UPPER EAST SIDE — Frustrated residents slammed Hampton Jitney executives this week regarding concerns about the bus company's operations, including idling buses and "bunching" at bus stops.
A Community Board 8 meeting on Wednesday was an attempt to reconcile with the bus company before giving its final approval to create two new Jitney bus stops along Lexington Avenue between East 76th and 77th streets and between East 82nd and 83rd streets.
Last month, CB8's transportation committee approved the new stops, but the full board sent the proposal back to the committee to continue the discussion with Jitney, and find solutions regarding complaints about the behavior of some Jitney drivers, before taking a final vote.
Residents have long complained about the congestion caused by Jitney stops in the neighborhood, including Upper East Sider Craig Lander, who said he's watched Jitney buses exacerbate traffic, especially at the Lexington Avenue and East 86th Street bus stop.
"There have been many instances where there were three Jitney buses at a time at the stop," he said. "The buses can't all fit in the curbside lane therefore they interfere with traffic operations along the bus routes ... and they dwell at the stops. These buses are sitting there for a good three to four minutes on average while MTA buses are trying to pull out."
Resident Devin Gould said he was most concerned with long idling times, pointing to a time on Sept. 2 when he saw a bus sitting at the intersection of Third Avenue and East 85th Street for 40 minutes with its engine on.
"Nobody was in the bus," Gould said. "It was just sitting there idling, which is absolutely reprehensible. It has everything to do with the behavior of your drivers and your inability to oversee their misbehavior."
Hampton Jitney President Geoff Lynch admitted the idling should not be happening and promised to keep a better eye on the issue moving forward.
"For 10 months of the year, a lot of these issues don't exist,” he said. “Idling at that length is no benefit to the Hampton Jitney. All of our vehicles have idle shut downs at 10 minutes so the driver would have had to willfully turned it back on. We as a company do not condone it. He should have been ticketed. There is no reason for that to ever happen."
Last month, Community Board 11 and the Department of Transportation approved the Jitney's request to start its pick-up route on East 96th Street, which has more room for crowds waiting with luggage, according to community board members.
Adding two new stops in the 70s and 80s would help spread out passengers further so no one stop has a large crowd, community board members said.
But residents who live at 129 E. 82nd St. were still skeptical. There is already a city bus stop between East 82nd and 83rd streets and adding another bus service would only end up blocking their co-op’s service entrance, they said.
"How would you work around that?" resident Geraldine DeLuca asked Lynch. "There is no other egress. A regular bus moves in and out very quickly. The issue is if you're adding buses to this particular stop, you're adding to the congestion."
Lynch said its drivers are instructed to pull to the next block if a bus stop is already full.
CB 8 members ultimately agreed to recommend the approval of two newly proposed bus stops along Lexington Avenue on the condition that Lynch and the Hampton Jitney keep an open line of communication.