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Boro buses inadequate, riders say

By Mark Francis Cohen, Staff Reporter

It was a typical rush-hour moment last Wednesday evening in the Hub: commuters dashed out of the subway station just to wait more than a half-hour for the Bx15 bus, a woman fought to board the Bx21 only to have the door clip the back of her jacket and a man was glad the Bx55 arrived after a long 20 minutes only to see two Bx41s zoom by nearly empty.

Commuters say bus service in the borough needs a major overhaul. They want the Transit Authority to add more buses to the routes, increase the frequency of service and meet advertised schedules.

Viola Straker voiced these requests earlier this month at a bus forum sponsored by the New York City Transit Riders Council, a commuter-advocacy organization. Transit Authority officials attended the hearing, but Straker said in a recent telephone interview that officials are not familiar with the needs of the borough.

"It looked like the Bronx was Timbuktu as far as they were concerned," Straker said. "I didn't get any answers to my questions. They completely ignored me."

The forum was held in Manhattan in the afternoon and only two Bronxites showed up.

"I went to see if they had any plans to better the service on the Bx21," Straker said.

The Bx21, one of the longest borough routes, extends from 138th Street up Boston Road to Einstein Hospital in Westchester Heights. "It takes forever," said Pushy Mohamed while waiting for the Bx21 one recent evening. "There aren't enough buses on the line."

Subway stations are scattered throughout the borough, forcing residents to ride trains to buses, which requires two fares. And waiting to board a crowded bus for the final leg home is often frustrating.

"The Bronx is a place where people need bus service," said George Buchanan, a bus driver.

The Transit Authority was going to set one-fare zones that would allow commuters to transfer free from subways to buses. The plan, however, was scrapped with the recent budget cuts, said Melissa Farley, a spokeswoman.

Jo Ann Katzban, the forum organizer, said the other borough resident who attended the hearing, Steven Adler, offered a solution to inadequate bus service: using vans during off-peak times and on less heavily used routes at a smaller cost.

Transit authority officials dismissed Adler's suggestion because of the cost required to refit depots, which are designed for larger buses.

Katzban said the Transit Authority must respond to complaints about the bus system by looking at the routes as a whole and not separately.

Buchanan, who drives the Bx18, a route scheduled for elimination, echoed that sentiment. He said service should not be based on the money a bus line generates.

"The Bx18 doesn't make so much revenue, but others do," he said. "You gotta make room for everybody."

The Bronx Beat, March 13, 1995