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Crosstown Bus Service Cuts Would Hurt Older Riders, Locals Say

By Shaye Weaver | July 24, 2017 11:03am
 A number of crosstown bus service times across the city are getting changed, including on the Upper East Side, where buses are expected to have a longer wait time starting in September.
A number of crosstown bus service times across the city are getting changed, including on the Upper East Side, where buses are expected to have a longer wait time starting in September.
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Flickr/Esoteric_Desi

UPPER EAST SIDE — Locals are calling on the city to scrap its plans to cut service to multiple crosstown buses this fall because they say the routes are critical to the neighborhood's older residents.

In June, the MTA released its September 2017 bus schedules, which includes service reductions to 21 routes, including the crosstown M66, M72, M42, and M31 buses. The decrease in service is expected to save the MTA roughly $2.3 million, the plan states. But wait times for those routes during rush hour would increase by several minutes.

At Community Board 8's full board meeting last week, a number of residents spoke out against the changes and how they'd negatively affect the Upper East Side community, especially for older residents who have a hard time waiting for long periods.

Gail Benjamin, a resident of East 72nd Street, said that the M72 is already crowded at peak hours, especially when hospital employees change shifts.

"We want to work with the MTA to reconsider the cuts to these buses," she said. "The cuts will place an additional hardship on the older population. A neighbor told me that today she waited 25 minutes for the M72. We'd like to see more buses on the line." 

Liz Patrick, vice president of the East 72nd Street Neighborhood Association, said her group did its own survey of people who ride the M72 and found that doesn't make sense for the MTA to cut service on the route.

"There's clearly a disconnect," she said. "Those going on the M66 have to wait for four buses before getting on [because it's too crowded]. And, there's a long wait for the M72." 

Residents noted that there are no crosstown subway lines above 63rd Street and that they heavily rely on these bus routes heavily to get across to the Upper West Side.

CB8 passed a resolution in June rejecting the proposed changes and asking the MTA to reconsider, but the agency is standing behind its numbers.

Additionally, elected officials Councilmen Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick, state Sen. Liz Krueger, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Assemblymembers Dan Quart and Rebecca Seawright, and Borough President Gale Brewer sent a letter to the transit agency on June 17 asking that it reconsider the changes and increase service on those routes instead.

"We are concerned with increases to headway that will leave our residents feeling abandoned by our buses," the letter reads.

Other routes in Manhattan set for scheduling changes are the M10, the M22, the M98 and the M100. The adjustments also include increases in bus frequency to 16 routes citywide. (You can read the full proposed schedules here.)

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz noted that the authority "reviews and evaluates bus schedules on a regular basis to ensure that they accurately match current rider demand and operating conditions, as well as to ensure there are resources available where needed to provide customers with the most efficient and effective bus service possible. 

"Schedule revisions also address the need to more accurately reflect changing traffic conditions which have generally slowed in recent years," he continued, without saying whether the agency is considering the community's requests.

Councilman Kallos said he and the other elected officials are pressing the MTA to release its swipe data to get the hard facts on how many people are using on the crosstown buses.

"They are not considering the Americans with Disabilities Act — this neighborhood has seniors almost more than anywhere else," he said. "We just have to keep making our voices heard."

Below is a table of the planned changes: