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THE COMMUTE: Given the choice, most people would choose to take a train rather than a bus, unless they have a problem with stairs or walking. That is because the train is more reliable and much quicker. However, in most situations, one does not have that choice. If it is a short distance, the choice is usually to take the bus or walk. For longer distances, it is bus or car service. Yes, there are those who bike or skateboard, but they are the exception rather than the rule. I am also referring to those without access to an automobile, since that will probably be your mode of choice, unless parking is limited at your destination or origin.

So what exactly is the role of the bus? What should it be, and how can we make buses more effective? First we need to discuss the different types of buses and bus routes. In New York City we have the local bus, limited stop bus, express buses, and now Select Bus Service, operated by the MTA.

The vast majority of bus routes are local buses. By and large, the routes were designed to complement the subways, to serve areas devoid of subway service. In some cases they parallel subways or act as feeders to them. In Queens, most are feeders, with intraborough travel even more difficult than in Brooklyn. On heavy routes, locals are supplemented with limited stop buses, which do exactly as the name implies, stopping every quarter to half mile instead of every second or third city block to provide a speedier service. Select Bus Service is a faster version of Limited, with stops spaced even further apart, every half mile to three quarters of a mile, with other characteristics such as paying your fare before you board. In a few cases, a Limited route exists without a local counterpart, such as the B103. Virtually all express bus routes, which charge twice the local fare, have one end of the route in Manhattan and usually operate from areas without subway service.

The Bus As A Second Class Citizen

Buses have never received the respect they deserve, relegated to stepchild status in cities that also have subways. While considerable amounts of money are spent to build and upgrade bus depots and to supply new equipment, there is not enough investment in making the mode more effective. Buses are usually slow, plagued by traffic due to having to share lanes with other traffic, and the serious affliction of bus bunching affecting virtually every local route. Most of the MTA’s attention and bias is directed toward the subway and rails.

One of the reasons I became interested in buses is because of their huge potential and advantages over a fixed rail system, a potential that has never been realized. That advantage is flexibility. Whereas once you build a subway or a rail line, which is also much more expensive, the routing system is fairly limited. On the other hand, a bus can operate on any street that is wide enough to handle it and can make turns onto any other street provided there is a sufficient turning radius given the street geometry and the size of the vehicle.

Realistically, opposition from locals prevents buses from operating on many residential streets, and routes rarely change. In fact, back in the days of streetcars, and the early days of buses in the 1930s, routes were far more flexible than they are today and were modified quite often. Although streetcars or trolleys were limited by a fixed rail system, there were special routes that operated to the beaches only in the summer and open air trolleys purchased specifically for that purpose. Also, many streets had more than a single route operating on them.

Today, when we only have buses and no streetcars or light rail, it is the exception rather than the rule when a single street carries more than one route. Third, Lexington, Madison, and Fifth avenues in Manhattan are notable exceptions, each carrying three or four local bus routes just because that is the way it has been historically. Perhaps so many routes are no longer necessary on those streets. Perhaps busy streets in other boroughs, such as Flatbush Avenue or Utica Avenue, should also have three or four routes. Those options have never been explored.

Although bus routes are supposed to be spaced about every half-mile in medium to high density areas, because studies have shown that most people are not willing to walk more than about a quarter-mile to a local bus route, that standard is not adhered to in many areas for a number of reasons, making access to some areas difficult. Sometimes a bus route has never existed and other times there is no suitable street for a bus to operate on.

In some cases, the bus routes are outdated, making it inconvenient and time consuming to transfer by requiring passengers to make indirect trips or necessitating that you double back part of the distance already traveled when making a transfer. Sometimes a route is too long, such as the B6, trying to accomplish too many purposes, making it difficult to adhere to a schedule. Other times, the route is a single purpose route that is too short with limited connectivity, such as the B2, making it inefficient for other reasons.

While there have been some advances during the past decades regarding bus service such as reducing the fare impediment for trips requiring more than one bus, a bus and a train, or an express bus and a local bus, some trips still require a double fare. Also, those types of trips have increased as a result of the 2010 service cutbacks, with the MTA ending a 70-year-old policy that no service changes result in extra fares.

