By Sabina Mollot
Residents of Waterside Plaza, who for years have complained of limited access to mass transit, will soon be seeing a major increase in the number of buses coming to and leaving from the complex each day.
Normally, only M34A buses come and go directly to Waterside, but the additional service will come through the M34 Select Bus Service (SBS), starting on September 3.
On weekdays from 11 a.m.-1 a.m., the following day, there will be 22 additional trips (an increase of 44 percent). On Saturdays from 11 a.m.-1 a.m. the following day there will be 14 additional trips (an increase of 30 percent). On Sundays from noon to 1 a.m. the following day, there will also be 14 additional trips (an increase of 39 percent).
The trips will be made possible by redirecting selected trips from the East Side Ferry Terminal to Waterside when ridership at the terminal is expected to be slow, according to Kevin Ortiz, a spokesperson for the MTA. These M34 SBS trips will travel between Waterside Plaza and the Jacob Javits Center and destination signs will be adjusted on these new trips. Ortiz added that the M34A SBS will continue to operate between Waterside and the Port Authority Bus terminal and these trips will operate via the same routing as the M34A SBS in and out of Waterside. Future changes in ridership at the ferry terminal may result in a reassignment of the services to both the ferry terminal and Waterside.
The hefty hike in the number of daily bus rides was the result of a meeting attended by representatives from MTA, the Waterside Tenants Association and Council Member Dan Garodnick’s office in January. However, according to Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal, tenants have been asking for more buses for years — she first asked in 2013.
What may have helped get the ball rolling, she suspects, was posting the cell phone number of an MTA employee she’d been in contact with on a flyer at Waterside’s bus shelter, instructing neighbors to call it if they had complaints about bus service.
“People have been calling him,” said Handal.
This led to the meeting, where the agency warned the requested changes would probably take about six months to implement.
“This was a huge win to get this,” said Handal.
Bus service, she added, isn’t bad during the week, “except at night when you have two buses in an hour and if one doesn’t show up, which does happen, it’s really bad, especially when it’s cold. On the weekends, it’s really unreliable.”
Handal said she also would have liked to see the M34 rerouted so that it makes a right turn at 34th Street and the FDR instead of a left turn on nights and weekends and go along the FDR Drive service road at 23rd Street and come into Waterside from there. Doing so, she said, would add even more trips after people stop using the ferry.
“After 8 o’clock at night, ferry service drops off,” she explained. “It’s a commute during the week. From our perspective ferry ridership is significantly less than on weekdays.”
However, she was told a license would be needed from the DOT just to be able to drive a bus on the FDR Drive. Handal also said she was also informed a study would need to be done to see if articulated buses could make that kind of a turn. She still hopes, but doesn’t expect this will happen at this point.
She had also hoped for more buses to be available earlier in the mornings, but was told there weren’t enough drivers or buses available. Handal said she’ll keep asking.
“The bottom line is we’re very pleased to have an increase in service,” she said. “It’s really dramatic. It’s almost 50 percent. That’s really going to make a difference for people.”
Garodnick also cheered the added bus trips and praised Handal for greasing the wheels in making them a reality.
“Starting next month, residents will see real increases in bus frequency seven days a week,” said Garodnick. “We are cutting down on wait times and better connecting Waterside to the rest of Manhattan.”