THE COMMUTE: On Friday, I discussed the proposed reduction to bus service along the B36 line and elsewhere. I find it a bit odd that no change is proposed for B1 service, because, as a result of my article last October and an e-mail to the head of  Bus Operations, six representatives from MTA Bus Operations met with me shortly thereafter to discuss the problem and to develop solutions.

After their own study, I was told they would be recommending additional B1 service. That recommendation would have had to be approved by the MTA’s Operations Planning Department who prepares bus and subway schedules. So why is the B1 schedule unchanged? How does the MTA decide which schedules to change and how much service to provide anyway?

They do this by utilizing traffic checkers, those people you may have seen riding the bus in orange vests with a pad and paper, recording the number of passengers getting on and off the bus. (MetroCard data from turnstiles provides the data for subways.  Since MetroCards do not show which bus stop was boarded, that data has to be supplemented by data from traffic checkers.)

The question arises why the MTA would not heed a recommendation from their own Bus Operations personnel.  They also seem to ignore complaints from bus operators. Several have stated to me that the schedules on the B1 cannot be met leading to late buses and buses arriving in pairs.  The Schedules division is reluctant to add time to bus schedules (the time it takes for the bus to travel between two points), because it raises the cost on paper to provide that service.  Employees always want to show their bosses that they are saving money, not spending more.

The MTA needs to be more customer service-oriented and less concerned with how numbers look on a piece of paper.  Unrealistic schedules help no one and are detrimental to providing good service. Its planning process needs to be made more transparent, while still giving them the flexibility to make routine changes without being burdened by having to hold additional public hearings.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

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  • Cindy

    9:30 this morning waited for a B36 for 35 minutes on Nostrand and Y – during that time 9 B44 passed us by – yes I said 9!!!! And they were mostly empty – when the B36 finally decided to show up another one was behind him – what is up with this??

    • levp

      Exactly my experience as well.
      During morning rush, even on good days, there are on average 3 (empty) B44 buses for each B36.

      After Ave. Z stop B36 becomes so packed that a driver sometimes skips E 27th, Bedford and E 23rd stops altogether – kind of “Limited” service. Or should I simply say limited service?

      • Barkingspider7

        It is the same on Nostrand and Emmons – every morning the same thing. 3 B44′s (2 out of 3, empty 1 with maybe 3 passengers), 1 B49 (obviously the driver goes home at night to sleep rather than do his job), then finally the B4. Our driver is the same every morning and very dependable as far as sticking to the time table, so nobody waits too long.

    • Allan Rosen

      The MTA really needs to pay more attention to minimize bus bunching. It has been the number one complaint of bus riders for over 40 years.

      • Allan Rosen
      • Anonymous

        Last Thursday, the day of the umpteenth snowstorm, I was walking up Prospect Park Southwest, trying to catch a B68 bus. I saw two of them pass me by within 2 minutes of each other. When I got to the Pritchard Circle stop where the bus starts its run the next bus came about 30 minutes later.

        • Allan Rosen

          A couple of weeks ago I was on the B36 (not during a snowstorm) near Coney Island Hospital. There were three B36s in one direction, and 4 in the other direction. That’s about all the buses on the route. Any wonder there is a 45 minute wait?

          • Anonymous

            I do hope that I understand you correctly in that you believe there should be more than one bus on that route.

          • Allan Rosen

            Don’t understand you. What do you mean more than one bus? There are like 8. I was talking about how the buses are bunched together, not the lack of buses.

  • Anonymous

    That will be the day! This is the same MTA whose Chairman called public hearings “procedural”.

    http://www.wnyc.org/articles/wnyc-news/2010/jun/09/mtas-proposed-layoffs-get-another-hearing/

    Whenever they seek “input” from “customers” the decision’s already been made to adversely affect our travel and finances. Going your way? We’re the MTA and we don’t know and we don’t care! That’s just tough!

    What happens next is people accept it all too many times.

    • Allan Rosen

      Not exactly true.

      Walder said that because he didn’t believe that legally they were required to hold hearings. He was pissed, so he said that.

