Mixed signals were sent and some-times you have to go with your gut feeling. “Don’t worry about Bronx bus Bx14. We’ve got time…” And before long, a MTA public hearing was upon us. Many of you signed petitions from Councilman James Vacca’s office, while others have answered the letter and petition from Senator Jeff Klein. In the end, all expressions of concern were delivered to the MTA board. While they will be noted as public response, their impact on MTA’s decision regarding the future of Bx14 remains to be seen. Many of you felt that the decision was a “done deal” from the start so why make the effort. At the March 3 public hearing, Councilman Vacca made a valiant effort to show his concern and questioned the proposed bus changes. Senator Klein’s message was strongly worded, and effectively delivered by district manager of Senate District 34, John Doyle, while the senator was committed to a session in Albany. Also vocal was Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, whose message was read to the board. Al three pledged to the MTA, and to us, to work together with the MTA Board to find a better way than the bus changes the board had proposed. The Borough president spoke against the proposals, especially the elimination of our Bx14, as did district manager of Community Board 10, KennethKearns. There were other voices of support for us throughout the evening from residents of Throggs Neck and Pelham Bay. We know their concerns and pledges were not just hollow words.
It was almost 10 p.m. when I was called to testify. Well over one hour was granted to the testimony of students concerned about loosing their bus cards. They spoke well, and in our borough and in our city, they are our future. But for those of us who had pre-registered on line to speak, the wait was exhausting. After almost four hours of wait, I rose to speak. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” A strong voice in the audience shouted, “Go get ‘em, Mama,” and using their own printed statistics as my guide, I continued. As I quoted the increase in Bx14’s ridership, chairman Walder grabbed the hefty MTA report of their data and scrambled to find that statistic. (Mr. chairman, it is on page VII).
MTA will vote on March 24, at MTA headquarters on the proposed changes. The public is permitted, but limited space will force most of the frustrated riders to protest the changes from the sidewalk area on Madison Avenue.
My statement to the MTA Board on March 3, was as follows:
There’s a quote in the 1977 issue of the magazine Nation’s Business attributed to American businessman Bert Lance: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” According to your figures, Bx14 has had an increase in ridership in the past three years. Bx14 is needed and it is not broken. To leave a community with the threat of no public bus service is unconscionable. You thought there was a need; you think that Bx14 is broken. What you came up with was the elimination of Bx14 as we know it, the re-routing of the Bx8, and the re-routing of Bx5. You want to break it. Your new bus route proposals “break it.”
Getting to Pelham Bay station where numerous bus connections are currently possible will be a challenge even for GPS. Take the Bx8 to Westchester Avenue and Middletown Road, get a transfer to the northbound new Bx5, and upon arrival at Pelham Bay station, in order to take the Bx12 across Pelham Parkway or to the Fordham Road stores, the rider must pay a second fare. To reach shopping at the anchor store JCPenny’s at Bay Plaza, a second fare will also be required. The communities of Country Club and Spencer Estate are home to many seniors who shop with, and only with, the local bus. And our trip to the Botanical Garden will be severely limited due to the additional tariff of a double fare.
Our merchants in Pelham Bay, in Throggs Neck and in Westchester Square have worked diligently to bring the quality of our local shopping district up to a level where it would entice the taxpayer to shop locally. But their success and even their future is dependent on the bus routes. Time-tables can be tweaked, we all understand the need for you to do that, but with the propose re-routing, some of our people will have an eight-block walk to reach a bus, because of the re-routing of the Bx8 and of the Bx5 if the bus even goes in the needed direction. Those walks will be under harsh conditions without store awnings and doorways to jump under and into to escape the rain and wind.
So, let’s not hear MTA say to this group of taxpayers, “take a hike.” Let’s go back and re-examine your proposed route changes. Yogi Berra was famous for his Yogi-isms: “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.” I believe the route changes need further consideration. Let’s keep the existing communities viable and accessible to basic transportation needs. The present proposal changes would lower the quality of life. The present proposals are not a “fix-it” of anything. The present proposals are a “break-it.”
Maybe today, and in the future, we all need to hear a voice in the background to make us stand tall, and resolute and speak up for our concerns and convictions. “Go get ‘em, mama!” It’s time to stop playing stickball, and start playing hardball!
We hoe you will join us at the end of the month, Wednesday, March 31, for our March meeting, to be held at the Villa Maria Academy, 3335 Country Club Road, at 7:30 p.m.
Take pride in your community. Your home extends beyond your property lien. We’ll talk again soon.