The B44 SBS debuts along Nostrand Avenue. Source: Patrick Cashin / MTA / Flickr
Beginning this Sunday, December 8, the MTA will deploy members of its Eagle Team, the unit dedicated to identifying and fining fare evaders, along the newly launched Nostrand Avenue B44 SBS line.
The new buses launched on November 17 featuring off-board fare collection, meaning riders pay at a curbside machine before the bus arrives. When they board the bus, there is no requirement to display your receipt, but inspectors will do occasional spot checks to provide enforcement. If you cannot provide your receipt, you will be subject to a $100 summons which must be paid within 90 days.
MTA New York City Transit employees load subway cars onto flatbed trucks for transportation to the Rockaway Peninsula. Source: MTAPhotos / Flickr
THE COMMUTE: In Part 1, I discussed the various Select Bus Service corridors presently in operation and how their success or lack thereof has not been adequately measured. In Part 2, I mentioned one corridor — Flatlands Avenue / Avenue P — that has not been selected where I believe there is significant potential for it to work well. I also discussed other corridors where it will just be a poor substitute for needed rail lines.
This is not a series against SBS. It works on Fordham Road, may work on Hylan Boulevard after it is fully implemented, and would work, if implemented where it is needed, on Flatlands Avenue. In Manhattan, the reaction has been mixed. It will not work well when not implemented in conjunction with necessary local bus reroutings. In the Nostrand Avenue corridor, the B44 SBS will result in a glut of unnecessary bus service on Rogers Avenue.
Democracy was in action at Sheepshead Bites’ Transit Town Hall last year, where the B4 and SBS were discussed. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen every day. (Photo by Erica Sherman)
THE COMMUTE: In Part 1, I discussed what is wrong with Select Bus Service (SBS). Other than the case of Merrick Boulevard in Queens where it was defeated, SBS is being forced down our throats, whether we want it or not. As I stated last week, SBS has its place as part of a total transportation strategy, which includes the construction of new rapid transit lines and restructuring the bus system to make it more effective, neither of which the MTA is doing.
Restoring a few bus lines, adding a few new ones, and creating some SBS corridors is not a transportation strategy for future generations, nor does the overly expensive and prolonged construction of East Side Access and Fulton Transit Center — which will benefit a very small percentage of city residents and even fewer Brooklynites — encompass all needs. The MTA has stated in the past that until those projects and the Second Avenue Subway are completed, there will be no other major mass transit capital expenditures for system expansion. In other words, no new mass transit lines anywhere.
THE COMMUTE: Last week, I mentioned how the benefits of Select Bus Service (SBS) have been exaggerated and the disadvantages minimized, and how the MTA continues to push forward with additional proposed routes without performing proper evaluations of existing routes. I have also written several times about why the Nostrand Avenue corridor is the wrong choice for SBS. The issue goes much deeper than just the removal of a few parking spaces. That is not the reason I oppose it. SBS, or Bus Rapid Transit as it is called elsewhere, has its place as part of a coordinated transportation policy. However, in New York, we have no such policy. SBS is mostly being used as a substitute for not constructing new subway lines or reactivating existing rights of way. In this first part of a three-part series, I discuss SBS in greater detail.
Our man Randy Rojas hit Nostrand Avenue to bring you yesterday’s story about local businesses outraged that the government failed to do any outreach in the two years of planning for Select Bus Service on the commercial strip. Now another of Nostrand Avenue’s largest and oldest businesses speaks out, blasting the non-existent outreach and warning that some of the changes could hurt business.
Several business owners on Nostrand Avenue told Sheepshead Bites that they were never approached by the city, and some only found out when we visited. Businesses south of Avenue X will see the addition of a dedicated bus lane during rush hours, which the city will enforce with cameras and policing to keep it free of double-parked cars or trucks making deliveries.
Following a request by Community Board 15, the Department of Transportation will make its second appearance before the board tomorrow evening to address concerns about the Select Bus Service route planned to replace the B44 Limited along Nostrand Avenue.
