MTA and Bx 29 straphangers meet to discuss scheduling

The Bx29 bus approaches a stop on City Island.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

MTA officials were on City Island recently, meeting with straphangers who ride the Bx 29 bus in order to obtain feedback as concerns about the line linger.

A recent meeting at the City Island Community Center drew out 31 people who ride the Bx 29 bus to discuss face-to-face with MTA officials their concerns involving the bus’ operation and service schedule.

The MTA and the straphangers discussed issues including expanding service hours on the line so that it runs 24/7, concerns raised about broken fare boxes that may be suppressing the ridership metrics the MTA relies on to make budget decisions, and the possibility of splitting the route in two to better service the island that’s only accessible by one road through Pelham Bay Park, confirmed attendees.

“It is really a high priority for both the civic association and the riders,” said John Doyle, City Island Civic Association corresponding secretary, adding “This is not like another community where you can walk a few blocks and take another bus.”

This meeting marked the second one between bus riders and the transit authority on City Island concerning the Bx 29, which is one of several bus routes that services Co-op City and is the island’s only (non-express) bus line.

A group of riders met with MTA officials in 2015; after that meeting the agency expanded late night service into the early morning by one-hour.

Kat Scicluna, a Bx 29 rider for the past two years stated in an e-mail that in her experience with transit in different parts of the city, including in Queens, the line is the worst she has ever had rely on.

“I think that they didn’t realize (the number of) issues we are having with the bus,” stated Scicluna. “I don’t think they were aware that certain buses weren’t taking fares from us to make it seem like they don’t need more buses.”

Doyle said that he believes Co-op City, which has about 12 times as many people as City Island, is certainly deserving of all the bus service it can get, and advocated for splitting the route into two, with one for each community.

On Thursday, April 12, city Comptroller Scott Stringer wrote a letter to MTA Buses concerning the plight of residents and workers on City Island who rely on the Bx 29.

“Late night bus service on the Bx 29 is infrequent and ceases to operate between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.,” stated Stringer. “This is leaving many local residents and those who work on the island in the lurch; stranded at the closest subway station three miles away and forced to rely on expensive – and sometimes dangerous – transit options.”

He cited the death of Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos, a bicyclist who was killed in a hit and run accident in Pelham Bay Park on City Island Road while biking home from work three years ago.

He also noted a financial imperative for 24/7 service stating that it was essential for the MTA to accommodate people who may not commute during a typical rush-hour schedule.

An agency spokesman said of the meeting with City Island riders: “we sent MTA personnel and we are working to incorporate community feedback into the eventual plan.”

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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