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.

In light of the Select Bus Service / Bus Rapid Transit meeting held at Brooklyn College, I came to the following conclusion: SBS along Nostrand Avenue needs to be scrapped. Not because drivers are against it, or because some parking spaces would be lost, but because it is just a poor idea and will not work.

The reason is simple. Unlike on Fordham Road or Second Avenue where people ride significant distances on the buses and can save more than just a few minutes, no one uses the B44 to ride from Sheepshead Bay to Williamsburg, potentially saving them up to 15 minutes.  Instead people ride between Sheepshead Bay and the Nostrand Avenue subway terminal at Flatbush Avenue, or between Midwood and Crown Heights, between Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, or between Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy. So the average passenger stands to save no more than four to eight minutes.

Stops are further apart than the B44 Limited, so you have to walk further to get the bus. Since the SBS stops are separate from the local stops, the benefit of combined headways is lost unless you want to be running from one stop to the next. In other words you will have to commit yourself to either the local or the SBS, not being able to take the bus that comes first. The service will be halved along New York Avenue and doubled along Rogers, making it more difficult to access Kings County Hospital.

The communities have every reason to be skeptical of the MTA, NYCDOT and SBS when the story continually changes. In 2005, the MTA stated that SBS would be an additional layer of service on top of local and limited service. In 2010, the same MTA person stated that SBS would replace Limited and told CB 15 that the exclusive bus lane would not apply in their Board.  Now they are proposing the loss of a needed traffic lane between Emmons Avenue and Avenue X.

Elsewhere, in Flatbush using a traffic lane is now proposed instead of using a parking lane for SBS as was originally proposed. Anyone who drives in Brooklyn already knows how difficult it is to get around by car.  The loss of a vital traffic lane without providing for left turn lanes would result in north-south gridlock across Central Brooklyn during rush hours. Providing left turn lanes would involve the loss of many more parking spaces.

Switching from car to SBS is only an option if both your origin and destination happens to lie in the Nostrand Avenue Corridor. Any transferring to east west routes would require a minimum of 60 to 90 minutes per trip and is not an option for anyone who owns a car.

Bottom line is there are other ways to save six minutes (such as strict enforcement of double parking laws on bus routes) without all this expense and inconvenience of SBS. It simply makes no sense as presently structured and is merely a service cut masquerading as a service improvement.

B44 SBS could work is if it continued over the Williamsburg Bridge and connected to the First and Second Avenue SBS, but that would take people out of the trains. Do we even want to do that when operating trains is more efficient than operating buses?  Also, the lost service on New York Avenue needs to be replaced with reinstituting the B23 Cortelyou Road route eliminated last June, and extending it to Kings County Hospital or Crown Heights. The B49 needs to be rerouted off Rogers and onto Ocean Avenue so as not to provide a glut of service along Rogers. Other routes need to be changed as well so that the B44 SBS operates along the same route as the local, not to confuse people more by making an already complex system even more complex.  This route is being planned in a vacuum and that is only part of the problem.

At least Robert Moses did whatever he wanted without any sham community meetings. Why not just pick another route that will work better than ram something down peoples’ throats they don’t want or need and will cause much more inconvenience to motorists than benefits to bus passengers?

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  • levp

    Another big question is, how does MTA expect to get paid?

    Take a look at the Sheepshead Bay Road stop on Seagate-bound B36. During rush hours, half the riders enter the bus through the rear door. And this is on the “normal” route – I fully expect only 30% of riders to pay on the SBS route.

    After a while MTA will have even bigger budget deficit, causing them to raise fares, and so on.

    • Pine44

      What do you mean ‘half the riders enter the bus through the rear door’? Is that true? These people should be locked up. Get the cops there and start busting them. Why should the fare paying public be subsidizing these Sheepshead Bay crimminals? Are they kids? Where are their parents? Don’t they teach them that that is stealing? Why not get some pics or video of them doing this and put it up on here for everyone to see who is robbing the fare paying and tax paying public?

    • Andrew

      On the B36, riders only get ticketed if they’re caught by a cop entering without paying the fare.  Once they’re on the bus, they’re in the clear.

      On SBS, an inspector can get on at any time and demand proof of payment.  Anybody without a receipt is fined $100.

      It seems to me that fare evasion will be lower on SBS than on a traditional bus with a fare evasion problem, not higher.  Am I wrong?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    I suppose that for years the MTA has been trying to find a suitable substitute for an extended Nostrand Avenue train route. But this is a comparable method of doing so.

    Could a limited version which merely runs from Sheepshead Bay to the Junction be more viable? Probably not.

    Or what about extending the Limited as an express stop bus from Avenue U to the south end of the B44 route?

    • Allan Rosen

      The MTA has not been trying for years to find a replacement for the Nostrand Avenue Subway. The only reasons why this effort is being undertaken is because it is entirely funded by the Feds and DOT. (1) The MTA pays nothing as far as I know; (2) Fewer stops and a bus lane mean a quicker running time saving operating expenses. It’s main purpose is not to help the rider, but to give the impression they are improving the system and reduce operating costs. The added inconvenience to others has not even been measured.

      A version from Sheepshead Bay to the Junction would not be more viable. Probably the opposite is true, that the portion north of the Junction is more viable because of the synchronized lights and operation on one-way streets where cars having to make left turns do not pose added problems as in Sheepshead Bay.

      The SBS will be express south of Avenue U to Emmons. Those buses will be virtually empty, bypassing stops with people waiting. Really make a lot of sense. Also, I was informed by someone more familiar with the usage of the B44 than myself, that relatively few Sheepshead Bay riders even use the bus to go to the subway at the Junction, most preferring an east-west bus to the Brighton Line. Subway boarding doesn’t really begin until after Avenue M, so the majority of subway riders will only save around two minutes. Only those riding for the long haul, for example between Kings County Hospital and Sheepshead Bay would save perhaps ten minutes at the most, but will lose five of those minutes having to walk from Rogers to New York Avenue in the northbound direction. You can read more here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/html/next/rogers_ave.shtml

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