Buses are also more comfortable today than they were in years past, with reliable air-conditioning; low floors eliminating steps, allowing for quicker loading; smoother rides, their ability to kneel and accept wheelchairs; less air pollution; quieter operation, and articulated buses providing additional seating. Despite all these improvements, the general unreliability of buses, outdated routes, the lack of a bus route where needed, and indirect or slow routes, have caused ridership to steadily decline in recent years, while subway ridership is at an all time high.

The Potential

What is so “express” about an express bus route that takes over an hour to get to your destination in Manhattan? Could they be made faster? Why can’t we also have express buses between boroughs other than Manhattan, where there might be enough demand, and where the trip could be quicker than by subway? Not sure if they are legal, but now there are express buses privately operated between Chinatown and Flushing. Why can’t this concept be expanded to express airport buses from major centers, for example? I remember when there were express buses between Sheepshead Bay and the racetracks operated by the Pioneer Bus Corporation. Why can’t there be more interborough routes, say for example, a half dozen local routes between Brooklyn and Staten Island, or between The Bronx and Queens? Why have all local bus routes between Brooklyn and Manhattan been eliminated? Why are there no local routes operating through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel?

Why couldn’t there be routes utilizing vehicles holding 20 to 40 passengers, if the demand isn’t great enough for a full size bus, as MTA Board Member Charles Moerdler recently asked? Why can’t local bus routes be modified, whenever needs change, instead of remaining stagnant for 50 years or longer? The potential for a much improved bus system is there, but has never been explored. Select Bus Service, which originally was proposed to be an extra layer of service to supplement limited stop service and be instituted rapidly, has become instead only a cost-saving technique replacing Limiteds and getting bogged down for years in the planning and approval stages.

The MTA does not consider latent demand, i.e. potential ridership, and is just focused on servicing the existing ridership. It is also too preoccupied with reducing costs, not allowing for investments to be made to expand service that would increase operating costs. In some cases, potential demand could offset a small increase in operating expenses of several hundred dollars per day, yet such suggestions are rejected. Demand for better bus service is greater than ever, especially now that the price of gasoline is rising steadily, discouraging automobile use. Instead, any service expansion involving a route change must be accompanied by a corresponding service decrease, as dictated by MTA policymakers.

Tomorrow: The causes of bus bunching, potential solutions and an example of MTA responsiveness.

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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  • LLQBTT

    Excellent start.  I always thought that instead of cancelling the B71, that it be extended through the BBT to lower Manhattan.  At least from Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Columbia Heights (really Red Hook!) that it would provide the 1 seat ride downtown that is missing along the F, and also take some of the load off the F which is regularly overcrowded at that point of its route.

    • Allan Rosen

      I wanted to keep the article general and not get bogged down with specific route change proposals but yours seems like an excellent idea where there is probably a market for that service.

  • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

    Not crashing into buildings would make them more effective too….

    …too soon?

    • BrooklynBus

      Could that black four door sedan been a car service cutting off the bus?

      • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

        I can’t tell from the angle of the photos but is that black wrecked sedan the same as the camry from the other angle? 

        If you tell by the license plate that it’s not a legal car service, if it was it would have a TLC plate. 

        Even if it’s not the same car, the one that’s wrecked doesn’t have any car service decals or phone number.

        Could a wreckless livery cab driver have cut off the bus and spooked the driver into causing the accident, sure, almost certainly. Then again any wreckless or unskilled driver could have. Doesn’t seem to be the case here.

        You realize I was just trying to make a joke right?

        • ES

          Most accounts I’ve read seem to indicate that the Meals on Wheels truck ran the red light and is the cause of the collision.

        • BrooklynBus

          You realize that I was also making a joke too? Didn’t expect you to take me seriously.

          • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

            One way or the other, my very literal reply is pretty damned funny.

    • ShadowLock

       OHHHH SNAP.

  • http://twitter.com/nicktherat Nick the Rat

    as long as the buses actually ran ON SCHEDULE, everything would be totally ok.. the b36 is horrible at this :( BTW, i am not in sheepsheadbay any more :( i live near johns deli now. :P

    • Allan Rosen

      That certainly is the major complaint (more on that tomorrow) but is definitely not the only problem.

