Oppose the MTA's Plan to Eliminate Bus Stops

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The MTA wants to end local bus service as we know it. As part of the Queens Bus Network Redesign, they are proposing to eliminate about 70 percent of the bus stops, calling it “bus stop balancing”. Instead of buses stopping every other city block, every three city blocks, or every avenue block, most buses will stop at a minimum of every four city blocks or every other avenue block.

Most routes will stop every five city blocks or every quarter mile, some every half mile and a few like the 101st Avenue route will have bus stops over 6,000 feet, or more than a mile apart. The rationale is that buses will operate 25 percent faster. But that will not mean your trips will be 25 percent faster. It will take you much longer to reach your destination, maybe twice as long, because of the extra walking to and from the bus. All this so the MTA can save on operating costs. The accepted industry standard is a 1/4 mile walk from your origin or destination to a local bus stop. 

This change is setting a dangerous precedent for the other borough bus network redesigns which is why you should be concerned even if you do not use Queens buses. The MTA was careful about which bus stops to remove in the Bronx as part of that borough’s redesign, only removing bus stops that were excessively close together, but in Queens, they took a sledge hammer to removing bus stops relying on the public to tell them which ones to put back. When all is said and done, half the bus stops will be gone forever.

Let’s do the arithmetic. The average local bus speed in Queens is 8.5 mph, one of the fastest in the city, and the average bus trip length is 2.3 miles. That means the average bus ride takes 16 minutes without walking and waiting. The total trip takes about 30 minutes if you use only one bus and no subway. If buses operate 25 percent faster, they travel only 2 mph faster and your bus trip will take 14 minutes instead of 16. Therefore, buses traveling 25 percent faster means you only save about two-minutes.

However, that two minutes is cancelled out by your extra one-minute walk to and from the bus, resulting in no time savings at all for the average bus rider if bus stops are spaced every quarter mile. For routes with stops every ½ mile, the extra walk to and from the stop is 7 minutes and 2 minutes saved. If bus stops are spaced every ¾ mile, the extra walk is 14 minutes and 2 minutes saved. Routes with bus stop spacing every mile will result in 17 minutes extra walking and 2 minutes saved. However, if the walk to the closest bus stop is not in the same direction you are traveling. You won’t even save those two minutes.

Therefore, the average 30-minute bus ride will now take at least 30, 35, 42, or 47 minutes depending on bus stop spacing if you are a fast walker and if buses are running on schedule. You will also have a greater chance of missing your bus, the further you walk, adding at least another ten minutes of travel time. So, your 30-minute trip can possibly take you over an hour, doubling your trip time, assuming you are a fast walker and there are no bus delays. Do you really want to walk further in bad weather? So how is increasing bus stop spacing beneficial to most riders?

The only criterium used to determine success or failure are faster bus speeds which is easy to accomplish when you are removing over half the bus stops. What the MTA should be measuring is if the time it takes you to make your entire trip including waiting, walking, and transferring is less under the new redesigned system.

Bus stop elimination will cause a hardship for anyone who has difficulty walking and will further erode bus ridership. The number of bus stops is unimportant. What matters is how often the buses actually stop at those stops. It makes no sense to eliminate lightly used bus stops that most buses usually skip anyway. No one benefits. Eliminating bus stops where usage is heavy, will cause the remaining bus stops to become dangerously overcrowded making passengers impatient and encouraging them to board through the back door and evade the fare. Lower revenues and reduced ridership will cause future service cuts.

The MTA will never admit failure, blaming ridership losses on the next fare increase and citing faster bus speeds as a measure of success, although most trips will take longer.

We must stop this plan before it becomes reality. The MTA does not know what is best for its riders or is intentionally trying to encourage bus riders to use other means of transport, so they can operate fewer  buses to reduce their budget deficit.

Please sign this petition against using a distance formula to remove bus stops.