THE COMMUTE: “Making Every Dollar Count” has been Jay Walder’s slogan since taking over as Chairman of the MTA, but is he really doing that? Last week’s article focused on restoring the B4. I suggested that a service restoration resulting from last June’s service cutbacks could be paid for by operating separate school open schedules for Fridays on certain routes because of lower bus usage on Friday afternoons. I stated that buses leaving Kingsborough College around 3:00 p.m. left the school nearly empty because of a half-day Friday schedule. So on Friday, April 29, I decided to count buses and passengers for two hours from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Oriental Boulevard and West End Avenue to see how correct I was.
Most of the buses were not nearly empty as I stated, but they were underutilized. Here is what I found: Between 2:45 and 3:15 p.m., 19 buses left the college in service with an average of 21 passengers per bus. When I surveyed the buses during the same time period on October 5, 2010, which fell on a Tuesday, I estimated that 1,500 students were transported on 22 buses or an average of 65 passengers per bus. The number of buses last Friday was 13 percent less, but the number of passengers carried was more than two-thirds less. In fact, when you consider the entire two-hour period during which I was surveying, there were 1,220 passengers going in the westbound direction in two-hours on a Friday (fewer than what I counted in one-half hour on a Tuesday) or an average of 22 passengers per bus. So what conclusions can be drawn?
While it would not be responsible to say that on Fridays, service could be reduced by two-thirds, since the peak load point could occur further down the lines of the B1 and B49, and that a minimum service interval somewhere between six and 12 minutes needs to be maintained, we can definitely conclude that some of the extra school service provided on Fridays is not necessary, perhaps about one-third of the service or maybe even more. Although some of the B1 extra service to Ocean Parkway would still be necessary, it is clear that the two extra B49 buses to Sheepshead Bay Station at this time are not necessary, carrying only one or three passengers to the station, (with probably similar numbers in the eastbound direction) and many other trips are also not needed.
Although I can’t provide dollar figure as to how much could be saved, reducing service by one-third would save 18 trips each week. It seems reasonable to conclude just from the two hours I surveyed, that those savings could pay for restoring weekday B4 service at three trips per hour or partial weekend service. Had I surveyed for longer, it is possible that enough savings could be found to pay for a full restoration of B4 service, since KCC also has no evening classes on Fridays. The savings could be multiplied with additional Friday “School Open” schedules if other colleges also have half-day schedules on Fridays.
Here are some other interesting facts: Even though buses were averaging every five or six minutes on each route, passengers on the B49 still had to wait up to 13 minutes for a bus because one bus refused to stop and pick up three passengers although it was only carrying about 40 passengers. B1 passengers desiring to ride past 25th Avenue had to wait up to 17 minutes for a bus because a bus with only 25 passengers displayed its “Next Bus Please” sign and also refused to stop for passengers. I have been complaining for several years about buses bypassing stops when there is plenty of room on the bus and was promised once again by MTA field personnel just two weeks ago that steps would be taken to prevent this; yet the problem remains.
In certain instances it would make sense for a late bus to display “Next Bus Please” when it is overcrowded and there is another bus a few minutes behind, in order to help get the bus back on schedule. It is unacceptable when the bus still has seats available and passengers have to wait another six minutes for a bus that has all its seats taken, as occurred with the B49.
The MTA does an admirable job serving the large number of Kingsborough students, but there is clearly room for more efficiency and more attention needs to be paid to non-students. Buses with room must stop for passengers. The MTA has to start thinking outside the box. Just because they never provided separate Friday “School Open” schedules” does not mean they cannot start this practice now and apply the savings to restoring service cutbacks that never should have been made in the first place.
Providing more attention to reducing bus bunching so that a full bus is not followed immediately by one or two nearly empty buses would result in huge savings citywide. Additional bus service to major traffic generators (such as Maimonides Hospital or the Gateway Mall) needs to be provided; service gaps need to be filled and outdated bus routes need to be modified if the MTA is to get back on track and get away from its mode of merely reducing service. Attention has to be paid to potential revenue generated by providing improved service and those improvements have to be made.
Here are the numbers from my counts. Now you have the ammunition to go and fight for the B4. Good luck.
|Time||Route||Destination||Bus #||# of Passengers||Comments|
|2:00||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||4225||40|
|2:01||B49||Sheepshead Bay Sta.||4238||3|
|2:05||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||9489||61|
|2:05||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||9674||23|
|2:10||B49||Sheepshead Bay Sta.||4590||1|
|2:10||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||9409||30|
|2:13||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||4583||30|
|2:16||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||5120||18|
|2:19||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||4229||7|
|2:25||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||9658||18|
|2:31||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||5194||15|
|2:33||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||5096||17|
|2:34||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||4238||17|
|2:40||B1||25th Ave / 86 St.||9394||43|
|2:42||B49||“Next Bus Please”||4226||40||Bypassed stop; 3 waiting|
|2:43||B1||Ocean Pky||9420||71||Bypassed stop|
|2:45||B1||“Next Bus Please”||9092||25||Bypassed stop|
|2:48||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||4580||53||Passengers waiting up to 13 min.|
|2:50||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||5109||66||17 minutes since last 4 Av bus|
|2:53||B1||13th Ave / 86 St.||5091||42|
|2:54||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||4575||32|
|2:58||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||9085||23|
|2:58||B1||13th Ave / 86 St.||9183||9|
|3:02||B1||25th Ave / 86 St.||9428||2|
|3:04||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||8864||17|
|3:04||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||9429||24|
|3:06||B1||13th Ave / 86 St.||9093||22|
|3:09||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||4245||15|
|3:10||B1||25th Ave / 86 St.||9108||22|
|3:11||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||9390||3|
|3:16||B1||25th Ave / 86 St.||5089||25|
|3:17||B1||13th Ave / 86 St.||9309||8|
|3:23||B49||Blank sign||5790||27||14 min since last B49 bus|
|3:23||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||9389||24|
|3:24||B1||25th Ave / 86 St.||9092||0|
|3:24||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||4611||5|
|3:29||B1||25th Ave / 86 St.||8910||35|
|3:32||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||4598||15|
|3:32||B49||Not in Service||9672||–|
|3:33||B1||25th Ave / 86 St.||9416||8|
|3:38||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||9231||9||15 min. since last 4 Av bus|
|3:40||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||4628||10|
|3:45||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||9112||12|
|3:49||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||5135||30|
|3:52||B1||4th Ave / 86 St.||9401||20|
|3:55||B49||Bed Stuy / Fulton St||5129||16|
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).