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Transit-Starved Waterside Plaza Locals Ask City to Boost Bus Service

By Noah Hurowitz | December 13, 2016 8:38am
 Residents of Waterside Plaza are asking for increased bus service to the complex, which is isolated from most modes of public transit.
Residents of Waterside Plaza are asking for increased bus service to the complex, which is isolated from most modes of public transit.
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WATERSIDE PLAZA — Hundreds of residents of Waterside Plaza are fed up with what they describe as infrequent and unreliable bus service on nights and weekends, according to a tenant leader.

More than 700 residents of the housing complex have signed a petition asking the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to increase bus service to the Waterside Plaza, which is located far from most public transit and relies on a single bus line.

The petition asks that an extra leg be added to the route of the M34 bus in order to lessen the burden on elderly or disabled residents who can’t walk the blocks to more transit-accessible areas from the complex, which is located between East 23rd and East 28th Streets between FDR Drive and the East River.

Waterside Plaza is currently served by the M34A bus, a select-bus service that, unlike the M34 which goes to both ends of 34th Street, south at Second Avenue and East at 23rd Street in order to pick up passengers at two stops at the complex.

During weekday peak hours the bus is scheduled to come about every 10 minutes. But after 8 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends, the wait time increases to 20 or even 30 minutes at times, and that wait sometimes stretched even longer when buses become delayed, according to Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants’ Association.

Some residents complain of a wait time as long as an hour on particularly unlucky days, Handal said.

“You just cannot depend on it, especially if there’s somewhere you really have to be at a certain time,” she said. “Many people have complained to me that on Sundays they have trouble even making it to church on time.”

Handal added that the long wait on weekends is particularly hard on Waterside residents who are elderly or who live with disabilities.

“It’s really a challenge, and it’s especially an undue burden for the elderly, particularly when it’s very hot or very cold.”

The petition, circulated in September and submitted to MTA in October, asks that the agency reroute the M34 on nights and weekends and have it turn right from East 34th Street, head south on the FDR Drive service road, and pick up passengers at Waterside before looping back to its normal destination at the 34th Street ferry landing.

According to Handal, adding the extra stops would have a minimal effect on the overall schedule but would be a godsend to residents of Waterside Plaza, doubling the amount of buses picking up passengers at the complex.

“If you doubled the amount of buses coming through, that would make a huge difference for us,” she said.

In addition to the addition of a detour down 23rd Street by the M34, the petition requested that the MTA:

►Install kiosks at the Waterside Plaza stops that list the expected time of the next bus.

►Restore a bus schedule showing the exact scheduled time for pickup at the Waterside stops, rather than the current sign that just says the frequency of bus pickups.

►Make it mandatory for buses to leave at the scheduled time, and not leave early unless a driver has permission from a supervisor.

►Make it mandatory policy that passengers be allowed to stay on the bus during layovers in order to avoid exposing elderly or sick passengers to inclement weather or extreme heat and cold.

According to Handal, an initial Nov. 21 meeting with representatives of the MTA to discuss the proposal was canceled with just a day’s notice.

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz did not comment on the details of the proposal but said the agency had reached out to the Tenants’ Association in an effort to set up a new meeting.