Taking up the pen for bus service

Diane J. Savino

Lawmaker urges commuters to sign petition to save express routes from MTA ax
Thursday, January 28, 2010

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Trusting that the pen is mightier than the budget ax, state Sen. Diane Savino hopes Staten Island's express-bus riders will sign a petition to save their service from the MTA chopping block.

Her office is circulating the petition, along with customer satisfaction surveys, at local express bus stops this week.

While talking to commuters yesterday morning, "a lot of people didn't know these cuts were on the table," Ms. Savino said.

"We want to make sure we notify as many riders as possible that their service is at risk."

Among the routes proposed for discontinuation are the X16, X18 and X20, which officials say have too few riders to justify their high operating costs.

The X6 and X9 routes also would be canceled under the MTA's proposal as part of a restructuring of all the express routes on Hylan Boulevard. As part of the change, the X1 will no longer run during rush hours, with passengers left to choose other routes that follow a similar path.

The plan also calls for consolidating the X13 and X14 routes.

"Don't kill the 18!" yelled Barbara North of Rosebank, as she got off an express bus yesterday afternoon.

"They're forcing us to take the ferry. I don't have two hours to take the ferry every day."

Many of the morning rush-hour buses on the X18 are full, she said. "We want the 18s to still come. A lot of people depend on it."

If the X18 is discontinued, "it's going to double my commute time," said Anne Keane of Shore Acres. Though she would save money on her $11 round-trip express bus fare by taking the free ferry, "I don't mind spending the money," she said, if it means more time at home with her three small children. Taking the ferry "will be a real hassle," she said.

"It could ruin a lot of people's days," said David Kipp of Rossville, who sometimes takes the X1 on his way home and would be affected by the cut of that line's rush-hour service.

"It's not a good thing."

Ms. Savino's office will forward the surveys and petition to the MTA to give an idea of what the cuts will mean to the average Staten Islander who relies on its service.

With a public hearing planned for March 2 at 6 p.m. in the Concert Hall at the College of Staten Island, "even if they can't be there in person, they'll be there in print," Ms. Savino said.

The borough's entire contingent of elected officials will gather today to rally against the cuts, and make their case to MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder to spare the transit-starved borough.

For more on the proposed service cuts, including changes to local Island routes, visit www.mta.info.

Maura Yates covers transportation news for the Advance. She may be reached at myates@siadvance.com.