Photo by a-NeRo86 via Flickr

The following op-ed is by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981). For a complete list of his contributions to Sheepshead Bites, which includes many articles about the bus cuts, MTA and DOT, click here.

A bus arriving every two minutes sounds like great service. Well it is, if you are a Kingsborough College or Leon Goldstein High School student, but not so great if you are not.

On October 5, which was not an unusual day, between 2:45 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. fourteen B1 buses left Kingsborough College but only one of them made any other stops before arriving at the Brighton Beach Subway station. During this period, at least 25 other passengers needed the B1 and their wait exceeded a half hour. This happens every school day.

According to several commuters I spoke with on September 28, B1 passengers have to routinely wait 40 minutes or more for a bus between about 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. On that day, we were able to board only because a bus that was scheduled to be not in service was ordered by a dispatcher to make unscheduled stops because he was aware that there was a problem.

This situation is not new. It has been going on for two years that I am aware of because that is how long I have been complaining to the MTA about it. I have had several meetings with operations personnel of the MTA who have continually assured me that the matter would be resolved. Most recently, I was told that a shift to something called data-based scheduling last April would solve many of the problems. It has not. To the MTA’s credit, however, they did add two buses at my request about a year ago, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., which helped out somewhat.

Sometimes the problem isn’t capacity, but just that passengers do not move to the rear of the bus. The operators rarely request passengers to move to the rear anymore. Today there were 13 passengers waiting to board the bus at West End Avenue. Eight of them were able to board because I requested the passengers to move to the rear, not the driver. Otherwise, I would have been the only one able to board after 13 B1s and several B49s already bypassed the stop.

Buses not stopping for waiting passengers is also a problem on the B49, but to a lesser extent. I also have recorded instances where half-full buses skipped stops after they left Kingsborough although passengers were waiting at the stops along Brighton Beach Avenue and Oriental Boulevard. I suspect the reason for this is that not enough time is allowed in the bus schedules, and the drivers are trying to save time. I am awaiting a response to my latest complaint of several weeks ago.

Below is the time line of buses arriving at West End Avenue on October 5. In most every case, passengers were in the front stairwell of the bus but there would have been room for at least 5 more passengers if passengers moved to the rear, more than enough room for all the passengers who wanted to board. In fact, if just two more passengers were allowed into the thirteen B1 buses that refused to stop, all intending passengers could have been accommodated 15 minutes earlier.

The MTA has a responsibility to serve the entire riding public, not just students. They also need to be adequately compensated by the City and State for the high levels of service they provide to serve high school and college students. I estimate that at least 1,500 students left the schools by bus during the half an hour I was counting. Several hundred more traveled in the other direction with the MTA providing virtually all of the service.

I arrived at my destination after 45 minutes, a trip I could have walked in 30 minutes. So why are midday bus riders primarily students? I wonder.

Time

Route

Bus #

Bus Stopped
at West End Ave

Comments
2:45 B49 Yes
2:47 B1 9178 No 8 people waiting
2:51 B1 9396 No
2:53 B1 9102 No
2:55 B1 9238 No
3:00 B49 4625 No
3:00 B1 9245 No
3:01 B49 9611 No
3:02 B1 5075 No 13 people now waiting
3:03 B49 4604 No Bus had much room
3:05 Two full yellow school buses operated by KCC   pass by.
3:05 B1 9383 No
3:05 B1 5093 No “Next Bus Please” sign
3:06 B49 9681 No
3:06 B49 9601 Yes
3:07 B49 4237 Yes
3:08 B49 9601 No
3:09 B1 9418 No
3:09 B1 9305 No
3:09 B1 5086 No
3:11 B49 5045 No
3:13 B1 9414 No
3:17 B1 5113 No
3:18 B1 9397 Yes B1 right behind picked up remaining waiting passengers. Bus 9397 made one more stop on Brighton Beach Avenue bypassing 6 waiting passengers at other stops.

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  • http://twitter.com/Lostinservice Lostinservice

    Aside from adding more buses to the line, what can the MTA do to fix this problem?

