A passenger languishes in frigid conditions while hoping to board a B1 or B49 bus. Source: Dav1d / Flickr

A passenger languishes in frigid conditions while hoping to board a B1 or B49 bus. Source: Dav1d / Flickr

THE COMMUTE: The ongoing problem of the B1 and B49 bypassing intending passengers while school is in session, which I have mentioned many times before, took no vacation during the recent Polar Vortex. I know I sound like a broken record, but I will continue complaining until something is done. The reason this practice continues is because passengers just accept it as normal operating practice and do not complain. Others believe their complaints will fall on deaf ears, so what’s the use? However, complaining does get results. The MTA, like other agencies and companies, use complaints to measure how they are doing.

On January 7, when New York City was enduring its lowest temperatures since 1896, and one day after school winter recess ended, New York City buses were still not making attempts to pick up all passengers waiting for buses. This required some passengers to needlessly wait at least double the scheduled headway. Normally inconvenient, this could have had deadly results for our elderly population, were they are forced to wait 30 or 40 minutes, or longer, for a bus in such sub-frigid temperatures.

Last Tuesday, I decided to make a short trip to the post office, the bank, and do a little shopping. Rather than wait for a bus, I decided to walk and only take a bus if I saw one coming, which is my usual practice, since I rarely use buses for long trips these days. When I arrived at West End Avenue, I saw a B1 approaching with three other passengers waiting, either for the B1 or B49. The bus (#4881) did not stop although there was room for at least three more passengers. After several more minutes, a B49 (#5171) approached and also bypassed the stop. Another B49 (#4623) with only about 55 passengers aboard was marked “Next Bus Please” and also refused to stop.

I was ready to resume walking until I saw another bus in the distance. I figured if it was a B49, I could use another post office and another bank, and forego the shopping. It was a B1 (#4887), more crowded than the buses ahead of it, with about 70 passengers. However, since it was a low floor bus, it appeared very full with passengers, although there was some room in the back of the bus. This driver, however, did stop and asked passengers to move to the rear. All three passengers were able to board. The operator remarked that it was important to serve our seniors, and he knows how difficult it is for them to wait for a bus in this frigid weather. He had a heart and I thanked him for stopping.

I also told him that the three buses before him refused to stop although they were carrying fewer passengers than he was. One of the other boarding passengers immediately corrected me stating that the previous “seven” buses did not stop. This occurred between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. — certainly not the peak hour.

Where else in the city is this also happening and when will something be done about it? Years ago, buses never left passengers standing at bus stops unless they were absolutely filled to capacity. Now, even buses with available seats bypass waiting passengers on occasion and use their “Next Bus Please” sign even when there is no other bus in sight. I will be investigating this problem further and hope to report back with some positive results in the near future.

Politics Over Transit

In other news, we saw this past week how politics became more important than the public’s welfare. Of course I am talking about the George Washington Bridge scandal, or the phantom-traffic-study-gate. You know, where an inordinate number of lanes on the George Washington Bridge were closed for four days last September. That caused massive traffic tie-ups, which spread throughout Fort Lee, New Jersey and posed a danger for emergency vehicles. At least one death was reported where the delay in receiving emergency aid could have made a difference. [Ed. – The Daily News reports that “The family of a 91-year-old woman who died during the George Washington Bridge lane closings won’t blame her death on the government-generated gridlock.”]

It was the top news of the week, in which political payback took the front seat over the public good. Before the scandal broke, the official reason for the lane closures was a “traffic study.” Did anyone actually believe that reason? Why would you create massive traffic chaos in order to conduct a study? If there was, in fact, a traffic study, any sensible person would have immediately halted it after the first day and not allow it to continue for three more days. The reasons for the huge traffic jam had to go deeper. I will not take a partisan approach blaming one political party over the other, because both parties are capable of such unconscionable actions.

Another example of politics being more important than transit was Governor Cuomo’s announcement to add four Metro-North stations in the Bronx. This is great news for north Bronx residents who have, for too long, suffered with overly long commutes to Manhattan. We built the massive Co-op City in the Bronx in the 1960s and it took more than 50 years to decide to serve the area with rapid transit. Unthinkable.

It also shows that the governor is considering other mass transit improvements besides mega projects for Manhattan and Select Bus Service (SBS) for the outer boroughs. Now, only if intra-city railroad fares are rationalized, so that it doesn’t cost three times the price of a subway ride or more to use a railroad within the city limits. Also, why should the construction of four stations and some other improvements cost more than one billion dollars? After all, we are not doing any underground tunneling. Can’t the costs be brought down somewhat? I guess I am asking too much now.

The obvious question, however, is why the MTA chairman was not allowed to announce this good news and why it had to come from the governor? The answer should be obvious. Governor Cuomo is up for re-election this year. After first stealing transit money necessitating severe service cutbacks and fare hikes, and twice defeating the Transit Lockbox bill (once by watering it down to make it mostly meaningless), he needed to show he does indeed care about mass transit for the outer boroughs. Let’s just hope he also cares for the other three outer boroughs as well.

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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  • Allan Rosen

    I really don’t see how that family could be so certain that three minutes would not have made a difference in saving their mother. How do they know she was already dead three minutes earlier?

    Also, that’s not me waiting for the bus. It must be someone else.

    • winson

      yep, it was her time to go one way or the other

      • Allan Rosen

        That’s the spiritual way of looking at it.

