Midtown express buses are back

For Bay Ridge commuters like Jean Ryan and Jen Halbert, the pastyear was a frustrating exercise in patience.

That is because, when the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)enacted its June 2010 service reductions, the wheelchair-boundfriends were no longer able to get into Manhattan from their homesin Bay Ridge with any sort of regularity or reliability.

In response, the women, who met while riding the same expressbus into Manhattan, joined other plaintiffs to sue the MTA,alleging that the service reductions amounted to age and disabilitydiscrimination and violated New York State and city Human RightsLaw. State Senator Marty Golden spearheaded the lawsuit.

But as of Tuesday, July 5, much of that frustration has come toan end. In a July 1 press conference at the X28 stop at 86th Streetand Seventh Avenue, the women and Golden announced the withdrawalof their lawsuit. The decision comes as the MTA announced that,effective July 5, weekday X37 and X38 service into and out ofmidtown Manhattan will be restored.

During rush hour, the two buses will join the existing X27/X28bus service, which will go to and from lower Manhattan, with somebuses terminating at Church Street and some at 23rd Street. Afterthe service cuts, the X27 and X28 had been rerouted to encompassboth midtown and downtown Manhattan stops, a scenario that willstill be in effect during off-peak hours. Peak time service on theX37 and X38 will transport riders between Brooklyn and midtown viathe FDR Drive and East 23rd Street.

It’s not every day when dealing with the MTA that we get ahappy ending, said Matthew Daus, the lawyer and former Taxi andLimousine Commissioner who represented Golden on behalf of theplaintiffs. A lot of work went into ensuring the civil rights ofthe seniors and disabled who need this service.

Eleven years ago, I moved to Bay Ridge because of the expressbus service, so I am thrilled it’s almost back to where it was ayear ago, said Halbert. This neighborhood was decimated by theservice cuts. This is a great first step, but it can’t be the laststep.

In addition to the return of weekday express buses, Goldenannounced the expansion of a livery taxi voucher program forAccess-A-Ride subscribers that would provide door-to-doorservice. The program will be operated by the CorporateTransportation Group and is set to begin in the fall.

Ryan said that while the voucher program is an interesting idea,it won’t help at all because users can’t get service on demandand would need to book [appointments] days in advance.

It would still be like regular Access-A-Ride, said Ryan,except starting only with subscription service – [adding otherusers] if there are enough wheelchairs [who want it].

Another main issue she said has been left unaddressed is thelack of weekend bus service. I think what people don’t realize isthat without weekend buses, we’re really stuck in our houses,explained Ryan, who attended the rally carrying homemade BringBack Weekend Bus Service signs. There are things that happen onweekends only that we miss out on. We want to be able to go when wewant to go, and come back when we come back.

Subway service in this neighborhood is all down one or twoflights of stairs. We can’t do that, added Halbert. My only wayto get to the city is the express bus [so] whenever they cutservice, they cut my life and the life of everyone using thebus.

The MTA said that some stations along the R line are due to bemade handicapped-accessible by the year 2020.

According to data collected and submitted as evidence byProfessor Jonathan Peters of the College of Staten Island, therewas a disproportionate impact on [southern Brooklyn] from theservice cuts, compared to parts of the city with a smaller disabledand senior population.

Golden remained optimistic. I thank the [MTA] for listening andthe plaintiffs for their advocacy on behalf of the many who needbetter transportation services, he said. But the fight continuesas southwest Brooklyn still needs more of the service we lost [tobe] returned to operation – including weekend express busservice.

The press conference was also attended by Councilmember VincentGentile, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and Dyker Heights CivicAssociation President Fran Vella-Marrone.

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