THE COMMUTE: About 25 bus riders asked questions of the MTA during the NYC Transit Riders Council Bus Forum last Wednesday before an audience of approximately 100.

Disabled riders were given priority and spoke for the first 45 minutes. Seniors were also adequately represented. Complaints ranged from buses skipping stops and stops eliminated on Manhattan crosstown routes at key transfer points, to those about bus drivers and service cutbacks of 2010. Several seniors complained that Select Bus Service (SBS) is inconvenient for them because the bus stops are too far apart. Only a few riders praised SBS as speeding their trip. The SBS route receiving the most criticism was the M34. One person stated that he is a regular user of it and it saves him a whopping 30 seconds. He added that because of the money spent on it, none is left for bus improvements in the outer boroughs. A question was asked why there are no bus stops along Ocean Parkway at Avenue Y and Avenue Z for the B1. I responded for the MTA that it was a Department of Transportation (DOT) decision to omit those stops which the MTA wanted, since I attended those discussions with DOT in 1978.

Unlike MTA hearings where Board members seem generally disinterested and do not reply to questions being asked, an attempt was made to answer every question and a promise was made to investigate ones that could not be answered. Andrew Albert, chair of the NYC Transit Riders Council, did a good job moderating and most of those on the panel listened intently and constantly took notes. The two-minute time limit was not really enforced, although speakers were advised to quickly conclude their remarks if they ran over. The meeting lasted 30 minutes longer than scheduled in order to give everyone who signed up an opportunity to speak.

A recommendation was made that separate forums be held in each of the boroughs next year because a single forum for the entire city really is inadequate. Considering there are more than one million daily bus customers, not even counting weekend riders, the approximately 25 riders who spoke amounts to less than .003 percent of riders. The following was my statement:

Statement Before NYC Transit Riders Council Bus Forum, April 25, 2012

My name is Allan Rosen. Thirty-one years ago the MTA hired me to head Bus Planning. I am now retired and writing for SheepsheadBites.com. Mr. Irick, it is a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for the cooperation I received from your staff. While problems still exist, they are trying their best to solve the ones I told them about.

I wish I could say the same for Operations Planning. They are arrogant, unresponsive and unwilling to listen to suggestions. They created a situation with the B4 and the B68 allowing for a transfer in only one direction, confusing riders. The route was cut back to Coney Island Hospital most times where the bus inefficiently sits for a 20-minute layover.

In that time it could go to and terminate at Sheepshead Bay Station, allowing for a full B68 transfer. They promised me 18 months ago to re-examine the situation, but never responded after numerous reminders. On weekends when the B4 no longer operates, a dozen livery cabs line up outside the station.

Their planning leaves much to be desired. They insist all improvements be cost neutral, refusing ones costing only a $100 a day extra and also wrongly assume service improvements will not generate additional revenue. Demand lost to car services is not even considered.

B4 elimination in Sheepshead Bay forces riders going to Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge to make an indirect subway trip to Downtown Brooklyn instead of traveling by a direct bus route. That is why bus ridership is declining while subway ridership is increasing.

Curtailing bus routes, severing connections necessitating more trips require extra buses and additional fares are disincentives for bus use. Statistics show many of the routes cut now operate less efficiently.

Although insufficient patronage to restore the B4 is claimed, Select Bus Service next year will double B44 service south of Avenue U. The B44 on Emmons Avenue will only carry about six per bus, the same number of riders carried by the B4 before its elimination most of the day.

SBS is trying to force riders to use the IRT rather the Brighton line, by providing three times the amount of service in rush hours as the B4. The B44 SBS should operate to Sheepshead Bay Station supplementing deficient B36 service instead of going to Knapp Street.

Transfers between the SBS and the local should not prevent a second transfer to another bus or subway.

Seniors cannot walk a half-mile to a bus. Many riders who currently use the Limited Bus will be forced to take the local slowing their ride.

Other efficiencies could be made. Some routes could benefit from separate Friday schedules. B1 ridership is less than half on Friday afternoons yet you run almost the same numbers of buses.

Afternoon B49 shuttles to Sheepshead Bay Station only carry a dozen riders per bus. Through buses could use the pre-1978 routing during those times making their second stop at Avenue Z, saving 15 minutes. I could send you details.

Thank you for your time.