    • Andrew

      When headways are less than 10-15 minutes, maintaining evenly spaced service is more important to riders than maintaining an absolute timetable.

  • Stinky61

    Hmmmm, maybe people should rethink the ferry stuff. There’s a heckuva a lot of people live by the waters of Rockaway, Canarsie, S. Bay, Coney, Bay Ridge….. How come other cities can do it? Why is everything so damned hard to do here?

    • Andrew

      Throw enough money at them and ferries will work here too. They’re a lot more costly than the subway or even probably bus-plus-subway.

  • Flatbush Depot

    Awesome article. I would say this is your best one yet.

    • Allan Rosen

      Thanks but it isn’t finished yet.  Tomorrow is Part 2.

  • Saulmiller

    B71 was supposed to be extended via BBT but cancelled due to budget cuts. B69 i think should run via Ikea,Union Street via Vanderbulit regular.

  • Andrew

    For a change, I agree with much of what you say here.

    But I’d warn against promoting express buses too strongly. Their operating costs per passenger are extremely high, due to the generous loading guideline (a seated load), the lack of turnover (each seat is occupied by no more than one passenger), and the heavily peaked nature. Despite the lower fare for a local bus and subway, if much of the trip can be made by subway (as is the case for nearly all express bus routes), it’s far more efficient for the bus to carry riders only as far as the subway. The express bus system developed in the 60′s and 70′s, when the subway system was unreliable and highly unpleasant, and I don’t think it should be expanded further.

    Running buses between boroughs other than Manhattan is an interesting idea. There already are many buses between Brooklyn and Queens, plus two Brooklyn-SI buses (S53/S93 and S79) and two Queens-Bronx buses (Q44 and Q50). In all four cases, the buses connect with major transit hubs on either or both sides. There may be room for more interborough buses, but I don’t think express buses make sense, since destinations are widely dispersed. Serving transit hubs allows riders to transfer to trains or other buses that will take them to their destinations.  http://www.humantransit.org/2009/04/why-transferring-is-good-for-you-and-good-for-your-city.html

    Aside from major transportation hubs (like Grand Central, which has direct buses to both JFK and LGA), the demand for direct bus service to airports is not high enough to support express buses. (The local buses which run to the airports now also serve local trips.) Although this isn’t very convenient from the Sheepshead Bay area, AirTrain, with connections from the subway or LIRR, is a better route to JFK from most major transportation hubs.

    The two Brooklyn-Manhattan local routes were discontinued because of low ridership and very easy subway alternates for most riders, all with spare capacity.

    The number of different bus routes on a street is less relevant than the combined frequency. A single bus route that runs every 5 minutes gets more service than three bus routes that each run every 20. Multiple routes allow people to reach more destinations without transferring, but at the expense of frequency on each branch. The B41 on Flatbush already has two branches, and it has both local and limited service. Would it somehow change anything if there were four different numbers for the four distinct services?

    Restructuring service invariably inconveniences some riders. Since people who are negatively affected are far more likely to complain than people who are positively affected (who might not even realize that they’re positively affected until after the service change has been adopted), NYCT generally shies away from making major changes without a very compelling reason. That’s politics in action. Smaller service changes take place all the time, but if you’re only focused on one corner of one borough, you might not realize it.

    Very few trips require a double fare – far fewer than in 1996. It’s an unfortunate change, but not, in my opinion, an unreasonable one.

    The impetus behind articulated buses was to reduce operating costs, not to provide additional seating. When articulated buses replace standard buses, frequencies are reduced, although not on a seat-by-seat (or standee-by-standee) basis. Over-the-road coaches have been used since the late 90′s on express buses for the same reason.

    In 2008, the B71 and B77 were approved for an extension through the tunnel to Manhattan as part of a large package of service improvements. Unfortunately, the economy went kaput shortly thereafter, and most of the planned improvements were never implemented. It’s not clear to me that it was a good idea, since tunnel delays would have delayed service even for riders within Brooklyn. If reliability is important, it’s best to stay away from major river crossings.

