THE COMMUTE: New beachgoers getting off the bus at Manhattan Beach have been lugging their beach gear down the 600-foot ocean block of Ocean Avenue for 50 years only to discover when they get to the end of the block, both entrances are permanently closed and they then have to walk all the way back or hop the fence. That has finally changed. Two new signs (pictured above) will greet them this summer when they get off the bus, but why has it taken so long?
Nothing was done until now because no one cared enough to take any action. That was until a resident on the block, Mike Baglivo, tired of repeatedly directing beachgoers to the proper entrance, with the help of Councilman Nelson’s office, got the signs installed. According to Baglivo, “Nelson’s office kept on top of the issue until it was resolved.” They even phoned him to confirm the work was completed. The entire process took about nine months.
Why the entrances to the beach and playground on this block remain closed all these years is another matter. A playground entrance and one of the beach entrances are near the church before the residences, so I never quite understood that. In fact around 2005, when Parks inadvertently left that beach entrance open for most of the entire summer, massive numbers of beachgoers were not drawn to it.
The demise of a bus route
Changing gears – in the 1960s, the B2 bus route was among the borough’s most heavily utilized routes with rush hour service every two minutes and 10-minute service on weekends. The 1970s fiscal crisis saw bus service cutbacks across the board. Unlike the recent ones that targeted lightly utilized routes, the cutbacks of the 1970s did the exact opposite by focusing on the most heavily utilized routes. Service on the B2 – Avenue R route along with the B46 – Utica Avenue route, and others, saw rush hour service cut in half from every two minutes to every four minutes, sparking what eventually became the dollar van services.
The reason was that cutting service on the busiest routes resulted in more operational savings than cutting under-utilized routes. The MTA had no idea the degree to which buses were utilized during various portions of the day, so lines that were the most crowded had the most service reduced. The MTA rationalized the cuts by stating passengers would only have to wait an additional minute or two for a bus. It was not until 1985 that employees were hired specifically to count bus passengers allowing the MTA to get a handle on bus usage. What has not changed is that they still focus on reducing operating costs not considering the effect that reduced service has on revenue.
In fact, while I was taking the picture of the new parking sign on Saturday, I informed a potential passenger that the bus no longer operates on weekends. I tried to give him alternate directions to his destination. However, I forgot that he could take the B100 one block away. When I inaccurately told him that two buses would be required, he told me he would just take a cab. What would be so difficult for the MTA to post signage at each bus stop directing potential passengers to the B100 on weekends?
Skipping back to the early 1990s, after Brighton line express service is restored after several years of skip stop service. It is decided to reroute the B31 from the local Avenue U station to the Kings Highway express station. The route now duplicates the B2 along Avenue R instead of the B3 along Avenue U and the MTA promises that B2 service will not be reduced as a result.
However, buses along Avenue U become overloaded due to the loss of the B31 and the MTA is forced to increase B3 service three months later. The additional B31 on Avenue R causes some B2 passengers to be diverted to it, so B2 service is reduced despite the promises made. The B9 was extended to Kings Plaza resulting in some subway passengers using that route instead of the B2 to access Kings Plaza further reducing weekend demand.
When overnight bus service is cut across the city to every 60 minutes, the MTA sees an opportunity. Since the B2 was such a short route, requiring only one bus to provide 30-minute service, the MTA reasoned that residents of Marine Park did not deserve such frequent service, so they cut the route entirely after midnight.
If MTA Operations Planning were more astute, they would have known that there was no demand for overnight bus service to Kings Plaza after the last movie ended. Instead of discontinuing the B2 between midnight and 6 a.m., they could have rerouted the B46 Utica Avenue route from Kings Plaza along the B2 route at Utica Avenue and Avenue S during overnight hours at no additional cost, providing hourly service to and from Kings Highway Station for those who needed it.
Why mention this now
Last June, the MTA took yet another step to destroy the B2. Due to declining ridership as a result of continued service reductions over the years, the rerouting of the B31, the extension of the B9 to Kings Plaza, and the closing of the Kings Plaza Cinemas, B2 weekend service was eliminated.
Marine Park residents questioned why weekend parking at B2 bus stops should not be allowed. It took almost nine months, but our friends at DOT did comply and the signs were finally changed to allow weekend parking.
However, just as no one other than myself protested the B4 service discontinuation in Sheepshead Bay, no one suggested allowing parking at B4 bus stops during the hours the B4 no longer operates. So a similar change was not made in Sheepshead Bay. Parking continues to be banned at stops previously used solely by the B4 during middays and on weekends; and residents still complain about inadequate parking.
Nine months seem like a long period of time for such simple changes, but anyone who has tried to get a bureaucratic agency to make any changes, knows that even small accomplishments like these are no less than miracles.
The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).