Big changes are coming to a once-sleepy bus line that serves booming Queens neighborhoods along the East River, though it's only a test for now. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.
Queens bus riders will soon be seeing a lot more of the Q103. The line runs from Astoria to Hunters Point, an area that's seen a boom in development and population - the reason local officials are pushing for more frequent service.
"This area screams for expanded bus service that is on the weekends, on the weekdays and that it's really a 24/7 service, given the population explosion that we've seen here," said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
Currently, the line operates from 6:30 a.m. through the evening rush - with no service on weekends. And while it won't quite be 24/7, come late June, weekday service will be stretched to 9 p.m., with buses running from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.
"That way I can have better transportation. Instead of having to look for other routes, I can just come to this bus right here," said one rider.
And for Vernon Boulevard cultural institutions like the Noguchi Museum and the Socrates Sculpture Park, that's great news.
"The weekend service is absolutely crucial because we get a lot of our visitors on the weekends," said Amy Hau of the Noguchi Museum.
"People have to either walk from the subway, which is the N/Q at Broadway, or they live around here. And we really serve our local residents, but we're really trying to branch out and serve people from across all five boroughs," said Katie Denny of Socrates Sculpture Park.
The Q103 serves close to 800 riders daily in the expanding waterfront neighborhoods. That's up more than 40 percent from 2011 and more than 20 percent from last year. But transit options have been limited.
"It's not the most convenient location to the subway system, which is why we need expedited bus service," said State Senator Michael Gianaris.
The MTA estimates a permanent service expansion would cost approximately the agency $315,000 a year, but locals say it's a must.
"We already have the ridership here, from people who work around here, who come to visit the cultural organizations, but there will be a lot more development in the neighborhood as well," Hau said.
After the trial run, the MTA says it will study the ridership numbers for the Q103 and schedule a public hearing to determine if the expanded service sticks around for good.