Bus service: Use convenient service or lose it

Bus service: Use convenient service or lose it

It was five years ago, on Monday morning Jan. 7, 2013 I was able to board the first bus departing from the Little Neck Long Island Rail Road station.

The Q36 resumed weekday service on the old Q79 Little Neck Parkway bus route. My wife and I had the opportunity to be the last two riders prior to the demise of our old New York City Transit Q79 Little Neck Parkway bus.

Thirty-six months earlier on Saturday, June 25th, 2010 at 6:23 p.m., right on time, we boarded the Q79 bus departing Little Neck for its last run to Jericho Turnpike in Floral Park. Many of my neighbors residing in Great Neck within walking distance of the City Line periodically utilized this bus route.

Service began on June 4, 1950. The newly created New York City Transit Authority in 1953 assumed operations. 

Growing up in the neighborhood during the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was known back then as the Q12A. and was part of my life and that of many others. On April 12, 1990 it was renamed the Q79 probably due to avoiding confusion with the Little Neck to Flushing Q12 route.

The bus would take me to Union Turnpike and after short walk, to the old Glen Oaks Movie Theater along with Mays Department Store.

A transfer to the Q46 Union Turnpike bus provided connections to the Lake Success Shopping Center with a full Sears Department Store, other businesses and the adjacent bowling alley.

Many have long forgotten that there was a time when bus drivers actually had to make change and drive all at the same time. No one dared bring any food on the bus or leave any litter behind. Air conditioned buses were just becoming a more common part of the fleet as older non-air conditioned buses were retired.

After I finished college and began commuting on the LIRR, the Q79 provided other options. On very cold winter night or hot summer days – rather than walking up Little Neck Parkway to either home or Scobees Diner – I would frequently take the Q79.

As my train pulled into the Little Neck Station, a quick look out the window would confirm if the bus was waiting.

When the MTA introduced Metro Cards in 1996 with free transfers between subway and bus, riding the Q79 became an even better bargain and become a more frequent part of my journey.

If service was suspended or seriously delayed on the Port Washington Branch, the Q79 was my little secret lifeline. I would use the Hempstead Branch Floral Park Station. A quick three block walk to Jericho Turnpike would reunite me with my good old friend the Q79.

It was always sad that residents of Floral Park practiced the NYMBY (Not In My Back Yard) philosophy and refused to grant permission to extend the Q79 to the Floral Park LIRR Station.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its operating agency, New York City Transit always seemed to have a policy of only running the same standard 40 foot local buses on all routes. Too bad that neither would budge.

Imagine if the MTA/NYCT, like other transit agencies had purchased smaller 35, 30 or 25 foot buses. Perhaps the Village of Floral Park would have agreed to accommodate smaller buses on their streets.

With a direct connection between both the Floral Park and Little Neck LIRR Stations, there might have been a sufficient increase in ridership to justify keeping the Q79. Sadly, we will never know.

Our old bus stop on the corner of Little Neck Parkway and Northern Blvd. adjacent to the Chase Manhattan Bank added the Q36 to the old Q79.  The Guide-A-Ride is updated to add the Q36 timetable telling you when the next bus will arrive. 

Extending the Q36 route from its previous terminus on Jericho Turnpike at the City Line north along Little Neck Parkway to the Little Neck LIRR station restores all the old Q79 connections and adds many new ones. 

 At Northern Boulevard, you can transfer to the Q12 Flushing bus. Last stop is the Main Street Flushing No. 7 subway station.

There are over 16 other local NYCT and MTA bus connections available in downtown Flushing. Don’t forget the  N21 NICE (Nassau Inter County Express) with connections to Great Neck, Roslyn, Hicksville and Glen Cove.

 At Horace Harding Blvd & Long Island Expressway, you can transfer to the Q30 bus. This bus route provides connection to the subway (F line at 169th St. along with the Jamaica LIRR Station (with connections to all LIRR branches except Port Washington along with the subway E, J & Z lines).

 At Union Turnpike, there is the Q46 bus providing service to 260th Street Glen Oaks, the City Line (including Long Island Jewish Hospital or Lake Success Shopping Center a short walk away) or the Union Turnpike Subway Station (E or F subway lines).

 At Hillside Avenue, you can transfer to the Q43 bus in either direction to the City Line or Jamaica LIRR Station (with connections to all LIRR branches except Port Washington) along with the subway (E, F, J & Z lines).

There are also many other local NYCT bus connections along with N22 NICE bus to Mineola and Hicksville.

 At Jericho Turnpike, you can walk three blocks south and catch the Hempstead LIRR Branch at the Floral Park Station. There is also the N24 NICE bus with connections to Mineola, Roosevelt Field Mall and East Meadow.

 This enhanced Q36 bus service continues to provide a new one seat bus ride for riders boarding along Little Neck Parkway with a direct connection to the Hempstead branch LIRR at the Queens Village Station (at the corner of Jamaica Avenue & Springfield Blvd.) and F subway line at either the 179th St or 169th Street stations along Hillside Avenue. There are also numerous other local bus connections available along the Jericho Turnpike and Hillside Avenue portions of the Q36 bus route. Don’t forget all the other connecting bus routes available at the 165th Street Bus Terminal.

 It continues to be up to several thousand Queens and Nassau County residents who live within a one to ten block walking radius west and east of Little Neck Parkway to utilize this new bus service. Without sufficient ridership supporting a reasonable fare box recovery rate, it may be difficult to continue justifying this service.

Sadly, many old riders have yet to return.

 The LIRR Little Neck parking lot is at capacity regularly. You are directed to drive to the adjacent Douglaston LIRR Station parking lot. 

Things are so bad, that the attendant has to double park cars to accommodate everyone. Many who do not want to pay, park on the street, sometimes many blocks from the station. This periodically creates conflicts with some neighborhood residents who use the same spots in front of their homes.

Too bad the LIRR doesn’t promote the Q36 Little Neck Parkway service on their passenger information seat drops.

NYCT could also ask the LIRR to include an insert with the next monthly mail and ride ticket informing customers of the Q36 service. Buying a weekly or monthly Metro Card addition on to your LIRR Monthly Commutation ticket can be a good deal. 

Many new people who have moved into the neighborhood have no idea that there is bus service on Little Neck Parkway. A mass mailing by census track to identify those people who live within walking distance of Little Neck Parkway might attract new riders.

 More neighbors need to buy your individual, weekly or monthly Metro Card and patronize the extended Q36 bus service today. Your support is critical to ensure that this important local community service remains available tomorrow.

 Larry Penner

Great Neck

(Larry Penner is a transportation historians and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office)


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