    Minibuses only make sense on lines that always operate on policy headways and never fill up. Otherwise, running minibuses means running more buses, which means paying more bus operators. The most expensive part of a bus is its driver.

    The MTA most certainly does consider latent demand in its ridership modeling. But right now, as you know, the MTA is facing an unprecedented budgetary crisis, and while I’d love to see new and improved services, I can’t argue with the current policy to keep operating costs down. Remember that a new rider on a new route doesn’t bring in new revenue if he used to ride a different route. Standard schedule adjustments to increase or decrease frequencies as ridership goes up or down are the best we have for now.

    • Allan Rosen

      Wow! A compliment from Andrew.  Is this a dream or what?

      Maybe you misunderstood, but I was not promoting more express buses between the other boroughs and Manhattan.  I was promoting express or similar type buses between neighborhood hubs like Main Street, Flushing or the Junction where there are numerous transfers available. I agree with your statements regarding express buses.

      I didn’t specify, but I didn’t mean to infer that these buses had to operate every 15 minutes.  In some cases, only several trips a day may be necessary.  It would be more for discretionary trips where riders could alter the time of their trip to the bus schedule which would be adhered to.

      Regarding the B39 and B51 which you allude to, yes they were lightly used, and there are reasons for that.  People are reluctant to use a bus when it means they would have to take two or three of them and then a train as well, which probably would incur more than one fare.  Both routes were no more than shuttle routes which served very few people directly.

      The B39 was the remnant of numerous trolley routes that once used the Williamsburg Bridge and at that time usage over the bridge was heavy.  You can argue that the trolleys were quicker because they had their own lane, but that is not the complete answer why they were utilized much more than the B39. No change was required which meant no extra wait and inconvenience.

      Regarding the B51, few know the route’s history. This was never a route that the MTA wanted, so they had no incentive for it to ever succeed and did little to make it a success. I was suggested to the MTA by Community Boards specifically to help the elderly and handicapped and those who did not want to stand in overcrowded trains.  The MTA fought for about 15 years against the route which was proposed to start at Grand Army Plaza and end at City Hall.  That route never ran, so we don’t know how successful it would have been.  The MTA finally relented when they saw the community just wouldn’t give up and implemented a scaled down version just from Brooklyn Borough Hall to City Hall (a route preferred by many Borough Presidents. That’s a joke.). It always had minimal service.

      Now I’m not advocating these routes should have been maintained, just stating what happened.

      You’re missing my point regarding the B41. I’m not merely suggesting the numbering be changed but the possibility of more destinations at the southern end like perhaps a branch that could serve the unserved Albany Avenue area like turning from Flatbush into Clarendon Road, Albany Avenue, Avenue K and Utica Avenue to Kings Plaza. The route also could begin at Grand Army Plaza or Empire Boulevard instead of Downtown Brooklyn.

      You are 100% correct with your paragraph beginning “Restructuring.”  And yes I do realize it. I’m not really talking about small changes like altering a turnaround which are frequent occurrences.

      I disagree with you about the double fare.  While you may think it is insignificant and it probably is in terms of numbers, it is a great deterrent from using mass transit.  There was no logical reason for the MTA to change a policy in effect for 75 years, other than they thought they could get away with it and no one would notice. Did you know that there are still some three bus trips allowed for one fare, although the MTA does not publicize it? So changing the policy didn’t even simplify anything.

      You are also correct about minibuses.  There is little use for them on existing routes, but they could be efficiently used in areas with light demand perhaps on new routes or ones discontinued like the B71.

      Operating costs should be considered with potential new revenue and this is not done.  Please explain to me when the MTA has ever considered latent demand and what modeling you are speaking of.  The only models I am aware of are for predicting general regional trends, not for route planning.  You can’t plan routes with 13 year old census data.

      As far as I know all MTA planning is based on ridership counts and Metrocard data.  Please enlighten me how this involves latent demand.  They don’t even look at car service trip volumes if that is available anywhere, which would be a good indicator of latent demand.

