THE COMMUTE: (Here is Part 1 from last week). The B44 is different from other Select Bus Service (SBS) routes because the SBS will not take the same route as the local. It will utilize Rogers Avenue northbound instead of New York Avenue, making it more difficult to access Kings County Hospital. It will also provide a glut of northbound bus service on Rogers Avenue while cutting New York Avenue service by 50 percent.

Another difference is that it will not use all articulated buses as the M15 and Bx12 do, or all standard length buses as the S79 and S78 do. The B44 SBS will use the longer articulated buses, but the locals will continue to use the standard length buses, as last proposed. Wouldn’t that mean there should be more locals than SBS buses on the B44? The MTA does not think so.

In fact, local service will most likely be reduced when the SBS is implemented, further overcrowding the locals. The MTA states on page 4 of this report that SBS service will be more frequent than the current Limited, but does not state how often the local will operate. Local service will most likely be reduced to every 10 or 12 minutes in the off-peak and be reduced in the peak as well. Bus bunching of only two buses could result in a wait of 25 minutes for a local. Isn’t it logical to assume that some local passengers will choose the SBS and walk much more just to avoid those long waits or to have a better chance of getting a seat on the longer buses?

Also, buses along New York Avenue will operate more slowly due to increased traffic diverted from Rogers Avenue to Bedford Avenue and New York Avenue due to the reduction of a travel lane for cars and trucks on Rogers Avenue. The result will be less reliable local bus service on New York Avenue. In its evaluation of the B44 SBS, the MTA will only concentrate on the positive changes and ignore the negative ones, as they did when evaluating the M15, thereby greatly exaggerating the success of the B44 SBS.

Other Differences Between The B44 SBS And Existing SBS Routes

Also, unlike the S79, which permits some extra bus transfers, the B44 SBS will not allow you to change between the local and SBS bus and then make a second transfer to a crosstown bus or the train for the same fare… unless you buy an unlimited pass. That means you pay more, walk more, or settle for a slower ride than you are getting now by taking the local all the way instead of the Limited, which will cease to exist.

This was not so much of an issue on the M15 since only a few of the more lightly-used Limited stops were eliminated, and it is not a feeder route to the subway, but more of an alternative to it. On the B44 SBS, however, 21 Limited stops are being eliminated in each direction. That will force many former Limited passengers onto the local unless an additional free transfer is provided. The need for additional free transfers is a major issue that should be addressed by Community Board 15 — not only the issue of the loss of parking spaces.

The MTA plan also adds unnecessary B44 service south of Avenue U — service that will be underutilized because the Sheepshead Bay Road train station is preferred to the Flatbush Nostrand Junction and SBS will not change that for many living south of Avenue U. The funds obtained from terminating the B44 SBS at Avenue X, instead of operating to the end of the line, could be used to extend the B4 via Knapp Street to Gerritsen Avenue and Avenue U.

That would improve access to the Sheepshead Bay Road station, by reducing the walking distance to a bus, shifting some passengers from the overcrowded B36 to the underutilized B4. However, the MTA does not want to improve access to the Sheepshead Bay station and instead wants to force residents to transfer at the Junction. They will do this by providing an SBS bus as often as every five minutes, and not improving service to the Sheepshead Bay station on the B4 or B36.

The SBS will be a big improvement for those who can benefit by it. It will be a disaster for those who will use it, only because local service will worsen, and for those who will have to walk distances as long as three quarters of a mile to and from an SBS stop. For many, the increased walk will cancel out the timesaving from the increased bus speed. Seniors will especially suffer, as well as anyone who has difficulty walking, because they will not be able to walk an extra quarter-to-half-mile to the closest SBS stop, which will be in addition to the blocks they are already walking.

How The B44 SBS Could Have Been Improved

It is a moot question now that the planned route is all but a certainty, except for its start date, which keeps on getting postponed. However, it is still worthy of discussion.

The glut of bus service on Rogers Avenue could have been avoided by rerouting half or all of the B49 buses to operate straight along Ocean Avenue to Empire Boulevard (renaming the route the B50).

