City Island straphangers scored a victory as the MTA agreed to extend early morning bus service by one more hour.
The Bx29 bus, which links City Island, Amendola Plaza and the Bay Plaza Shopping Center currently shuts down for several hours in the early morning after midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekend.
The bus route is now slated to operate one-hour later into the early morning beginning in July.
Other than an express bus route, the Bx29 serves as City Island’s only mass transit link to the mainland, and the lack of early-morning service has been known to strand residents, employees and visitors, said City Island Civic Association board members.
“In response to requests from the City Island community, in particular to the business community and their employees, we are pleased to announce the extension of late-night service on the Bx29 by one hour to begin this summer,” said a MTA spokeswoman.
The service extension became a priority after complaints from City Island straphangers at a meeting on the island with MTA officials in July 2015.
The death of a 27-year-old island restaurant employee who was bicycling home through Pelham Bay Park in the early morning on September 11, 2015 and was killed in a hit and run likewise brought the issue to the fore.
Senator Jeff Klein, who wrote to the MTA over the years requesting a Bx29 service extension, said in a statement that he was thrilled the MTA made the move and that it was an important first step in an ongoing effort to improve City Island commuter safety.
“This extra hour of service will enable a sound alternative mode of transportation for the late-night crowds of City Island, including workers, residents and tourists,” stated the senator.
For the CICA, while the MTA announcement is a step in the right direction, the organization is still advocating for the MTA to come back to City Island as they had said they would after the 2015 meeting with dozens of regular riders, said John Doyle, CICA board member.
“If this were 24/7 service, which is what the civic association is still asking for, it would be a different story,” said Doyle, adding “We are not ready to declare victory here and run off the field.”
The issue with the lack of overnight bus service, which currently resumes again at 5 a.m., has been an issue on the island for many years.
The CICA is also awaiting a response from the MTA on a letter it sent in January 2017, requesting a study about splitting the Bx29 bus route into two lines: one going to the island, the other to the Bay Plaza Shopping Center, he said.
This would be especially helpful because mall traffic around the holidays, as well as traffic along I-95’s northbound lanes at rush hour to access the mall, can prevent timely service to City Island, he said.
“This is a fraction of what we’re asking, but we are grateful anyway,” said Barbara Dolensek, CICA vice-president said of the hour extension.