Yorkville residents who use the crosstown M86 bus to get to the West Side were miffed last week when a popular stop, at Second Avenue and 86th Street, was nowhere to be found.
It turns out the MTA closed the westbound bus stop at Second Avenue due to a temporary boiler trailer that’s been installed outside of 241 East 86th St. The closest stops going westbound are now at First Avenue and Third Avenue. The eastbound stop at Second Avenue has been closed for the past two years because of subway construction.
Adding to the confusion is that the stops at Third Avenue and Lexington Avenue in both directions were moved from the west side of the avenues to the east side to make way for bus bulbs that are being installed at both locations.
“These temporary stops will remain until the construction of the bus bulbs are complete, at which point the stops, along with the fare machines, will return where they were previously,” an MTA spokeswoman, Marisa Baldeo, said.
But the shakeup could hardly come at a more inconvenient time as the MTA is rolling out its Select Bus Service, a new transportation program with faster fare collection and travel times and increased comfort for passengers. As Select Bus Service takes shape, the New York City Transit Authority and the city’s Department of Transportation teamed up on an “Ambassador program” to assist passengers curbside with the new fare machines and any questions they might have.
Baldeo said confusion is lessening as time goes on.
“DOT and NYCT Customer Ambassadors have reported that the initial confusion about the temporary moving of these stops has lessened,” she said. “However, we will continue to work to ensure signage is in place once the Ambassador program has concluded.”
But Yorkville residents say they were left in the dark. David Rosenstein, a Community Board 8 member, sent an alarmed email to fellow board members, elected officials and NYC Transit criticizing the lack of notice regarding the closure of the westbound 2nd Avenue stop. But a member of NYC Transit’s community relations team told him they had in fact notified the community board.
“Who dropped the ball? I can’t say,” said Rosenstein, who questioned why the MTA couldn’t install temporary kiosks closer to the original site of the bus stop on Second Avenue and 86th Street. “But the bottom line is the MTA doesn’t seem to be flexible, and can’t think outside the box.”
It’s unclear where the fault lies. Scott Falk, chair of the board’s transportation committee, said the committee would look at its communication procedures.
“I guess we’ll have to review what notification methods are appropriate for this type of situation and we’ll take a look at that,” Falk said.
Baldeo said the westbound 2nd Avenue stop should return in about three months, but Falk takes issue with the boiler trailer displacing it in the first place.
“I don’t think that private construction should need to result in the suspension of a bus stop,” Falk said. “But I don’t have full information at this time on the policies of when these suspensions are seen as necessary. It does seem the boiler placement is going to make it impossible to accommodate the stop where it’s located.”
What that means at the moment is riders walking a full avenue block, something many elderly and disabled Upper East Siders find difficult to do. Rosenstein said the Second Avenue and 86th Street stop had been eliminated for a number of years before the community board got it back.
“Before my back surgery, I was in terrible pain and fought for myself and other disabled riders to get the westbound stop re-opened. I may be able to walk the extra distance now, but how many elderly and disabled will be hurt by this penny-wise, pound foolish decision?” he asked.
Falk said he’s heard complaints from at least one disabled board member about having to schlep to Third Avenue.
“That would indicate that that’s just the tip of the iceberg of people that are affected by this,” Falk said.
Elaine Walsh, another CB8 member and president of the East 86th Street Neighborhood Association, was incensed that her organization and the community at large weren’t made aware of the bus stop relocation.
“For an administration that believes and ran on the premise of community involvement, they have totally missed the boat on this one because they didn’t involve us at all,” Walsh said. “I don’t care what they’re saying about the community board, I did not get an email, nor did the board. This is a total shock. I’m very angry.”