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
1:59 B1 Ocean Pky 5089 41
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
2:06 B1 Ocean Pky 9420 20
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
2:14 B1 Ocean Pky 9416 16
2:16 B1 4th Ave / 86 St. 5120 18
2:18 B49 Ave. S 5195 7
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 Ocean Pky 5089 45
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 9108 7
2:43 B1 Ocean Pky 9420 71 Bypassed stop
2:45 B1 “Next Bus Please” 9092 25 Bypassed stop
2:46 B1 Ocean Pky 9389 11
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
2:55 B1 Ocean Pky 9416 20
2:58 B49 Ave. S 4590 2
2:58 B1 4th Ave / 86 St. 9085 23
2:58 B1 13th Ave / 86 St. 9183 9
3:00 B1 Ocean Pky 9231 3
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 Empire Blvd 9603 15
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).

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  • Brooklyn2Brooklyn

    Good Article, Allan.

    • nolastname

      I hope the MTA puts in the time and effort you did for this well developed article.

  • winson

    KCC should really just increase their free shuttle bus service to Brighton Beach and Stillwell Avenue than putting a burden on the MTA to transport its students. If only the IRT Nostrand Avenue Line was extended down there as planned in the 1930s or the LIRR Manhattan Beach Line kept, this would not be a big deal.

    • Anonymous

      The question really is who should be paying for school bus services which has grown tremendously over the years all over he City and who can provide these services more efficiently. More shuttle bus services would definitely help out the MTA. Most people have no idea how much money the MTA spends on school service. The City and State supposed to help out, but the agreements are complicated and the MTA gets screwed. I don’t think the yellow buses provide more than 10% of the service and I don’t think the college wants to provide more. They only got involved because students were having difficulty getting to class on time when MTA buses were delayed. They definitely help out when the regular buses are delayed and take a small burden off the MTA.

      In most localities the City provides school bus service. In NYC that is usually done only for elementary schools with a large burden falling on the MTA. Every school bus supplied by the MTA is one less yellow bus Bloomberg has to supply which is why the City should really be subsidizing the MTA for all the school extra service.

      • Barkingspider7

        I think that high school and college students are old enough to pay for their own transportation. NYC is the only place where students above Jr High level get free bus passes. It’s rediculous. They should get part time jobs. Maybe they should get a little discount, but not half fare.

        • Anonymous

          There are many who would disagree with you. I never got a pass when I went to college, but my expenses were also much lower then.

        • ajedrez

          College students do not get free or 1/2 price Student MetroCards: Only high school students do.

          And the reason why a lot of cities don’t offer any discounts is because those cities are more dependant on school buses, so the regular buses are most likely not going ot be used for activities directly related to school (so they’re alright with letting a student going to an after-school activity pay a fare to get there)

          If NYC had to provide that much school bus service for the students, the cost would be astronomical.

          • Allan Rosen

            Thanks for the clarification. Bloomberg really has to pay the MTA more to provide these services.

            Years ago, I know that Kingsborough students used to receive special bus transfers at certain locations permitting hem to take three buses for one fare. I’m sure those were discoutinued when MetroCard started allowing bus to subway tansfers or when MetroCard was first introduced.

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