Every day and night, the BX34 rumbles down Katonah Avenue through Woodlawn, ferrying construction workers to the el train, nurses to the hospital and grandparents to Fordham Road.
“That bus has been going as long as I’ve been living,” Steve Joyce, a regular BX34 rider, said. “I would hate to see it go.”
The BX34 is one of six Bronx buses slated for elimination by the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Barring a state-financed bailout, the BX34 will disappear this spring.
On Wednesday, February 5, the same construction workers, nurses and grandparents rallied outside P.S. 19. Half angry, half nostalgic, they headed for an MTA hearing on two yellow school buses, courtesy of sympathetic Senator Jeffrey Klein.
“I take the BX34 to Montefiore,” said Woodlawn resident and hospital worker Julie Silveri. “I have for 30 years.”
According to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz, the BX34 boasts fewer weekday riders than two thirds of the city’s buses. Most buses serve at least 12,000 riders per day. The BX34 serves 4,972.
But the BX34 does link Woodlawn to Norwood, Bedford Park, Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse as well. It does convey Woodlawn residents to the B and D trains. It does haul elderly Irish immigrants past a cemetery at night.
“The BX34 is the lifeblood of our neighborhood,” said Kevin McCabe, who rides the bus from Woodlawn to the D train. “Cutting the BX34 will inconvenience a lot of people.”
The bus chugs down Katonah Avenue from E. 241st Street, turns west on E. 233rd Street and south on Bainbridge Avenue. At Fordham Road, it loops north via Valentine Avenue.
Because the Bx16 runs parallel to the BX34 on E. 233rd Street and Bainbridge Avenue, the MTA considers Woodlawn’s favorite route dispensable.
The Bx16, however, skips Katonah Avenue. It stops north of E. 206th Street. It shuts down at midnight. It’s chronically crammed.
“By the time the Bx16 reaches Woodlawn, you can’t get on,” said Margaret Fogarty of the Woodlawn Taxpayers Association.
Fogarty has collected more then 4,000 signatures for a petition to save the BX34. St. Barnabus students use the bus, as do kids from St. Brendan’s, St. Anne’s, P.S. 80, P.S. 8, Clinton High School and the Bronx High School of Science.
According to Fogarty and her neighbors, Woodlawn commuters need the BX34, low ridership figures be damned.
“The MTA could cut middle of the day BX34 service,” said Matt Cunningham. “But at 6 a.m., it’s standing room only.”
Thomas Hannon’s two sons attend P.S. 19. Hannon is a construction worker.
“What the MTA is doing is wrong,” he said. “Go to another neighborhood and take a bus. We pay our taxes around here.”
Jack Hart of St. Stevens Episcopal Church is concerned. It’s a long walk down Katonah Avenue to the Bx16 at 233rd Street, Hart said. Many seniors take the BX34 to Montefiore for treatment.
Ken Parr, a member of Community Board 12, testified at the MTA hearing. Transit planners are asking Woodlawn residents to pay double-fare, Parr said.
Currently, north Woodlawn residents ride the BX34 to the D train and transfer for free. Without the BX34, they’d ride the Bx31 down Katonah Avenue to E. 233rd Street, hop the Bx16 to the D train, and pay again.
“These are cuts that we don’t want to implement,” Ortiz said. “We are cognizant that these cuts will have a dramatic impact on our customers in the Bronx. That’s why we are asking our customers to reach out to their state legislators.”
MTA officials want Albany to approve a rescue plan proposed in December. The plan calls for tolls on East River and Harlem River bridges and a payroll tax.
“I am more than willing to work together with the MTA and the community to ensure that cuts are both cost effective and common sense,” Klein said. “It makes no sense to further isolate areas with already limited services.”