Quarterly Routine Service Adjustments

Twenty-one bus schedules are changing on 17 routes citywide, effective July 1. [PDF: See pages 48-51 of the MTA Report] Fifteen of the 21 schedules will result in less service while the remaining six schedules will see additional service. No routes in our area are affected. The changes are supposedly cost neutral. I say “supposedly” because we are asked to take the MTA’s word. There is no transparency. The table on Page 51 shows the percentage change in revenue miles for each schedule change. In order to determine if the changes are indeed cost neutral, changes in actual revenue mileage (not percentages) or a dollar change for each schedule change needs to be shown. Beach routes such as the B1, B49 and B68 used to get additional summer weekend service. None is shown for this summer. Not all routine adjustments are cost neutral. Adjustments for April saved $700,000 to reflect reduced ridership.

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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  • Flatbush Depot

    “The B44 on Emmons Avenue will only carry about six per bus, the same
    number of riders carried by the B4 before its elimination most of the
    day.”

    Possibly.

    “SBS is trying to force riders to use the IRT rather the Brighton line,
    by providing three times the amount of service in rush hours as the B4.”

    And this is a problem because…?

    “The B44 SBS should operate to Sheepshead Bay Station supplementing
    deficient B36 service instead of going to Knapp Street.”

    No.

    • Allan Rosen

      If you can’t justify keeping the B4 at 6 riders per bus, you can’t justify the B44 either at 6 riders per bus.  It would definitely get more riders if it used Avenue Z to Sheepshead Bay Station.

      It is a problem because people should be able to go where ever they want to. You should not design a system to encourage certain travel patterns at the expense of others.  You don’t eliminate a direct bus route to force people to take an indirect subway ride when they prefer the bus.  That’s the problem. 

      • Flatbush Depot

        Alright. At least 3000 people live in Plumb Beach according to the 2010 New York Times census map. Approximately how many of the people that live in Plumb Beach work someplace that is served directly by the B44 local, B44 SBS, (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), B36, B3, B7, and/or B82 but not the B4, (B), (D), (F), (M), (N), (Q), or (R)?

        If the B44 SBS takes 16 minutes to get from the first stop to Flatbush Ave, 14 from Emmons/Nostrand, 11 from Nostrand/”X”, 9 from Nostrand/”U”, and 5 from Nostrand/Kings, and the (2) takes 45 minutes to get from Flatbush Ave to Times Sq and the (5) takes 40 minutes to get from Flatbush Ave to Union Sq while the (Q) or (B) to (Q) from Sheepshead Bay takes 40 to get to Union Sq and 45 to get to Times Sq, then exactly what indirectitude is being caused by my taking the IRT?

        As much as everybody wants to make it seem like the (B)(Q) are more direct because they do not serve Lower Manhattan, they still take 8-9 minutes to get from DeKalb to Grand or Canal because of the speed restrictions on the bridge, so it makes little to no difference which train you use unless you want the major destinations of Chinatown, any location along 6th Ave, 7th Ave/53rd St, Columbus Circle, 7th Ave/49th St, 7th Ave/57th St, or 5th Ave/59th St. The (2)(5) take 3-4 minutes to get from Borough Hall or Clark St to Bowling Green or Wall St.

        The (B)(Q) are also less frequent and more crowded than the (2)(5), at least where it matters most (Sheepshead Bay station and Flatbush/Nostrand Aves) for the people we are discussing (eastern Sheepshead Bay and Plumb Beach residents). Based on what I have seen the (B) has a decent amount of room most of the time but the (Q) is always SRO at Sheepshead Bay during rush hours. Other than the Brighton express service provided by the (B), which only matters if you want the major destinations of Chinatown, any location along 6th Ave, 7th Ave/53rd St, Columbus Circle, 7th Ave/49th St, 7th Ave/57th St, or 5th Ave/59th St, the lack of crowding on the (B) relative to the (Q) is the only thing in its favor.

        If people know fully well that the B44 SBS to the (2)(5) from Nostrand/”X” in addition to a maximum of 3 extra minutes of walking is just as fast or faster and more comfortable and/or predictable than the B36 from Nostrand/”W” or “Y” to the (Q), but they continue to use the B36 and (Q), both of which are very crowded, then that is their problem and nobody else’s, not even the MTA’s. It is not the MTA’s job to keep encouraging ridership on the (Q) if the (Q) is much more crowded and less frequent than the (2)(5) and there actually are a lot of major destinations that the (2)(5) serve directly but the (B)(Q) do not.