      • Andrew

        Maybe you misunderstood, but I was not promoting more express buses between the other boroughs and Manhattan.  I was promoting express or similar type buses between neighborhood hubs like Main Street, Flushing or the Junction where there are numerous transfers available. I agree with your statements regarding express buses.

        So you’re referring to buses like the Q44 and Q50 between Queens and the Bronx? Those I have no objection to as long as ridership is adequate. The Junction already has the Q35. What else would you recommend?

        I didn’t specify, but I didn’t mean to infer that these buses had to operate every 15 minutes.  In some cases, only several trips a day may be necessary.  It would be more for discretionary trips where riders could alter the time of their trip to the bus schedule which would be adhered to.

        Buses that run so infrequently are virtually unmarketable. Almost all potential riders will find better ways to get where they’re going.

        Regarding the B39 and B51 which you allude to, yes they were lightly used, and there are reasons for that.  People are reluctant to use a bus when it means they would have to take two or three of them and then a train as well, which probably would incur more than one fare.  Both routes were no more than shuttle routes which served very few people directly.

        The B39 was the remnant of numerous trolley routes that once used the Williamsburg Bridge and at that time usage over the bridge was heavy.  You can argue that the trolleys were quicker because they had their own lane, but that is not the complete answer why they were utilized much more than the B39. No change was required which meant no extra wait and inconvenience.

        A dedicated lane provided something even more important to trolleys: immunity from delays due to traffic congestion. If through buses run in shared traffic lanes over the Williamsburg Bridge, then riders on those buses within Brooklyn – the vast majority of riders – will be subject to bridge-related traffic delays.

        If the Manhattan end of the bridge were a major destination or an important transfer point, then a case could be made for some sort of through service. But it isn’t a particularly big destination, and the same subway transfers are essentially available at either end of the bridge (the F doesn’t run to Marcy Avenue, but the M, which serves the same Manhattan trunk, does).

        There is no good reason to run through bus service over the Williamsburg Bridge, and there are at least two reasons why through service would be bad.

        Regarding the B51, few know the route’s history. This was never a route that the MTA wanted, so they had no incentive for it to ever succeed and did little to make it a success. I was suggested to the MTA by Community Boards specifically to help the elderly and handicapped and those who did not want to stand in overcrowded trains.  The MTA fought for about 15 years against the route which was proposed to start at Grand Army Plaza and end at City Hall.  That route never ran, so we don’t know how successful it would have been.  The MTA finally relented when they saw the community just wouldn’t give up and implemented a scaled down version just from Brooklyn Borough Hall to City Hall (a route preferred by many Borough Presidents. That’s a joke.). It always had minimal service.

        So it sounds like it was never a good idea from the start. The MTA shouldn’t be spending its operating budget catering to small groups who could ride the subway but prefer buses.

        You’re missing my point regarding the B41. I’m not merely suggesting the numbering be changed but the possibility of more destinations at the southern end like perhaps a branch that could serve the unserved Albany Avenue area like turning from Flatbush into Clarendon Road, Albany Avenue, Avenue K and Utica Avenue to Kings Plaza.

        The more branches there are, the less service runs on each branch. Are you sure it makes sense to dilute service on the existing branches?

        The route also could begin at Grand Army Plaza or Empire Boulevard instead of Downtown Brooklyn.

        What is the peak load point on the B41? If it’s south of Grand Army Plaza, then turning some buses at GAP might make sense. If it’s north of Grand Army Plaza, then turning some buses at GAP would be a terrible idea.

        I disagree with you about the double fare.  While you may think it is insignificant and it probably is in terms of numbers, it is a great deterrent from using mass transit.  

        It is a blip of a deterrent in comparison to the unlimited-ride and free-transfer incentives that came about 15 years ago.

        There was no logical reason for the MTA to change a policy in effect for 75 years, other than they thought they could get away with it and no one would notice. Did you know that there are still some three bus trips allowed for one fare, although the MTA does not publicize it? So changing the policy didn’t even simplify anything.

        It prevented things from getting even more complicated than they are already.

        You are also correct about minibuses.  There is little use for them on existing routes, but they could be efficiently used in areas with light demand perhaps on new routes or ones discontinued like the B71.