    • Allan Rosen

      I don’t think more buses are the answer in this particular case. Since most passengers only have to stand for under ten minutes, I don’t think given the MTA’s financial situation, that the crowding poses that much of a problem. The bus drivers need to request passengers to move to the rear, and the passengers need to be considerate and be able to hear the bus drivers’ requests when they are made. This can be difficult with an I-pod stuck in your ear.

      Also, with the upsurge in attacks on bus drivers, I think many are just afraid to make any announcement. I wonder whatever happened with proposals to place partitions between the operators and passengers. That may be the only solution.

      • http://twitter.com/Lostinservice Lostinservice

        Perhaps replacing a few buses with the longer two-section buses that are scheduled to arrive/depart based on kingsborough’s class schedule? Classes aren’t starting or ending every 15 minutes, they occur at specific and predictable times. This would increase capacity without needing extra buses.

        • Allan Rosen

          I don’t know what the MTA’s plan for those buses (called articulated buses) are for Brooklyn. Due to scheduling reasons, you just can’t put a few of them on a route. You have to replace all the buses on the line with them. They have their own problems. All the bus stops have to be lengthened in case two of them arrive at the bus stop at once. This means eliminating parking spaces, which is a hot issue in some neighborhoods.

          Also, when these buses get very crowded, the ones with two doors greatly slow down service. The MTA also reduces the numbers of buses on a line when it is converted to artic (four artics to five regular buses) so you get some additional capacity along with reduced service.

    • Allan Rosen

      Kingsbprough College could also agree to let the MTA move the existing Mackenzie Terminal,which is too small, onto college property as was successfully done at Staten Island Community and Queensborough Community. An off-bus payment system could be set up similar to the Select Bus Service permitting faster entires allowing the buses to make more and quicker trips. However, Kingsborough opposes this because of ‘security issues” and because they “don’t want the pollution,” although the newer buses emit far less. If the security issues at the other colleges can be addressed, why should Kingsborough be different? This is one time where the MTA wants to do the right thing and is being prevented from doing so.

  • Jeanette

    I think this is an issue for KCC to resolve. Maybe shuttle buses for the students during peak times are the answer. Why is it these issues go on for YEARS before anyone attempts to fix them?

    • Allan Rosen

      Shuttle buses are operrated during peak times by the MTA as well as by the College.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=839675042 Holly Renee Reinhardt

      Shuttle buses ARE available for KCC students. Unfortunately, they only run once bus out of the campus every, oh, 15-30 minutes or so? They should provide two or three buses every hour and ten minutes when class times change, waiting for all the students. Same thing at the train station – I have been late to my first class five times already this semester because either the MTA buses are full of students coming from Stillwell or the yellow buses are slammed and everyone’s fighting for them, so I end up waiting a good thirty minutes to get on a bus. Coming from Queens and ALREADY leaving two hours before my class to get there on time, I don’t want to have to leave another half hour earlier than I need to.
      I do think Kingsborough should keep the buses running around class schedules, but it doesn’t seem to be done that way. It’s really just a huge mess any way you slice it.

      • Allan Rosen

        I’m not sure how Kingsborough runs its buses. I think they have four of them. Sometimes they are packed and other times they only have a half dozen passengers. The problem is that when 500 students suddenly appear at once for only about 15 minutes, you just can’t make buses magically appear and each one only holds about 75 people.

        The MTA puts on a dozen extra buses that only run to Ocean Parkway. Many times they only pick up passengers in the peak direction to make the trips faster. They are only needed to Coney Island Avenue but there is no place to turn them around before Ocean Parkway. They can’t just make a U-turn like the Kingsborough buses. Double-parking along Brighton Beach Avenue and traffic only slows them down.

  • http://www.nedberke.com Ned Berke

    I went to Kingsborough HS, and the situation was the same then (of course, it was to my benefit) – so it’s been longer than two years. I can also say that when bus drivers DO say move to the back, students don’t listen. And that was in the pre-iPod era.

    • BrooklynBus

      I want to say one nice thing about Kingsborough students. Many times I’ve seen them offer their seat to the elderly. I thought it was very considerate of them. But when one of them once offered me a seat, I was highly insulted.

