UPPER WEST SIDE — Upper West Side residents are fighting proposed cuts that would increase wait times for a pair of crosstown buses.
The service reductions on the M66 and M72 routes were bundled with planned cuts to seven other Manhattan routes — and 27 routes citywide — which are expected to take effect this month, according to a June MTA report.
The reductions, which would add a few minutes more of waiting time between buses, are part of routine reviews that readjust service to match rider demand and operating conditions, the MTA said. While the report noted that the frequency tweaks would save the agency $2.3 million, local residents and members of Community Board 7 said at a board meeting Wednesday night that the potential negative impacts on elderly and disabled riders should outweigh any monetary savings.
“Cutting the service is not the answer,” said Andrew Albert, co-chair of CB7’s Transportation Committee. “If… there are a lot of traffic issues, they should deal with those traffic issues and see if they can get the buses to run on their normal frequency.”
Paul Duckett, who’s been living on West 69th Street for more than 50 years, said he uses the M72 daily to get to the other side of the borough. He added that wait times for his bus have been acceptable, but that he's concerned the cuts will lead to even longer waits.
“The people that ride the buses don’t make the decisions on who gets cut and who doesn’t — that’s the problem,” he said. “Some of those behind desks ought to get out here and ride some of these buses some time.”
Albert and the rest of CB7 passed a resolution during the full board meeting asking the city to reconsider the service changes. The resolution adds that the bus routes also serve those going to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, on Columbus Avenue between West 62nd and 65th streets, or the many hospitals on the Upper East Side. Community Board 8 passed a similar resolution in June.
“[The MTA is] not making the right call because the more you reduce the bus service, the less people use it,” Albert added. “So you have a self-perpetuating decline in buses, and then eventually if you keep doing that, you’ll have no bus service.”
Albert, who is also an MTA board member, said he urged the agency to vet the changes via service demonstrations, in which the agency would track the bus along its route to check for any road obstructions or delays in buses leaving their stops.
He also noted that when the MTA introduced Select Bus Service to the M79 and M86 routes, ridership continually increased as wait times decreased. But SBS would be hard to introduce to the M66 route, he added, as it traverses narrow streets.
The MTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.