The unnecessary excess service south of Avenue Z could have been avoided by:

  • Terminating the B44 SBS at Avenue X and using the funds that are saved to extend the B4 north in Knapp Street to Avenue U and Gerritsen Avenue (Kings Plaza on weekends);
  • Terminating the B44 SBS at Sheepshead Bay station, operating via Avenue Z;
  • Implementing the second bullet point above, but during school hours, extending the SBS one stop to Kingsborough Community College. That would shift riders from the B49, providing much faster service to the college, making the morning B49 Limited unnecessary, saving operating costs. Buses would fill up in the off-peak direction, which would run nearly empty in that direction as the B44 SBS is currently proposed.

Other improvements that also could have been made:

  • Allow transfers between the local and SBS that do not prevent a second transfer to a crosstown bus or the subway;
  • Transfers could also be allowed between the B44 local, the B44 SBS, the B39, and the M15. That would allow trips from southern Brooklyn to Manhattan for a single fare increasing SBS usage for riders who would rather not use the subway or pay the express bus fare;
  • Replacing the lost service on New York Avenue with a new local bus route serving other areas where there is a gap in local bus service.

None of these alternatives were considered because the MTA studied the B44 SBS in isolation, not in conjunction with the rest of the bus system. This is why it was poorly planned. The MTA only had three considerations in mind:

  • Improving bus speeds;
  • Reducing operating costs and;
  • Providing justification why an extension to the Nostrand Avenue subway is not necessary.

Next Week in Part 3: When Will The B44 SBS Begin Operation?

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).

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

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  • flatbush depot

    you should really run a poll asking readers who live in Plumb Beach and around Nostrand-”X” whether they go to areas served exclusively by the IRT more or areas served exclusively by the BMT more before stating that one station is preferred to the other. while you are at it you should also find out how many others travel between Plumb Beach and the Junction and points north of it to go to places like Brooklyn College or the movie theater.

    it will be a disaster for those who will use it? who are you referencing with that statement?

    and I thought you were the one who stated after the blizzard two years ago that the nursing home workers who walked to the nursing homes on Knapp St from the Junction, Canarsie, and East Flatbush or wherever were y’alls “heroes.” is it really going to help them if the SBS does not run to Plumb Beach?

    • Allan Rosen

      Please don’t take what I said out of context. I never said it will be a disaster for those who use it. This is what I said. “The SBS will be a big improvement for those who can benefit by it. It will be a disaster for those who will use it, only because local service will worsen, and for those who will have to walk distances as long as three quarters of a mile to and from an SBS stop.”

      I said it will be a disaster for those who are forced to use SBS because local service will worsen. That is quite a different statement. I also stated it will be a big improvement for those making long trips. The problem is that is a very small percentage of the users. The nursing home workers who you reference will benefit the most from the B44 SBS as currently proposed saving maybe 10 or 12 minutes each way. If anyone comes from North BedStuy or Williamsburg, they could save 15 minutes each way. But they still account for only a handful of B44 daily riders.

      It will also help those going to the movie theater. I will grant you that. However, the average rider will save only 6 minutes and I do not believe that even considers all the extra time to walk extra to the SBS stop.

      • flatbush depot

        I do not think I was taking anything out of context. it was just not clear that that was not what you meant. the presence of the first comma threw me off. I would not have put the first comma unless I would have been wrong in my use of punctuation. putting the first comma would have seemed awkward to me though.

        carry on.

        • Allan Rosen

          I think you are correct. The first comma should not be there, but it also got past the editor.

  • sonicboy678

    Hey, even if they beef up local service between Kings Highway or Avenue X and Lynch Street, it would be better than just aimlessly splitting up the B44.

  • Judith Braff

    The B44 Local used to stop on the near side of Avenue U, when it was coming from Flatbush Avenue, and the Limited stopped on the far side. It was possible for many people wating fo board a bus there to take thr 44 or one or the B-36 which also stopped there. Now there is ‘NO CHOICE.’ Both B44 busses stop on the far side and its either wait for a Limited if you are coming from the local or cross over and take the B-36 because the B-44 no longer stops in the same place. In otther words, “You can’t get there from here. Thomas Paine wrote, “Whatever happened to logic?