  • http://twitter.com/nicktherat nick the rat

    mta sucks. waiting for the b36 is hell

    • Georgia

      The B4 is like a nightmare I don’t take it no more is it still running?

    • winson

      The B36 also runs additional after school service from Lincoln High School to Coney Island while Stillwell Avenue was being rebuilt. Those extra B1 and B49 buses are needed because Leon M. Goldstein High School and KCC are severely overcrowded and there are no subway lines nearby, but seriously, students need to listen to the bus operator and not fool around and cause trouble in the bus. That is why I find them really annoying. KCC should run more shuttle bus service.

  • shmuel alef

    How about every 3rd bus or so leaving empty from KCC and then making all subsequent stops to pick up passengers?

    • Allan Rosen

      I think that would be a little wasteful since most passengers get off at the Brighton Station where the buses begin to fill up a bit. If there is always a dispatcher on duty, he could let the buses out not quite so full, but the buses still might not stop unless he makes sure there is room at the front of the bus when it leaves. I also think there needs to be more time in the schedule so the drivers are not in such a hurry.

  • Safa

    whatev

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-Zell/1012270440 Eric Zell

    They need to run the double long buses like the ones that run in the city

    • BrooklynBus

      That could work if the buses only make two stops at the College and the Brighton Station. I’m going to suggest this to them.

      • BrooklynBus

        Received a response that these buses are not available in Brooklyn, but they would like to introduce them here but can’t get them quick enough.

  • Sbayshark

    This problem is not exclusive to the B49 & B1 routes. I use the B12 every day and the same problem exists. Buses appear to be full but are not. People just are not considerate enough to move to the rear of the buses. Drivers rarely ask them to move, and they end up bypassing many customers. Personally, I believe the main problem is the new buses. There is little space inside for people to stand or move around inside them. Yes, the have more seats, but that doesn’t help those of us waiting half an hour for a bus to actually stop and pick us up.

    • BrooklynBus

      Years ago, it was common for drivers to always ask passengers to move to the rear. Some drivers would announce, this bus isn’t moving until you move back. Today the drivers are scared someone will spit on them or stab them if they ask.

  • Jdlvtrn

    It would be interesting to do additional comparison travel times between a variety of local point A’s and point B’s between (1) walking (2) walking to wherever you could find parking, driving your car, and finding parking near the goal, then walking the rest of the way (3) public transportation (4) calling car service from the street (5) riding a bicycle – just for laughs!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=195100291 Randy Contello

    im a student in kcc now… i take the b49, and i see a bunch of b1′s come and go, ill speak for the b49, many times we get 1 b49 to come and need 3, then they have the shuttle that goes to sheepsheadbay train station, the 49 is almost negelected at kcc.. many times i have been on the 49 and seen it skip the stop after turning left off Z onton ocean, its a double stop, one on 19th and Z and then again on z and ocean. and many people 5+ at the ocean and z stop get skipped over.
    a few times also on ave X or W also..

    about the articulating bus – it cant run alone that route- to many sharp turns that it couldnt make. so that kills that idea…

    what i think needs to be done is simple, the mta should make a shuttle line. that stops on campus, and runs directly/express to the station. that will leave the b1 free for local stops…

    • Allan Rosen

      It’s actually easier for an articulated bus to make a turn than a regular bus.

  • beachbaby

    why doesn’t MTA INSIST that ALL of the students fill the rear of the bus first by opening the REAR door-don’t let them sit in the front seats, save them for the elderly or disabled as they should be, put a metro card swiper in the rear of the b49 and b1 busses- it takes WAY too long for those of us who live in the area to get anywhere when school is in session

    • ajedrez

      The problem is that, unless somebody is stationed to watch the students boarding through the back, a lot of them probably won’t pay.

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  • ajedrez

    By the way Allan, it would be nice if your table showed whether people were standing in front of the white line, and if there were any standees in the back of the bus.

    By the way, what types of buses are used on the B1 and B49? When I lived in Brighton Beach, both routes used fishbowls (so the problem of not moving to the back was less prevalent). What types are used now?

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