THE COMMUTE: I recently came back home from a week-long vacation in Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada. I also stopped off on the way back in Albany and Kingston, New York. I will spare you the hundreds of photos and videos of Niagara Falls, and will concentrate only on the transit- and transportation-related aspects of the trip.
THE COMMUTE: On June 23rd, I wrote how there were unacceptable gaps in bus service on the B1 and B49 at the same time on a recent Sunday afternoon. Wondering if this was just a fluke or a regular occurrence, I decided to check Bus Time on the previous Sunday, June 22, after I boarded a B1 bus eastbound at Coney Island Avenue without any wait and noticed a second B1 right behind it. This is what I uncovered.
THE COMMUTE: While recently attending Councilman Chaim Deutsch’s site visit at Avenue R and Nostrand Avenue, in an attempt to convince the MTA to convert the current local bus stop into a local bus stop that would accommodate Select Bus Service (SBS) buses as well, I took the opportunity to arrive one hour early to once again observe B44 SBS and local service. Last April, I documented a wait of 37 minutes for the local and 16 minutes for the SBS at the tail end of the morning rush hour at Avenue Z as well as extensive bus bunching with multiple buses arriving one after the other.
THE COMMUTE: Since the elimination of B44 Limited service and initiation of the B44 Select Bus Service (SBS) on November 17, 2013, bus riders using the Avenue R stop as well as some who previously walked along Nostrand Avenue from Quentin Road or Avenue S to take advantage of the faster Limited service, have been forced to rely on slower local bus service. It is not only the slower service that they find annoying, but the excessive waits for local buses they have been experiencing, up to 45 minutes.
A few riders had the opportunity to express their thoughts on the matter directly to the MTA this past Tuesday, as they met with Andrew Inglesby, assistant director of Government Affairs for MTA New York City Transit. Operations Planning and Road Operations also represented the MTA. Organized by Councilman Chaim Deutsch, the event was held from 9:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. at the northbound Avenue R B44 local bus stop. In addition to Deutsch, Colin Mixson of his staff, and a half dozen invited bus riders, Councilman Alan Maisel and Assemblymember Helene Weinstein were also in attendance and quizzed those representing the MTA.
The attendees wanted to know why there is no SBS bus stop at that location when the closest SBS stops are a half-mile away at Avenue U and at Kings Highway, distances that are too great for many to walk. They claimed more people would use an Avenue R SBS bus stop than use the recently created SBS stop at Avenue L, which was requested by Deutsch and Councilman Jumaane Williams as well as Assemblymember Rhoda Jacobs.
Inglesby, who claimed the number of transfers at Avenue L greatly exceeded those transferring from the two bus routes on Avenue R, disputed that. This reporter stated that not only riders near Avenue R would use an SBS bus stop, but passengers currently boarding at Avenue S and Quentin Road would also walk over to an SBS stop at Avenue R if one were created there. Also, that transferring passengers from the B100 should be counted along with B2 and B31 passengers.
Inglesby responded that even if transferring passengers from all three bus routes were counted, it still would not exceed the numbers of passengers transferring from the B9 at Avenue L. He also stated that of all the bus stops checked that were not SBS bus stops, passengers transferring at Gates Avenue and at Avenue L were the highest, and those stops already have been added. Other reasons precluding turning the current northbound local stop into an SBS stop is a residential driveway situated directly in front of the bus stop, which would have to be lengthened if converted to an SBS bus stop.
Responding to a question of why the nearside of the intersection could not be used instead, Inglesby cited trees as an obstacle to buses opening their doors. Weinstein stated that she is aware of other bus stops where there are trees. When asked about SBS buses arriving three at a time, Inglesby stated that the MTA was quite aware of service irregularities on the route and that they are working to address them. He also stated that additional local buses have been added to the route twice, once several weeks after inception, and again last April. When asked why the MTA website still shows a local bus schedule dated November 17th, 2013, he responded that he would look into that.
Not ready to give up, Deutsch requested a six-month trial for a new SBS stop to see how it works out and how many use it as well as another public hearing, whereupon bus riders could sound off about how they feel about the SBS and local bus service. Inglesby responded that the MTA does not do trials and is concerned about how to best serve the majority of its riders, which is the entire purpose behind the SBS service, which 97 percent of its riders approve. Inglesby was referring to initial passenger surveys of the M15 SBS in Manhattan. Official statistics regarding the B44 SBS have yet to be published.
Another public hearing was not ruled out and Inglesby stated it was not within his jurisdiction to recommend any additional bus stops. If Deutsch would like to take the matter further, he should write to the president.
I arrived at the bus stop one hour early and recorded arriving locals and SBS buses passing by. I will share my observations a week from today in the next Commute.
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.
THE COMMUTE: My thoughts about bus drivers are mixed. On the one hand, I appreciate the difficult job they have, driving in traffic, which is never easy, and being responsible for the safety of so many passengers and pedestrians. Bus accidents are rare, which is attributable to the MTA’s high standards for recruiting and retaining bus drivers. They also have to continually deal with the public, which can be difficult at times. A few have even been killed just for doing their job. They must keep cool even when provoked. As is the case with any occupation, there are always a few bad apples, and the MTA does its best to weed them out.
THE COMMUTE: Last winter, thousands of people waited three hours for New Jersey Transit trains at the Meadowlands to go home from the Super Bowl. That was mentioned last February in our discussion about how transit riders continually get screwed. Now, history has repeated itself at the Belmont Stakes: a three- to four-hour wait just to get out of the Belmont Racetrack parking lot or onto a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train. The New York Times reported on the transit aspect.
THE COMMUTE: It was with much fanfare, just over a year ago, that the city unveiled its new parking regulatory signs. However, at least in this area, they have barely made an impact thus far because the older signs are only being replaced as they wear out or fall off. The new signs, in their utilization of more white space, are supposed to give the impression of less clutter. In order to accomplish this, the font size has been reduced, making the signs less visible from a distance.
THE COMMUTE: Bus Time was first rolled out in the Bronx and Staten Island. Later it was expanded to Manhattan and finally Brooklyn and Queens. It is a system that predicts bus arrival times using a computer, mobile device or by sending a text message via a cell phone. It is also available at a few selected bus stop locations with plans for expansion to additional bus stops. The ability to predict arrival times at bus stops was first promised by the MTA 35 years ago, so you can understand my skepticism why, after three failed attempts and tens of millions of dollars wasted, I thought it would never happen.
THE COMMUTE: They do not keep their promises, tell different communities different stories, and they mislead.
In my March 31 article, I promised to keep you informed regarding any MTA response I receive regarding my continual complaints about B1 and B49 buses not stopping to pick up passengers in the afternoon in Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay. My lengthy complaint received a response (15 business days later, the maximum time allotted by the MTA), which basically stated that they sincerely apologize for the buses not stopping and that they will try to do a better job in the future.
THE COMMUTE: On Page 11 of the Vision Zero plan, the city has proposed lowering the speed limit on 25 city arterial roads to 25 MPH. This has already begun. Now the New York State Senate and Assembly are considering legislation that would lower the default speed limit on all New York City streets from 30 to 25 MPH, and further allow the city to lower the speed on “designated highways” to 20 MPH if the city has determined that the implementation of “traffic calming” measures is not feasible. (Currently 20 MPH is only allowed in conjunction with traffic calming and within a quarter mile of a school.) The city now wants the right to lower the speed limit to 20 MPH on any street. Tell your state legislators they should vote against this proposed law. Don’t complain if it is passed.