Photo by Erica Sherman
Welcome Big Brother!
Hoping to provide everyone with more safety, the NYPD and MTA are installing cameras and driver safety partitions in hundreds of buses, according to the New York Post.
Since last year, the number of felony assaults against bus drivers rose by 20 percent, and authorities hope the cameras will stop crimes from happening or help police identify the suspects. With 195 buses already having cameras in them, the MTA hopes to add 231 camera-equipped buses to the fleet in the spring. Sheepshead Bites’ transit writer, Allan Rosen, tells us they’ve been installed in the recent batch of B1 buses.
“An attack against any MTA employee is an attack against all of us, and we will do everything we can to eliminate these deplorable acts,” said Joseph Lhota, the MTA executive director.
Now whenever the MTA purchases a new bus, it will come with a Plexiglass partition. As for the old ones, they plan to place the partition in them. Little by little, all 4,576 buses will have tools to prevent crime.
THE COMMUTE: According to the Manhattan Beach Community Group, the MTA has agreed to station a dispatcher at the bus terminal in Manhattan Beach on summer weekends that will have the ability to summon extra drivers from the depot in case of any change in weather.
That is exactly what I recommended last April. They did not agree to operate shuttle buses to the subway, as suggested by the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association. I agreed with the MTA that that measure was not necessary. Now if they would only rewrite the B49 schedule so that deadheading buses are placed in revenue service, perhaps on busy days, non-beachgoers would be able to board the first bus that arrives.
Neither of the community groups have ever addressed that issue or the fact that some B1 riders frequently have to wait an hour or more for a bus on weekday afternoons when school is open, except on Fridays. I have been requesting that situation be remedied for several years now. The MTA has met with me on at least three occasions and has added several buses at my request. They have also taken other measures such as allowing buses to leave Kingsborough Community College with enough space so that there is room for additional passengers. I have also noticed that bus drivers are now making announcements for passengers to move to the rear. While some improvements have been made in this regard, the problem still exists.
I will be watching this summer to see how effective that bus dispatcher is.
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).
THE COMMUTE: I have better things to do on Memorial Day than watching buses. But after last year’s mayhem, I thought it was my duty to at least check out the crowding this Memorial Day, especially after the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association’s (MBNA) request for additional beach shuttle buses, which I do not believe is necessary. There was no mayhem this year, but things did not go smoothly either.
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Have you seen or ridden on this bus yet?
It’s a new Nova bus made in upstate New York recently making it’s debut at Ulmer Park Depot. That’s the home of routes such as the B1, B3, B6, and B36. Luckily, only 90 have been ordered, at a cost of $45 million, because they have been criticized for having very little leg room and headroom, as well as only 34 seats. Other low floor buses have 36 seats and high floor models have 39 seats. When I was a kid, the standard was 53 seats. The NY Post has the complete story.
As a side note, in 1981 the MTA rejected two Japanese buses on loan for several weeks because of inadequate leg and headroom throughout. Today, the test is for 90 buses and they are not on loan. Apparently, today passenger comfort is less of a requirement and there were probably no focus groups. Most likely other concerns such as cost take a higher priority. Decisions by the MTA such as this prove once again that bus passengers don’t matter. Subway cars with a headroom of only slightly more than five feet at the ends of the cars would never have been ordered.
THE COMMUTE: Last month, I wrote that some neighborhood residents want assurances from the MTA that this Memorial Day will not be a repeat of last year’s holiday, when thousands attempted to leave the beach at the same time, severely overloading the bus system. This week’s Bay News reported that a pow-wow was held about this matter on April 29 between the MBNA, Community Board 15’s chairperson Theresa Scavo, and unnamed MTA officials.
The MBNA is asking for extra buses on summer weekends from the “new” stop at Hastings Street directly to the Brighton subway because, according to resident Stan Kaplan, “Everyone leaves the beach at the same time and just wants to get to the train… We really need just to take hundreds of people from the beach quickly and efficiently.” MBNA spokesman Edmond Dweck stated, “Buses were so full that they couldn’t stop for everyone,” referring to Memorial Day of last year.
Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, “Here is the rest of the story.”
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THE COMMUTE: “Making Every Dollar Count” has been Jay Walder’s slogan since taking over as Chairman of the MTA, but is he really doing that? Last week’s article focused on restoring the B4. I suggested that a service restoration resulting from last June’s service cutbacks could be paid for by operating separate school open schedules for Fridays on certain routes because of lower bus usage on Friday afternoons. I stated that buses leaving Kingsborough College around 3:00 p.m. left the school nearly empty because of a half-day Friday schedule. So on Friday, April 29, I decided to count buses and passengers for two hours from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Oriental Boulevard and West End Avenue to see how correct I was.
Keep reading to find out what Rosen found.
THE COMMUTE: Sheepshead Bites reported on overflowing crowds at Manhattan Beach bus stops last Memorial Day, with inadequate bus service to handle these crowds leaving the beach. Now some neighborhood residents want assurances from the MTA that this will never happen again.
What happened last year could have had disastrous consequences and the MTA needs to do something, but the question remains whether the obvious solution to increase service is worth the cost involved. First of all, the beach only gets crowded on a summer holiday weekend when the forecast calls for temperatures in the 90s, which certainly does not happen every holiday weekend. Scheduling extra buses to the subway on a regular basis could just be a waste of scarce resources.
Read about the history of beach route bus planning, and what, if anything, the MTA should do to accommodate holiday weekend crowds.
THE COMMUTE: Bus service is the MTA’s job, but Kingsborough can assist the MTA in improving bus service by taking the following measures.
- Provide security officers to assist MTA dispatchers and bus drivers
- Inform the MTA every time there is a deviation in the school schedule
- Move the bus terminal from Mackenzie Street to inside college property
The MTA cannot do the job by itself. Here is why.
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An ad on the nostalgia train
by Allan Rosen
If you think you saw an ancient bus this month along Brighton Beach Avenue or Ocean Parkway, the good news is that you were not hallucinating. The MTA is running a few retired buses from its fleet along select routes as a special treat for the holidays, and the B1 is one of them. But catching one of these buses is a hit or miss situation.
A seat on the nostalgia train
They are also operating an antique train along Sixth Avenue between Queens Plaza an Second Avenue on Sundays during the month of December and the schedule is available on their website, although it is not easy to find.
Who wants to ride an old train? You do, even if you are not a rail fanatic. It has become sort of a tourist attraction and some people ride the train back and forth just for the hell of it. I had quite an enjoyable time this year and last.
Bring your camera but don’t stop to take pictures at Queens Plaza because the train does not wait there. It sits at Second Avenue for 20 to 30 minutes so there is plenty of time to wander between the cars and take pictures there. I particularly like that the train has been outfitted with very old ads. Some of the passengers even dress up in 1920s style garb. The best part is that there is no additional charge beyond the cost of your subway fare. It is the MTA’s holiday gift to you for enduring this year’s service cuts.
Better hurry though because this Sunday is the last run of the season and if it snows you will probably be out of luck until next year.
The MTA is deploying its fleet of “nostalgia trains” and vintage buses for the holiday season, replacing lines including the B1 with vehicles from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Other bus routes running the historic fleet are the B65 in Brooklyn; S61 in Staten Island; Q13 and Q46 in Queens; M34 and M42 in Manhattan and the Bx7 and Bx30 in the Bronx.
The nostalgia train – comprised of subway cars in service from 1932 to 1977 – runs along the M line between Queens and Lower Manhattan. Ceiling fans, padded seats and incandescent light bulbs were state-of-the-art when these cars were first placed in service.
The holiday “Nostalgia Train” will operate on Sundays only, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., from November 28to December 26.
Meanwhile, the MTA is giving commuters and shoppers a little more to be cheery about. Weekends throughout December will have increased subway service to keep up with the holiday demand. Q and F train service is scheduled to run every 7.5 minutes instead of every 10 minutes.