THE COMMUTE: In Part 1, I outlined my reasons for a new bus route to the Rockaways, an extension of the B31 to Bensonhurst, combination of the B2 and B100, and partially restoring the B4 to serve Neptune Avenue in Brighton Beach. Today I discuss the remaining proposals.
Operation Of MTA’s Proposed B44 Select Bus Service (SBS) to Sheepshead Bay Station Instead Of To Knapp Street
The MTA maintains that they cannot afford to operate routes such as the B4, which carry as little as six passengers per bus, yet they are proposing to boost B44 Nostrand Avenue service from every four minutes in the rush hours — when you count both locals and limiteds — to every three minutes. The B44 will also only carry about six passengers per bus south of Avenue Z, operating much more frequently than the B4, when it operates at all. Where is the logic?
The MTA is hoping that the SBS’s quicker ride will encourage just enough riders to switch from the B4, which goes to Sheepshead Bay Station, to the 2 and 5 at the Flatbush-Nostrand Junction. Then they will use the reduced B4 ridership figures to justify full-time cutting back of the B4 to Coney Island Hospital as they tried to do in 2009 and again in 2010. They only partially succeeded the second time, because I intervened by providing them with my own ridership counts.
It is my belief that Plumb Beach residents want access to Sheepshead Bay Station, not the Flatbush Avenue Station, which the MTA prefers they use instead. Also, there have been many complaints regarding B36 service, which used to be much better when the MTA also provided shuttle service between Avenue U and the Sheepshead Bay Station. That service was discontinued a number of years ago and assured riders that a bus would most likely be waiting at the station during the evening rush hours instead of being subjected to delays along the entire route.
We have the opportunity to improve B36 service by asking the MTA to instead reroute the B44 SBS to Sheepshead Bay Station where they would be well-utilized instead of providing these additional B44 buses to Knapp Street where they are not needed. My proposal would operate B44 SBSs along the B36’s route, stopping only once at Bedford Avenue and Avenue Z. A redesign and some reconstruction of the intersection of Sheepshead Bay Road, Avenue Z and East 14th Street would be required for the articulated buses to be able to navigate the turn. Those are the types of buses the MTA will be using for the SBS. The terminus would be in front of the current B36 stop where the car services currently illegally line up. The bus would return to Avenue Z using Jerome Avenue and East 17th Street. The proposed B4 terminus would be on Avenue Z, just west of East 15th Street.
B36 complaints would be greatly reduced since the number of seats would more than triple when you include the added B44 SBS capacity. It makes much more sense than operating longer buses to carry six passengers south of Avenue Z and the B4 not operating at all, which will most likely be the case within five years if the MTA has is way.
Of course, as with any change, there is also a downside. Plumb Beach residents would not get direct SBS access to the Flatbush Avenue Station. They would have to change for the SBS at Avenue Z. The MTA would also be required to change its policy of not counting a transfer between a local and an SBS bus so that an additional change to the subway or another bus could be made for the same fare.
A further advantage to this plan is that many Kingsborough Community College students currently using the B49 would be able to use the B44 SBS instead in the off-peak direction, where there would be available capacity, and crowding on the B49 would be reduced. They would transfer at Sheepshead Bay Station for the B49 where additional shuttle buses to the college would be provided, or the B44 SBS could be extended non-stop to the college for peak trips around 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. The B49 Limited would no longer be needed.
Last September, at one of the MTA B44 SBS workshops, I approached Ted Orosz, the MTA project leader, with this suggestion to modify the B44 SBS. He promised that he will look in to it and, if the idea is feasible and the community is solidly behind it, they would entertain the change.
The alternative of operating the B44 SBS to Plumb Beach and the local to Sheepshead Bay Station is not feasible because the SBS would have to operate as a local south of Avenue Z with additional pre-payment kiosks having to be installed at a substantial cost.
Equal Headways For B44 Locals And SBSs
The MTA is proposing rush hour SBS service of every five minutes and local service every 10 minutes. This makes no sense because the SBS buses will have 50 more seats than the locals, which will continue to use standard buses. The headways on the locals and SBS’s should be equal at all times to prevent overcrowding on the locals. This is likely, since some current Limited riders will switch to the local instead of to the SBS. Two-thirds of the Limited bus stops will not be converted to SBS, and New York Avenue will not get replacement service for the Limited buses. SBS buses will operate along Rogers Avenue, two avenue blocks away. If you are going to Albany Avenue, it becomes a real problem to use SBS.
Many of the elderly and those having difficulty walking will be unable to take advantage of the quicker SBS service, because of not being able to walk a half-mile, or up to three-quarters of a mile in some cases, to the closest stop. There is no reason why anyone should have a slower trip by having to switch from the Limited to the local as a result of SBS. There will be no SBS stops at Avenues R and L and other Limited stops will be lost as well, unless the communities insist they be retained as SBS stops. The MTA should allow a free transfer between the local and the SBS, which does not preclude a second transfer to another bus or train, regardless if they accept my SBS proposal or not.
Return Of The B64 To Coney Island
Although not directly affecting Sheepshead Bay and its surrounding neighborhoods, I am also proposing that the MTA return the B64 to its former routing in Bensonhurst where it was truncated to 25th Avenue. Coney Island is being revitalized, but yet we are making access to it more difficult. I will not go into all the other reasons why this route needs to be restored.
Come to the Town Hall this Thursday whether you support these plans or not, or if you have your own ideas that you would like to share about how the MTA can improve our service. For years, the MTA has been telling us what they are going to do for us. Now it is our turn to tell them what we want them to do for us.
Where there is a will there is a way. In the 1970s, the MTA and privately-operated bus companies told the Borough Park and Williamsburg communities that there was no demand for bus service between those communities. They knew the demand was there, so they just started their own bus company, which was not taken over by the MTA like the others because it still operates without any subsidy. The MTA was proven wrong yet again.
We don’t have to start our own company, but if we all get behind a single set of bus improvement proposals and get our elected officials to support us, the MTA will have to listen to the will of the people. Hope to see you on Thursday.
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).