Allan Rosen has been doing a tremendous job covering all the concerns – and some benefits – that Select Bus Service (a.k.a. Bus Rapid Transit) will have along Nostrand Avenue, particularly focused on the Southern Brooklyn portion of the route. After some delays, the city is expected to begin implementation in early 2013, but has yet to answer all of the questions raised by the community.
One of the important considerations is parking, for which the DOT has given differing answers on how it’ll affect the area. At a hearing late last month, a DOT spokesman to Sheepshead Bites that only 5 to 10 parking spaces would be eliminated in the neighborhood. But another DOT rep at the same meeting told Rosen that there would be no net loss to parking, as spaces that are eliminated below the Junction will be replaced by new spaces as some bus stops are eliminated.
When the DOT last appeared before the Board – in May 2010 – they were faced with an antagonistic crowd concerned the larger buses would eliminate much needed parking spaces, that the benefits are being overstated, that the costs and nuisance are not worth the four-t0-eight minute cut in commute time, and that fare evasion will sky rocket with the off-board payment system. We’ll see tomorrow if residents have warmed up to the proposal – which has gone relatively unchanged – in the 17 months since their last appearance.
The meeting will be held Tuesday, October 25, at 7:00 p.m. at Kingsborough Community College (2001 Oriental Boulevard) in the Faculty Dining Room.
*The original version of this article stated that an MTA representative told Rosen that they were unclear of the net loss. That was an error. The correct information is now published above.
The MTA and Department of Transportation held a public workshop to push the benefits of Select Bus Service on Nostrand Avenue on Tuesday at Brooklyn College, and responded to concerns about the program in Southern Brooklyn by saying it will see relatively minor changes in the area.
The majority of those who attended the workshop were in favor of the project, saying that it will speed up bus service, lessen the amount of congestion, give truckers a place to unload and wont be a hassle to drivers. They added that the number of parking spots reduced – a primary concern for some local leaders seeking to protect businesses on the commercial strip – will be minimal.
“In the nine-mile corridor there’s about 5,000 existing parking spaces, and only around 100 parking spaces will be taken for increased bus stops,” said Rob Thompson, DOT’s project manager. In the Sheepshead Bay-area only five or 10 parking spots will be eliminated, he said.
“In general the Southern areas will not have as much parking changes because the existing bus stops are hemmed in by driveways, so there is less impact per mile in the Southern area,” said Thompson.
MTA’s Director of Long Range Bus Planning Ted Orosz is confident that traffic will run smoother with SBS and it will benefit the majority of the public.
“Generally the streets should operate as well as it does today… it will be more organized, there will be a place for trucks, a place for buses, and a place for mixed traffic,” Orosz said. “There have been considerable traffic and parking studies to make sure that operating conditions should be pretty good after this is built.”
THE COMMUTE: Hurting drivers will not help transit. But the Department of Transportation and the MTA believes it will.
Last week I gave 10 changes the MTA needs to implement to get back on track so that our mass transit system can better serve its users. However, the MTA and DOT have their own misguided ideas.
Years ago, the MTA realized there will never be enough capital money to build all the necessary subway expansions. So, in 2004, the MTA decided that, rather than building any more subway lines, they will turn to buses instead by making them faster. But as the agency continues to roll out BRT/SBS service, they mistakenly throttle automobile traffic, thinking this might bolster mass transit usage. Let me explain.
THE COMMUTE: Select Bus Service (SBS) along the B44 is coming to Sheepshead Bay. When it will arrive is still a mystery depending on which MTA page you access. It is scheduled either for later this year or mid-2012. But has the MTA ever been consistent?
I have previously suggested that SBS be scrapped because I believe the MTA chose the wrong route in Brooklyn for it. Most of the criticism, however, from our local community has related to loss of parking spaces, impacts on traffic, potential benefits not worth the cost of implementation, and the MTA not being upfront with the community. These are all valid concerns.
Whether you agree or not, SBS definitely will be coming to the B44 Nostrand Avenue route, although several if not all of the Community Boards along the route have taken a position against it. So let us fight to make it work better.