        No they couldn’t. The primary cost to running a bus is labor. If it wasn’t worth paying a driver to drive the B71 with full-size buses, then it still isn’t worth paying a driver to drive the B71 with small buses.

        Operating costs should be considered with potential new revenue and this is not done.  

        Prove it.

        • Allan Rosen

          “The Junction already has the Q35. What else would you recommend?”

          Since Rockaway has such poor options I see no reason why a route couldn’t operate from B 116 Street paralleling the Q35 but turn into Avenue U and Knapp Street (alternate via Belt Parkway) to operate along Emmons Avenue, Ocean Avenue and Avenue Z to Sheepshead Bay Station.  That would obliterate the need for the B4 east of Sheepshead Bay Station.

          “Buses that run so infrequently are virtually unmarketable.”

          I don’t agree.  It’s just that riders here, unlike Long Islanders, are not used to a schedule. It’s not that hard to plan your activity around a schedule if there is a significant time savings. Many trips within the city can take 2 1/2 to 3 hours using traditional means if multiple transfers and fares are involved. There is a bus from Brighton Beach to Toronto that leaves around 6PM once every Thursday and it gets filled. Demand exists although much of it is not recognized because no one does any studies to find out people’s needs.

          “There is no good reason to run through bus service over the Williamsburg Bridge, and there are at least two reasons why through service would be bad.”

          Once B44SBS gets underway, it should be looked into. People would take the B44SBS and transfer to the M15SBS rather than taking a bus and two subways although that is not the type of trip we would like to encourage if it means taking people out of the trains. However, if it encourages more weekend trips to Manhattan that otherwise would not be made or trips that are currently made by car, that would be a good thing.  It needs to be investigated.

          “(B51 comment) The MTA shouldn’t be spending its operating budget catering to small groups who could ride the subway but prefer buses.”

          It’s not that those subways aren’t overcrowded. Of course they would prefer the bus if it were a more comfortable ride. But the MTA is not in the business of making transit comfortable, only barely tolerable, but then we ask those same people to give up their car and use mass transit instead.  Sort of contradictory messages. Wouldn’t you agree?

          “The more branches there are, the less service runs on each branch. Are you sure it makes sense to dilute service on the existing branches?”

          Didn’t say it should be done. I was only pointing out that where it does exist like on Fifth Avenue, no one questions it, but if the same idea is suggested elsewhere, it is considered radical and there are a million reasons why it should not be done. We just need to think a little more out of the box instead of merely accepting what is just because it is there.

          “What is the peak load point on the B41? If it’s south of Grand Army Plaza, then turning some buses at GAP might make sense. If it’s north of Grand Army Plaza, then turning some buses at GAP would be a terrible idea.”

          I’m not sure but a route like the B41 probably has multiple peak load points because there is high turnover especially in the middle of the route. Few ride the route for the bulk of its length. One peak load point would be just south of the Junction where people get on and off for the subway.  Ridership then starts picking up again and buses are full again around Church Avenue. Between that point and about 7th Avenue there is heavy turnover at every transfer point. Then there would be another peak load point between about Atlantic Avenue and about Hoyt Street.

          My thought has always been that on heavy routes, there should be many overlapping short services with not that many buses going end to end during the peak hours since few riders actually use long bus routes from one end to the other.  It would be much easier to keep a schedule because a traffic delay on one end of the route would not affect the entire route as it does presently.

          “It is a blip of a deterrent (double fares) in comparison to the unlimited-ride and free-transfer incentives that came about 15 years ago.”

          Unless you are the one who is affected like someone who has a disease that only 500 people get.  Guess there shouldn’t be any research for those types of diseases because those people just don’t count.  As more routes are truncated, it becomes more of a problem.  The MTA should make it easier to access bus routes not more difficult by eliminating connections because that only causes additional patronage losses and more service cuts.

          “It prevented things from getting even more complicated than they are already.”

          Sometimes fairness outweighs complication. Would you have supported the B61 split if it meant an additional fare for some?

          “The primary cost to running a bus is labor. If it wasn’t worth paying a driver to drive the B71 with full-size buses, then it still isn’t worth paying a driver to drive the B71 with small buses.”