        Even for Atlantic Terminal it may not make much of a difference which train you use if you live in Plumb Beach, because the (B)(Q) leave you an extra 30 feet below street level than the (2)(5) (and (3)(4) for that matter), and the (B) takes 20 minutes to get from Sheepshead Bay to Atlantic while the (5) takes 17-20. Assuming no wait time for any bus or train and no stops to buy anything from any store or Metrocard vending machine or do anything else, the maximum travel time from the front of somebody’s apartment building in Plumb Beach to the physical (B) train itself is 17 minutes. To the physical (5) train itself the time is 22. 39-42 vs. 37. Big difference. And, the IRT leaves me 20 feet below street level rather than 50.

        And the B44 is indirect right now because it takes 25-31 minutes to get from the first stop to the Junction, which is ridiculous and probably contributes to the overcrowding of the (Q) because it makes no sense to take the B44 from anywhere in Sheepshead Bay to the (2)(5) to go just about anywhere between Prospect Park and Central Park right now because the B44 is so slow. Right now it makes more sense to take a crosstown bus to the (B)(Q) and transfer to the IRT at whatever transit hub. After the B44 becomes SBS it will not make sense for most who live south of “U” to do this and thus it eliminates a transfer, making the system easier to use.

        And again the funny thing is that even though the B44 takes such a long time to reach Flatbush Ave right now, one poster wrote here a year ago that many people she knows have given up on the B36 and take the B44 to the (2)(5) instead. This is not something I agree with now due to the slowness of the B44, but if the B44 SBS is as fast as I said it will be and the difference between 3 extra minutes of walking and taking the B44 SBS to Flatbush Ave and then the IRT to wherever and taking the B36 to Sheepshead Bay Rd and then the BMT to wherever is not significant (and this varies from person to person and depends on where they are going), then I will agree with this.

        If the people do not know that the B44 SBS is a decent alternative due to its faster speed, then I will sympathize with them since MTA is good for not getting the word out and you can disregard many of my statements. So far nobody has given me a good reason as to why the B44 SBS should be slower than I said it would be (I changed my stop-by-stop estimates from a few months ago, so if you want me to post the latest ones or send them to you, I will gladly do so), and I hope the people get informed about the actual performance of the B44 SBS and what they gain by using it so that they do not have to be restricted to the B36 and (Q). Not mentioning the (B) because again, from what I have seen and heard it is not that crowded.

        • Beach Boy

          Sheepshead residents don’t want to transfer from the 2/5 in the Junction, especially in the winter when it gets dark early. The Sheepshead Bay station is a much safer area to make that transfer.

          • Flatbush Depot

            I disagree with the second part. And the notion that the Junction is unsafe is archaic. More people use the station there than the one at Sheepshead Bay Rd, so you have more company at the Junction than at Sheepshead Bay Rd. And, the Junction is being developed more and is becoming safer as time goes on.

            Again, it is not the MTA’s job to keep encouraging ridership on the (Q) if the
            (Q) is much more crowded and less frequent than the (2)(5) and there
            actually are a lot of major destinations that the (2)(5) serve
            directly but the (B)(Q) do not. Encouraging ridership on the (Q) when it is already crowded just leads to longer dwell times at stations, more complaints about crowded trains, and more complaints about whatever else people can complain about. And, increased crowding discourages ridership especially when people have to stand for such a long a period of time.

            Curiously enough, both Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay station lost ridership between 2010 and 2011.

          • Allan Rosen

            See my other post. The Q is not that crowded as you say it is. Also sometimes people’s perception of crime is as important as the actual crime rate itself. The Junction, which may be improving is still not regarded as a safe place to transfer. I bet you if the MTA offered service from the Rockaways to the Brighton line, more people woud use it than the Q35 to e Junction.

          • Flatbush Depot

            “See my other post. The Q is not that crowded as you say it is.”
            Fair enough. My error.

            “The Junction, which may be improving is still not regarded as a safe place to transfer.”

            Oh well. Not MTA’s problem.