  • Julia

    Ghetto city, ghetto system. Not surprised. Take a taxi if anything!

  • blutopluto

    It costs a billion dollars to build 4 stations for 2 very basic reasons.
    1. The public authorities are slow to pay contractors. So they charge more to make up for holding the bag for a while.
    2. The costs of doing construction in NYC are the highest in the country.

    • Allan Rosen

      1. There is a specific schedule set out for payment so I don’t necessarily agree. I also used to be involved with contract payments for the NYCT and the schedules I saw for payment always seemed fair to me.

  • Guest

    Thanks for continuing to report on B1 not stopping for passengers. I was so furious 1 day, I was going to stand in front of 1 of these buses and risk being arrested had the traffic light stopped either half empty bus.

    • Allan Rosen

      On a transit forum, there was a B1 driver who bragged that yesterday during three trips he never stopped once between the college and Coney Island Avenue. He said passengers were waiting for 30 to 40 minutes and were furious.

      I have a feeling that there might have been a half day of school yesterday because at 3PM there were buses every few minutes and all of them were empty. Highly unusual. You really can’t blame the MTA if the college has a half day of classes and doesn’t bother notifying the MTA of that fact so they can do some last minute rearranging of service.

  • BusRider 9090909

    I think you’re confused. You mentioned taking a short trip and then you said you don’t take buses for long trips. Next, you said you would walk to your destination unless you saw a bus coming, but then when you got to West End Avenue you waited at the bus stop for at least “several minutes” and managed to see four buses. How do these discrepancies get past both you and your editor?

    • Allan Rosen

      There are no discrepancies and I am not confused. My stop is not West End Avenue. I walked a number of blocks as I had planned, when I saw a bus approaching. The second bus was right behind it and I thought it would stop. The third bus could be seen at the next stop. So the wait involved only another two minutes. I was about to resume walking when I could see a fourth bus in the distance. It was also perhaps three minutes away. That was the one I boarded. All together, I waited under ten minutes.

      I decided to write the article after the other passenger told me seven buses had passed by without stopping. I didn’t ask her how long she waited. It had to be at least 20 minutes and could have been much longer. Since four buses arrived in a short time, most likely there was a much longer wait for the buses before them. (During my 10 minute walk, no buses passed.) As long as I could see buses in the distance, I would have waited. As soon as I would have seen no more buses down the road, I would have just resumed walking. Space is limited and I couldn’t go into all that detail. What is the problem?

  • Gregory

    I live on oxford street in manhattan beach and i usually take the 49 to work, idk for what reason but on mackenzie street they switched the bus stops (b1 to b49 and vice versa) and neither the passengers know which stop to use for which bus and neither do the bus drivers, two of whom i asked and both said two different things, i believe this issue needs to be cleared up.

    • Allan Rosen

      The purpose was to increase the loading on the B49 and decrease the B1 loading since the B1s are usually more crowded. They asked me about doing that two years ago and I told them that the only thing that would accomplish would be to move the problem from the B1 to the B49. They cancelled their plans because of what I told them, but I guess they decided to try it anyway. I guess it isn’t working.

      About half the riders can use either bus to the subway. Most take the B1 because it is a few feet closer overcrowding it more than the B49. But whatever is done, the markings should be clear.

      I think the shuttles to the subway should be the closest to the college, followed by the buses traveling longer distances.

      • Gregory

        the markings are pretty clear, the problem is the buses are not following the markings and going on either stop, that’s what is confusing in the morning given the fact that my destination is not the train station.

  • Andrew

    On January 7, when New York City was enduring its lowest temperatures since 1896

    If you’re concerned with accuracy, that’s not true. The record low for January 7 was reached this past January 7. But it’s been colder, as recently as 2005, when the temperature dropped (on two days!) to 1. (It hasn’t dropped below zero since the 1990′s.)

    http://thestarryeye.typepad.com/weather/2013/01/baby-its-cold-outside-a-history-of-single-digit-temperatures-in-new-york-city.html

    • Allan Rosen

      That was the editor’s insertion, not mine.

      • Andrew

        Not blaming anyone, just getting the information out for anybody interested. This certainly isn’t the only place I’ve seen it reported incorrectly.

        • Sarah_Palin

          Global warming is hoax

  • vik

    Dear Allan,

    There are other busses that constantly skip stops. If would be nice if you mentioned them as well. For example, during rush time B36 gets so full on the last stop of Nostrand Ave before turn to Ave Z, that it skips all 3 stops until Ocean Ave. You can wait 20-30 min each time while 2-3 busses in a row will skip these stops until you wait for 2 bunched-up busses together so one of them will stop.
    Please check it out around 8 am if you would like personaly confirm it.

    • Allan Rosen

      Thank you. I was unaware of that but had a feeling that might occur which the reason for my initial proposal for the MTA to study sending the B44 SBS to Sheepshead Bay Station to help the B36 out so B36 buses will have enough capacity to pick up all passengers instead of sending empty B44 buses to Knapp Street. I will check it out when the weather gets a little warmer.

      I formally suggested adding the B44 SBS to Avenue Z service to Ted Orosz, the MTA project manager at one of the workshop meetings. He promised to study it and get back to me with answer in three months but never kept his promise. He then wrote me to asked to be removed from my email list where I send out links to my column when it appears. I wrote back to him that I will remove his name and keep my promise, unlike him.