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).