            “I bet you if the MTA offered service from the Rockaways to the Brighton line, more people woud use it than the Q35 to e Junction.”

            Circuitous.

            I guess my only leg left to stand on is that fact that the (B)(Q) do not serve every major destination, so this is where the (2)(5) come in, to preclude people from making transfers. Or the BM3.

            Still not sold on the whole thing about the differences in crowding between the (B)(Q) and (2)(5).

            Also, this:

            “You can always get a seat at Flatbush Avenue if you are willing to miss a train or two so there is a slight advantage in the mornings to using the 2 and 5.”

            You could also just get on the first train out and move to the adjacent car when the doors open at Newkirk Ave if you cannot get a seat in the car you board at Flatbush Ave. Not sure how often that happens. It is very easy to see the people in the adjacent car at the non-cab ends of the NTTs (New Tech Trains, including R142s, R142As, R143s, and R160s).

            Given the fact that at least 3000 people live in Plumb Beach and a lot of people come from other parts of Brooklyn to work there, is it safe to say that a bus line running every 3 minutes rush hours and 7 minutes off hours has the potential to pick up at least 15 people per bus in Plumb Beach? I do not see why not.

        • Allan Rosen

          First of all, when I spoke of trip indirectness, the example I used was going from Sheepshead Bay to Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst.  I stated making that trip involved a transfer in Downtown Brooklyn and an requiring an indirect subway trip instead of a direct trip using the B4.  I never stated that using the 2 or 5 was indirect for Manhattan trips versus the B or Q.  I don’t know where you got that from.  Directness is determined by where you want to go.

          As far as the Q being overcrowded with room on the B, I think you’ve got it a little backwards.  During the morning rush, you can get a seat on the B about half the time at Sheepshead Bay. You can always get a seat on the Q.  By Prospect Park loads are fairly even with the B slightly more crowded. The 2 and the 5 are always more crowded than the B and Q because the IRT uses narrower cars.  You can always get a seat at Flatbush Avenue if you are willing to miss a train or two so there is a slight advantage in the mornings to using the 2 and 5.  

          However, coming back to Brooklyn in the PM rush, if you are boarding in midtown, you stand a greater chance of getting a seat on the B or Q than you do on the 2 or 5, so the advantage is reversed. So some riders might prefer using the 2 and 5 in the morning and returning home with the B or Q. That’s why it should be just as easy to take the B4 or B36 as it is to use the B44.  You shouldn’t have to wait 20 minutes for one bus and less than three for the other.

          • Flatbush Depot

            Sorry. Did not realize you were referring to the Bay Ridge-Sheepshead Bay trip. I do agree with you on that one. It is bad that people have to take at least one bus and two trains rather than just one bus.

            The times I have seen the (B) and (Q) I have seen more people on the (Q). That one varies from situation to situation and time of day.

            Not sure if the (2)(5) are always more crowded. I doubt it has much to do with the size of the cars because this is offset by the superior frequency of the (2)(5). The (B)(Q) also carry more people south of Prospect Park. In fact I asked my friend who takes the (4) from Utica to Nevins or Borough Hall for the (2)(3) during the AM rush if the (2)(4) are crowded when he uses them and he said no. And, he sits at the back end of both trains which I would think is the most crowded part since the busiest entrances to the Flatbush Ave and Utica Ave stations are at the south and west ends of the stations, respectively.

            A few times during PM rush hour I have observed Brooklyn-bound (5)s at Grand Central and the front of the train (which is where you want to be to transfer to the B44 at Flatbush) has always had seats available. And, when I rode the trains to Flatbush Ave from GCT I sat in the front car and the car never became SRO.

            And I still agree with you about the fact that the B4 and B36 should be just as easy to use.

          • Allan Rosen

            Granted it was a long time ago, but from 1967 to 1977 I boarded the IRT at Utica Avenue everyday during the morning rush and usually returned home during the evening rush. From 1978 to 1980 and from 1981 to 1996 used the Brighton line at Sheepshead Bay or Brighton Beach every day, so I have long experience with both lines and I can tell you the IRT is much more crowded than the Brighton Line. The only place where the IRT is more crowded is on the Lexington Line to and from the Bronx. The Brighton line only gets as crowded as the IRT when there is a delay. For the IRT, crush crowding in routine much of the time. During the rush hours.

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