THE COMMUTE: The Commute is now three years old. A year has past since we reflected on 2012. We looked ahead to 2013 and asked if the MTA will start allowing transfers between local, limited and SBS routes as well as a second transfer by the time the B44 Select Bus Service launches. That, of course, did not happen.
Select Bus Service (SBS) and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
However, SBS was the biggest story of the year for Sheepshead Bay as Brooklyn’s first SBS route began operation on November 17. We followed that story with three more about SBS where we looked at initial reviews in three parts: 1, 2, and 3. Earlier in the year, we did another three-part series about SBS: Part 1, and Parts 2 and 3 where we asked What Happened to Democracy? We even looked at Bus Rapid Transit in the Capital District upstate.
How the Year Began
We talked about the new fares and tolls which took effect in March. We welcomed a new MTA chairman. We asked about subway safety. We discussed how people were being arrested every day for minor infractions. We talked about the MTA surplus. and demanded transit accountability.
Recovery from Superstorm Sandy
This past year saw the MTA recovering from Superstorm Sandy. The “A” train resumed service in the Rockaways, a new ferry was extended into next year, and CitiBike kicked off in our story: A Hodgepodge of Transit Events. The Montague Street Tunnel closed for repairs and we discussed why system redundancy is a good thing. Also, the Rockaway Ferry began making a stop in Sunset Park.
When the Facts Don’t Matter
A recurring theme in 2013 was biased studies that draw their conclusions before the data is gathered instead of using objective data to draw conclusions. We saw this in January when the MTA ruled out bringing back the F express south of Church Avenue. We saw it again when they showed the need for a new Penn Station but have no money to reactivate the Rockaway Beach Line, and in how they plan new bus routes. The MTA’s customer satisfaction survey is yet another example how statistics can be distorted to show what you want to show like 74 percent of bus passengers are happy with the service provided.
The MTA wasn’t the only guilty party. The Pratt Center dismissed all subway transit expansion in favor of Bus Rapid Transit using sloppy methodology.
Long Range Planning
We gave the MTA credit for the huge amount of work that goes into keeping the system running on a day-to-day basis and also criticized them for being shortsighted in their long-range plans here and here, and also here and here as it affects local bus routes. We explained how the MTA should plan its bus routes. We looked back at the Southwest Brooklyn bus route changes of 35 years ago and did another update to B1 bus service.
We threw out some ideas for discussion, such as building off street bus terminals, here and here, and service diversification on the Brighton line, and also discussed something different, private airplanes.
Bus Bunching and Signage
We devoted several articles to bus bunching, here and here. We started the year with an article about unclear fare signage and talked more about subway and bus signage here. I graded DOT and the MTA on how well they publicized the return of the B4 during middays and on weekends in Sheepshead Bay and the resumption of the old route along Neptune Avenue after the route was changed and cut back in 2010. Those cutbacks also saw the demolition of brand new bus shelters on Neptune Avenue. Those shelters now have been recently reconstructed.
A New Mayor in 2014
The Bloomberg administration is finally over after 12 years. As far as transportation, he will be remembered as the mayor who extended the #7 line to the Javits Center, for pedestrian plazas and greatly expanding the city’s bicycle network. Some love what he has done; others hate it. His policies certainly have been controversial. The articles receiving the most comments were ones where the subject of street space was discussed, if there should be exclusive bus lanes, more bicycle lanes or more pedestrian space, all at the expense of street space for automobiles. I believe some of these articles broke Sheepshead Bites record for comments with more than 250 or 300 comments.
What will the new year bring? Will there be a new law regarding speed limits on residential streets? Most important, how will Mayor Bill de Blasio affect transportation policy when he takes office? He has already expressed support for 20 more Select Bus Service routes. We covered in Parts 1, 2, and 3 how each of the mayoral candidates viewed transportation. We also covered a second debate in our own neighborhood here. From all indications, transportation will not be a priority, partially because most decisions will be made at the state level since our mass transit system is controlled by the MTA.
Let 2014 be a good year for transportation and a very happy New Year to everyone!
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.