RIOC’s Re-Introducing Transportation attracted a full house and plenty of passion, yesterday. As much listening tour as anything else, the talk turned heated.
Reporting by David Stone
Fresh off a successful night conferring with residents about Lighthouse Park’s growth and redesign, RIOC pulled a second eager crowd. The Carter Burden Network hosted the event at the Senior Center.
It was standing room only, including a crowed hallway.
The first of a series planned to improve awareness of the State agency and its services, it also served as a platform for residents.
Rather than lead with a presentation, RIOC VP Shelton Haynes first opened the floor for questions. But what he got instead were opinions.
Lots of them.
RIOC Transportation Attracts Passions: Red Buses
No surprise, the first and several other speakers vented about discourtesy on RIOC’s red bus fleet.
Frustrations over strollers crowding aisles on packed buses flared as did indignation over abuse of seating reserved for seniors and disabled passengers.
And some good old Roosevelt Island provincialism arose. New residents and students were blamed, without evidence or logic, as Haynes deftly managed passions.
Opperman and Haynes sympathized while making it clear that they can’t force courtesy. And drivers are not allowed to challenge age or disability.
With drivers’ hands tied, some suggested taking matters into their own hands. With differing levels of aggression.
But the best idea came from longtime resident and activist Joyce Short, among others, suggesting that drivers make announcements as difficult situations arose.
When Signs Are Not Enough
Opperman introduced a sign campaign, already underway, aimed at awareness. But listeners weren’t buying it. Signs posted on buses are ignored.
While drivers can’t be enforcers, they can make crystal clear announcements about seating and crowding.
While RIOC’s Re-Introducing Transportation failed to find easy answers to longstanding problems, it strengthened relations with residents. Appreciation for RIOC’s openness was universal.
Q102 Bus Draws More Heat for RIOC
As time ran short, a lively discussion about the MTA’s plan to end Q102 bus service broke out. A new AT78 bus, if plans stay the same, will offer limited service as a replacement. No buses, for example, will go north of the Roosevelt Island Bridge.
RIOC president Susan Rosenthal said her staff has engaged MTA about the matter already and that plans are not final yet. She welcomed resident comments going forward.
But RIOC public information officer Terrence McCauley, a 15-year MTA veteran, and a representative from Senator José Serrano’s office stressed the value of citizen comments directly to MTA as most effective.
An MTA outreach meeting is on tap for February 4th at the Jacob Riis Center, and other developments are expected today.
More on that as news develops.
RIOC’s focus on transportation and the passions it draws here made a great start. If future meetings are as successful, the State’s role on Roosevelt Island broadens and strengthens.
But we’re off to a fast start. Let’s keep talking now that RIOC”s listening.