delighted to get access to transit officials and further air their grievances.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@times
©2008 Community News Group
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