The Queens Center Mall is one of the most-heavily trafficked malls around, and bus drivers say that can make the curbside scene there way too crowded. NY1's transit reporter John Mancini explains why riders are forced to step too far into the street, and, with the holiday season approaching, what the city could do about it.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus drivers say it feels like a game of real-life bumper cars when they try to make their way around livery cabs outside the Queens Center Mall.
"You can't get into the curb. You have to honk the horn. [Cars] don't move. Passengers get off the bus and they have to weave in between the cars,” said one bus driver.
For riders, stepping as far as two lanes into Queens Boulevard can be just the start of the adventure.
“Sometimes it is very hard for me to get up into the bus. So it's really very hard,” said a bus rider.
A half-dozen bus lines stop outside the main entrance to the mall. The buses compete with cars, vans, and the livery cabs trolling for shoppers.
"It's very unsafe,” said another driver. “And I would like something to be done about it. It's been a long time and I haven't seen anything done."
Police are trying to do something about it. The New York City Police Department says the 110th Precinct gave out more than 200 tickets in September alone. MTA managers can write summonses, too. And the Taxi and Limousine Commission has issued more than 600 of its own and seized 30 cabs.
But, locals say the curb gets crowded again the instant officers leave.
"If they could be there, on a continuous presence, then it would be much better,” said Jeffrey Owen, the senior property manager of the Queens Center mall. “If they can't, then people are going to do what they do. And it's not necessarily in the best interests of safety."
The problem is that a few of the city's chronic transportation issues seem to meet right on Queens Boulevard.
Buses are crowded, so it takes a while to get on and off. Yellow cabs are scarce in Queens, opening the market for the liveries. Those drivers aren't supposed to pick up street fares, and they'll make just about any move to get them. But the TLC thinks it has answer.
"We have a program for malls and folks like that to come in. And if they want to set up a livery stand so that livery cars can line up and have passengers just get right in, we have a program for that,” said TLC Commissioner David Yassky.
The mall says it's open to working with the city. And as the shopping season heats up, the NYPD typically steps up patrols. That's welcome news on the bus.
"I just hope that the MTA, and the police and the TLC get together and put a zero-tolerance to this spot,” said a driver.
And this could give a whole new meaning to holiday lights.