THE COMMUTE: If you’ve ever ventured out of Sheepshead Bay to go shopping — and why would you want to? — and visited Fairway in Red Hook, you have most likely seen three rusted Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) street cars behind the store on trolley tracks. They are there no more. After being on property owned by the O’Connell Organization for many years, a few weeks ago, company head Greg O’Connell decided to have them removed because of the serious deterioration they have undergone since Hurricane Sandy. He decided that it would be better to donate them to the Branford Electric Railway Association (BERA), which would house them at an undisclosed location and aid in the search for a permanent home. If none can be found, the cars will be scrapped for parts. The O’Connell Organization paid for the cars’ transport.
THE COMMUTE: It started with continual promises to construct a Second Avenue subway and the failure to complete the IND Second System. We are currently in the sixth reincarnation of the promised Second Avenue subway with voters twice approving bond issues specifically for that purpose in 1951 and in 1967. Now it is doubtful if the opening of the first three stations will even occur by the latest rescheduling to 2016.
THE COMMUTE: As a result of the efforts of Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs, City Councilmembers Chaim Deutsch and Jumaane Williams, as well as pressure from North Brooklyn residents, the MTA announced on Friday that beginning in the spring, SBS stops at Avenue L and Gates Avenue will be added to the B44 route. The news came via an email from Jacobs’ office and in an article from the New York Post.
THE COMMUTE: During its first week of operation, the B44 SBS was widely criticized by former B44 Limited riders for eliminated stops, unreliable, overcrowded and delayed local bus service, inadequate public information regarding the route change and longer walks to SBS stops. I covered these criticisms in my SBS series (parts 1, 2, and 3).
MTA apologists refused to hold the MTA accountable, claiming that these initial problems would be overcome as the MTA would make needed adjustments quickly. That would result in a route that would be better utilized because it would be quicker and reliable, saving time for most riders. The problem I have is we will never know that for sure since only data that supports the MTA’s success story will be shared.
THE COMMUTE: This column focuses primarily on buses and subways, although we also cover issues of interest to motorists. We have discussed air travel several times, as well as transit in other cities. One subject we have not touched upon is the pedestrian. We all are pedestrians at one time or another, unless you use a scooter to get around. We have ignored pedestrians thus far because websites such as Streetsblog vehemently advocate for the rights of pedestrians and cyclists while other than chat groups, there are few if any sites advocating for bus or subway riders.
During the past several weeks, there has been a surge of pedestrian deaths on the Upper West Side as well as a bicycle fatality in Harlem. In fact, it seems like every day we hear of another vehicle going out of control or a pedestrian death somewhere in the city. So what is going on and what is the city doing in an effort to curb pedestrian deaths? Mayor Bill de Blasio has a plan for Vision Zero, which would reduce pedestrian deaths. The plan includes more cameras, which I have no problem with, as long as safety remains the prime focus and not revenue. When anticipated revenue from cameras becomes part of following year’s budget, then we have a problem.
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.
THE COMMUTE: On the day before he took office, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he was appointing Polly Trottenberg as Transportation Commissioner. She replaced the controversial Janette Sadik-Khan who held the position for the past six years.
Trottenberg was the under secretary for policy at federal DOT for the past year and assistant secretary for policy for the three years prior. She was a former aide to U.S. senators for 12 years. She worked for Charles Schumer and Daniel Moynihan, and Barbara Boxer of California (who graduated from the same Brooklyn high school as Marty Markowitz four years earlier). You can read more of Trottenberg’s resume here and here.
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.
THE COMMUTE: On Friday, Mayor Bloomberg and the press took a ride on the 7 extension to 34th Street, although the line is still six months away from completion. He was hoping to have it finished before he left office. He failed, but received the press coverage he desired.
The M42 bus branch to 34th Street was discontinued in 2010 due to a lack of ridership. So what do we do when there is inadequate demand for bus service? We build a new subway instead, of course. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
The subway was not extended to meet existing demand but to stimulate real estate development for the Hudson Yards project. The mayor pointed out that was how it was done in the old days. First you built the rapid transit line, and that encouraged development. Not the other way around, building subways as a response to development. The subway was not extended for the benefit of subway riders, like the Second Avenue Line, which will relieve overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue line. It was extended to help Bloomberg’s millionaire developer friends get even richer.
THE COMMUTE: I asked if that was the case back in 2010 when I documented 14 buses in a row bypassing bus stops after loading up at Kingsborough Community College. Since then I have done numerous B1 updates documenting service problems. I have written many times to the last two directors of Bus Operations over the past five years. Each time, I promptly received courteous replies and have met with a half dozen operating personnel on about four occasions, assured that the problem would be addressed and Manhattan and Brighton Beach passengers would not be ignored . Yet the problem persists.