In an advisory, RIOC urges planning for the partial Tram Shutdown, which starts on Monday, November 15th. But their own planning amounted to copying and pasting already threadbare routines that failed at serving residents’ needs before.
By David Stone
About RIOC’s Tram Shutdown Plan
“We need at least one or two morning Red Bus connections to 59th Street,” a reader wrote.
For unexplained reasons, RIOC set up shuttles helping out only during afternoon rush. But that’s not unusual for the state agency nor is it hard to decode. The scheduling neatly fits the state agency’s needs while shortchanging those of residents.
“RIOC Red Bus will be providing free shuttle service, to and from Manhattan, Mondays – Fridays, from 3 PM – 8:30 PM,” the advisory says. In short, all they are doing is rerouting a bus from its normal Main Street run, instead sending the driver across the East River and back. No extra burden on them, but crowding will increase on Main Street routes.
No sweat for RIOC, but plenty for local commuters.
For morning rush, the most critical for many needing to get to work and school on time, RIOC offers no help. That’s because Octagon shuttle buses already fill any slack in Red Bus routines. And there’s nothing for weekends either.
Take for granted that RIOC’s brain trust never consulted with residents nor considered complaints from prior experience. The current rendition simply is not set up for that, but good, smart options do exist.
Although “… long lines for the Tram can be expected during rush hour,” according to the advisory, morning and evening rush hours are treated differently. And since the shutdown runs through the major holiday season with local demands on Tram service augmented by those from visitors and tourists, weekends sometimes become like a continuous rush hour.
Nothing suggests that RIOC’s alleged planners gave any of this much thought or cared about it, if they did. But maybe we can help.
If the state agency has the least common sense regard for the real needs of residents, they must add morning rush and weekend shuttle service.
In the morning, a simple solution means rerouting one of the morning drivers to 59th Street. That does not burden RIOC nor residents who can easily use near-empty MTA Q102 buses as an alternative. And there’s no extra cost for riding because transfers at the subway or Tram are free.
The Octagon Express is essential, partly because the residents already pay for it. Maybe a single stop at Manhattan Park, where residents also pay extra for Red Bus services, makes sense before a run straight to the subway.
If RIOC’s too short-handed for supporting resident needs on weekends, there’s an answer from their own history. During past Tram shutdowns, they hired an outside bus company for the job. Pickups took place on Second Avenue convenient for accessing the Queensboro Bridge.
One potential hang up – demand might not be enough for justifying a full size bus. In that case, a for hire shuttle like the one The Octagon uses on weekends should do the trick.
Conclusion: Dealing Intelligently with the Tram Shutdown
Simple solutions available for RIOC are neither especially demanding nor the results of genius. But those offered here work for everyone’s benefit, and certainly, there are others, maybe better others.
RIOC, though, must put in some effort. Tram repairs, questionable timing notwithstanding, are inevitable, but they need not be as much of a burden for residents as current plans demand.
And just consider the goodwill possible when the state puts the people who live here first, ahead of those who earn their livings by commuting in or working from home.
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