Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, Community Leaders, Transit Advocates and Bus Riders Protest Slated New Round of Service Cuts to M104 Bus on Upper West Side at MTA Board Meeting

March 19, 2018

New York, NY – Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) representative was joined by Upper West Side community leaders, straphangers and transportation advocates at Monday’s New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board Meeting to demand the MTA halt proposed cuts to the M104 bus line until the Bus Action Plan is released and a public hearing on the service reduction is held in her district.

“The M104 used to be one of the most popular and well-loved bus routes in the City, but year and year of services cuts have caused riders to flee the bus in droves in search of other more reliable methods of transportation,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “This death by a thousand cuts approach to bus infrastructure has rendered the M104 a mere shell of its former self. Now, the MTA uses the declining ridership caused by its cuts to justify yet another round of cuts. This logic doesn’t pass the laugh test.”

When Andy Byford assumed his post as President of the New York City Transit Authority, he immediately announced that Transit would release a Bus Action Plan, designed to address bus infrastructure problems citywide. That plan is set to be finalized and released in April 2018, the same month the MTA plans to cut the M104. It makes little sense to cut the very line the Bus Action Plan will ostensibly fix before we even have an opportunity to implement any recommendations contained in the plan.

The MTA’s annual and daily ridership statistics paint a telling narrative about the state of M104 service in my district. In 2011, the M104 accommodated 12,626 rides daily, for a total of 4,361,396 rides annually. Five years later, the M104 accommodated a total of 8,223 daily rides, for a total of 2,982,823 annual rides. Of the 37 Manhattan bus lines, the M104 line experienced the fourth largest reduction in ridership.

On the heels of the MTA’s announcement that it would further cut the M104 bus line, Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal circulated a petition to her constituents asking them why they abandoned the M104 bus. The nearly 700 respondents thus far have made clear that it was the M104’s unreliability that forced them to ditch the line.

According to one petition respondent, “I have had to wait 20 minutes or longer for the 104 bus – I'm a senior citizen and this presents real difficulty for me.”

Another said, “Buses are particularly important for senior citizens with mobility issues. Reducing the already poor levels of service further is a slap in the face of taxpayers on the Upper West Side.”

A third respondent lamented the state of service: “I've lost years off my life just standing and waiting for the M104 bus. In hot sweltering weather, in the rain and wind and during the winter's icy blasts. They are so few and far between, it is clear there are not enough M104s on the street. We've been forced to take alternate transportation, whether ride-share, Uber, Lyft or just walking. PLEASE don't cut back any more.”

“This is not a chicken and egg problem, because my constituents have made clear what came first: they abandoned the bus line in favor of other surface transportation following cuts which made it essentially useless,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “The MTA can propose cuts to the line, but they can’t use declining ridership as the excuse. My constituents are for an expansion of the line and more reliable service.”

The line was cut severely cut in 2010, when the east to west side connection was eliminated altogether. Service was diminished again in 2014 and 2018, in spite of a tremendous outpouring of public opposition.

“The MTA cannot continue to cut lines without first talking with the communities served by those lines,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “Their data paints an incomplete picture, and that’s why we are asking for a public hearing before any future cuts are made. The MTA must listen to the members of this community and design a bus transportation system that is responsive to their needs.”

The vast majority of people who use the bus do so because they are elderly or mobility impaired and cannot use the subway. A further reduction in bus service is particularly cruel for these vulnerable individuals, leaving them with few affordable transportation options.

Stephanie Burgos-Veras, Senior Organizer at the Riders Alliance, said, "Manhattanites depend on the bus, especially older residents and people with disabilities who aren't able to take advantage of the subway. Unfortunately, buses are slow, unreliable and infrequent. Bus riders have long wait times and are often late to their destinations. If we are going to rescue and turn around bus service in New York, we need to make buses frequent and reliable for New Yorkers. The Bus Turnaround Coalition has recommended meaningful, doable steps that the MTA can take to improve bus service, including updating bus routes and allowing boarding through all doors. Cutting service will hurt bus riders and makes New York a more difficult place to live and do business."

“The M104 is the only way for a vast number of residents, workers, tourists and others to travel. Many subway stations have no accommodations for the disabled, seniors, adults traveling with young children and people carrying heavy bags of groceries or other goods - they rely on the M104 bus. It is cruel and unfair to reduce service” said Roberta Semer, Chair of Manhattan’s Community Board 7.

“MTA is in a deadly spiral of making its service worse because the customers gave up on a service which is terrible to begin with. This is the fastest way to bankruptcy. Mayor de Blasio shares a large part of the blame by refusing to improve bus speed by physically separating bus lanes in congested corridors, a low cost option that can be implemented tomorrow without any approvals,” said Christine Berthet, Co-Chair, Transportation Committee, Manhattan Community Board 4.

“Our regular bus, the M11, runs few and far between, especially at night. Please do not diminish the M104. New Yorkers like my husband, a disabled veteran, who cannot travel by subway, depend entirely on our wonderful wheelchair-friendly bus system. Please, please do not take away buses. The City needs MORE buses, not fewer,” said Kathleen Treat, Chair of the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association.

“The M104 is an essential connector used by our participants to get to school, work and medical and other appointments. Reduction of service will result in crowding and risk of lateness, causing inconvenience and discomfort to our local residents,” said Susan Nieves, Deputy Executive Director, Goddard Riverside Community.