      They actually did listen to a few passengers regarding the bus cuts. They even told me that the numbers I presented to them showing two buses with 25 and 35 passengers on the B4 during the mid-afternoon was the reason they decided to maintain partial weekday service in Sheepshead Bay. Their original proposal called for the B4 to terminate at Coney Island Hospital at all times. I’m now trying to get it extended to Sheepshead Bay Station, but thus far have not been successful.

      But you are correct. People have to complain more. The phone number for Brooklyn Bus operations is: 646-252-5872. Letting out your frustrations here won’t do anything. The more complaints they receive, the more they will investigate issues. No complaints mean that people are satisfied with the service, the way they loolk at it..

      • Anonymous

        One of the last times I was able to go to a public hearing most of the members of the MTA board were sleeping during the proceedings. The only one who seemed to awake or even paying attention was Peter Kalikow, who kept pacing back and forth. Betsy Gotbaum was a hoot, snoring away. It showed me how little they care.

        Sometimes passenger capacity is often affected by the convenience of the bus service provided. This is why more people around here are more concerned abou getting their cars out of the snow than shoveling the sidewalks and corners people have to walk on. Perhaps, if the buses were more convenient, say running every 10 minutes, then more passengers would be on them. Given the difference in cost between owning and maintaining an automobile and using public transit most would choose the MTA over the expense of a car. But the gross inconvenience of waiting 20 to 40 minutes for a bus with a rude driver makes the use of a private vehicle more attractive. It’s more attractive at least, to those who can afford it. The rest of us are trapped and forced to use a system where the managers of that system are ever increasingly incompetent and inconsiderate.

        • Allan Rosen

          My experience was different. I went to one of the hearings in March, the first time in 9 years I attended an MTA hearing. The NYCT President paid very close attention and listened to every word I said.

          As far as Betsy Gotbaum is concerned, I called her office once when she was Public Advocate. In all my years of dealing with government, never have I been treated more rudely than when I called her office. You can’t expect every bus to run every 10 minutes. The problem is not knowing when one is going to come, 5 minutes or 30 minutes. If you knew the schedule and they showed up when they should, it wouldn’t be much of a problem. The way I see it, 50% of the time the bus system works just great, and the other half of the time, it is awful. It’s like a crap shoot.

          I’ve had few problems with drivers and think the lower level employees are more concerned with providing good service than upper management who only seem to be concerned with costs.

          • Anonymous

            Thank you Allen. The bus schedules are a crap shoot indeed! I’ve learned to barely believe those posted schedules. I suspect there might be the possibility of more frequent or regular buses if they didn’t bunch them up like they do. Have you ever taken the crosstown bus at 34th Street. That one is the king of the “bunch” for doing that.

            I was on the M14a bus a few months ago when the driver got up and had a shouting match with a passenger because the person had complained to him about the signage at the stop. I’ve had drivers curse at me and other passengers and had one tell us he wasn’t going to move the bus until we stopped complaining that he was late. Even if one is stressed out on the job it is an example of highly unprofessional behavior. One never takes it out on the customer.

          • Allan Rosen

            There are always a few bad apples among the drivers. Last week the driver stopped at the end of a bus stop because a Fed Exp truck was stopped in front. Then the truck left, so I asked the driver to move up so I wouldn’t have to trudge an extra hundred feet in the snow. He refused, saying he was in the bus stop. I just wouldn’t get off until he begrudingly moved the bus to the proper place he supposed to stop at. The only other arguments I’ve had are with drivers who refused to open their door to pick up passengers when there was room in the back of the bus.

            Regarding 34th Street, you may be in luck.

            http://secondavenuesagas.com/2011/01/27/waiting-for-a-transitway-on-34th-st/

          • Anonymous

            Thanks for the link Allen. It is not surprising that some don’t like the idea of a dedicated transitway. As this quote shows:

            “In reality, improving bus service — a laudable goal in New York City where buses are known not for speed but for their snail’s pace — riles up a vocal minority of residents who feel threatened by improvements to what they view as a second-class means of transportation”

            I’ve encountered these kind of pompous, self serving people before. In New York City, where a good majority of people walk to their destinations or take public transit there are people who want to put on airs and believe that the “car is king”. This isn’t a rural area like most parts of Pennsylvania where the SEPTA service is dismal if not available at all. Though some of those people I knew in PA who drove told me they would take the bus if it ran more frequently than every hour on the hour. They would have appreciated saving some money on the use of their vehicles.