  • Judith Braff

    correction. Both busses stop on the near side..

    • flatbush depot

      this changed just recently? so now the B44 LTD and LCL both stop on the north side of “U”? they may have done that to make it easier for people to transfer to the B3.

      • Allan Rosen

        I’m not exactly sure what is happening. But the MTA did state at Community Board 15 that bus stops near Avenue U would be changing due to the SBS. So whatever changes were made were done in preparation for SBS which needs longer bus stops. It had nothing to do with the B3.

        • flatbush depot

          yes, the diagrams showed the SBS stop on the north side of “U”. I remember that. it still makes it easier to get to/from the B3 as opposed to having the LTD stop on the south side of Neck Rd.

        • flatbush depot

          also if Ms. Braff’s complaint was that it is harder to transfer to buses that run south of “U”, this should no longer be an issue since the B44 LCL will run south of “U” after SBS begins.

          I know you know that already but I am just signalizing this for Ms. Braff,

  • http://www.facebook.com/aemoreira81 Adam Moreira

    Where would the B44 SBS turn around if it terminated at Avenue X? As t is, I think that you have to send it to Knapp Street or to Sheepshead Bay (B)(Q).

    What I would do, however, is reduce service on the northern end north of Fulton Street and turn around alternating B44 SBS buses at Fulton Street, thus having empty buses available at the busiest stop on the line. On the southern end, the only suitable turnaround before Knapp Street is Avenue U. Some runs would only run Avenue U to Fulton Street or Sheepshead Bay to Fulton Street. That would free up money for more local buses, which I would then run between Empire Boulevard and Sheepshead Bay or Avenue U. (The real problem, in addition to reduced service in Sheepshead Bay, is reduced service to Kings County Hospital and SUNY Downstate.) The part of the route north of Fulton Street is the least-used segment of the B44.

    As for the B39 and the M15, I posted it elsewhere a while back, but I wonder if it’s time to consider sending the Pike Street short-turns on the M15 across the Williamsburg Bridge.

    • Allan Rosen

      The B44 SBS could turn around using Avenue W Batchelder and Avenue X. All are wide streets with no one or two family homes, but residents might oppose that anyway. I agree that running the SBS all the way from one end of the route to the other is very wasteful, but turning the SBS at Avenue U is not a good idea because many passengers living near Avenues W and X might want to go to the Junction with the SBS. It’s south of that point (especially south of Avenue Z) where Sheepshead Bay Station would be preferred.

      I think if a new route were provided along New York Avenue at 12 or 15 minute headways from Fulton Street to Clarendon Road, then along Albany Avenue to Avenue J to terminate at the Junction (using Nostrand where NY Av is one-way), then all B44s could use Nostrand and Rogers and all B49s coud use Ocean Av all the way to Empire. That woud provide a simpler and less confusing service pattern and needed service on Albany Avenue while helping Kings County Hospital without providing the unnecessary glut of service on Rogers Avenue.

      You also make a good point with the M15. That’s why they needed to consider this route with th rest of the system not by itself.

      • sonicboy678

        Down to Avenue J? That would be slightly awkward.

        • Allan Rosen

          Why? I was originally thinking Avene K where te street ends. There is a lack of north-south service there. Big walks to the B44 or B46.

          • sonicboy678

            It’s really more of a concern about how that would be set up. I’m not too confident that a bus can turn onto Flatbush Avenue without problems from the B41. I seriously doubt it would be practical to have buses turning onto Nostrand Avenue at Avenue J. Granted, Flatbush Avenue is wider than Nostrand Avenue in this area; that doesn’t mean turning and traffic aren’t major concerns. I’ve seen Flatbush Avenue in a practically jammed state lots of times, so I’m not sure if that would be the best choice. Hey, if it used Avenue I, it could at least avoid having to turn too much and travel for more than a couple of blocks on crowded streets.

          • Allan Rosen

            It could use J to Nostrand to H to Flatbush to J avoiding the traffic at the Junction.

          • sonicboy678

            Arguably, that’s worse. With plenty of double-parking on top of existing traffic, that may end up making things messier.

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