          Yes, labor is the predominant cost but how do you know it wasn’t worth running the bus?  Just because the MTA said so?  Do you realize how they calculated maintenance costs? They were overestimated.  Although there were only two or three buses on the B71, far fewer than on a typical route having 16 or 20 buses, the MTA made no such distinction and applied an average bus maintenance cost for all routes where discontinuation was proposed according to the depot where the route emanated from.

          If a route is near borderline in the MTA’s decision to discontinue it, the gas savings by using smaller vehicles could make the difference in deciding to keep it. Also, historical trends like the B71′s patronage increased by 29% in the previous five years were ignored.

          “(Operating costs should be considered with potential new revenue and this is not done.)  Prove it!”

          Because in all my discussions with the MTA beginning in 1974 when I was at the Department of City Planning, they constantly repeated that they do not take into account any possible increased patronage when making their calculations if a route should be extended. “It would be nice if new riders were encouraged, and if that happens it would just be gravy.” It wasn’t something they would plan for. The assumption was if mileage was added, it would operate empty with no new passengers. The only time I saw them account for new patronage was the diversion of the bus route to the Racino.  By some amazing coincidence the additional revenue expected just happened to exactly cover the increased operating cost. No back up was provided how they estimated that additional recenue.

          Similarly, and you can see this from the 2010 cutbacks, that except for late night service, it was assumed that there were always alternate routes so that no passengers would be lost if a route was cut. For example it was assumed that all former B71 passengers would use the B65 and all former B4 passengers would now take the B36.  One year later, passenger counts revealed that ridership was down on both the B65 and B36, proving the MTA wrong that riders did not use the alternatives proposed but either no longer made their trip or switched to car service or walking instead.

          The fact is that when you add service you get new passengers and when you cut service you lose passengers, although the MTA almost always assumes patronage remains the same in both cases. The question is if you will get enough new passengers to pay for any service extension.
           

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  • gustaajedrez

    I don’t necessarily think streets like Utica Avenue and Flatbush Avenue (which already has 3 routes for a portion of the street, plus dollar vans) should necessarily have 4 routes. I mean, the route itself is very frequent, which is what really matters.

    • Allan Rosen

      I wasn’t saying they should or they shouldn’t.  I was merely pointing out how the current routings to a large degree are accidents of history.  Fifth and Third Avenues have so many routes because there were several private companies competing for the same clientele.  If Fifth Avenue Coach operated all the routes on Fifth Avenue (and I am not sure if that was the case), they figured that by offering so many destinations people would use their company even if it meant walking a few extra blocks to get there.  First Avenue on the other hand has been operated by the NYCTA since 1953 which is why there is only one route there. 

      There is no othere rationale why First Avenue should have one route and Fifth Avenue have 4.  If the situation was reversed, no one would question it.  They would just accept it because that’s the way it is.  If there were four routes on Utica Avenue with multiple destinations, each running every 10 or 15 minutes instead of one operating much more frequently because of some historical accident, you wouldn’t question that either.  All routes weren’t planned for the reasons you may think.

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  • Fredrick Wells

    This is a good point about local bus service via the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (which may also include the Queens/Midtown Tunnel to Brooklyn as well). The B71 should have never been eliminated as the route could have been combined with the B14 and extended to Lower Manhattan via the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. There could have been a new S63 bus route to Howland Hook in Staten Island and the rerouting of the S76 bus route to Bay Ridge for more Staten Island service, branch off the M15 or extend the M14A to the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza to replace the B39, extend the M9 to Fulton Mall, extend the B69 to City Hall in Manhattan, extend the Q33 to Williamsburg Bridge Plaza and implement a new B21 bus route replacing the B23 as a service between Bay Ridge and JFK Airport in Queens.

  • Fredrick Wells

    I may disagree with the concept that a route is too long because the B6 will accomplish end to end travel along the route in 70 to 75 minutes (run times must not exceed 100 minutes to allow transfers between buses [customers are given 2 hours plus an additional 18 minutes for transfer connections]) and the longest local route (the S78) will accomplish St. Geroge Ferry to Bricktown Mall in 95 minutes.

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