Flier for our Town Hall meeting this Thursday. Come and make a difference!

THE COMMUTE: I have been planning bus routes for my entire professional life, 10 years of which was in some type of official capacity. It is what I most enjoy doing. However, this article is not about me. It is about you. It is about how Sheepshead Bay, Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park, Bensonhurst, and Brighton Beach can get better bus service by having fewer transfers and shorter walks with little added costs.

I developed a set of bus route proposals, including a few routing changes, some extensions, one new route, and elimination of another. It would involve a small investment in our bus system, which is why the MTA will say it cannot be done since their policy is to only implement zero cost changes. They want to reduce the size of our bus system to encourage more subway use even if those trips are indirect and cause much inconvenience. They are not interested in increasing bus connections to make bus service more convenient.

You can show support for these ideas, which I will explain tomorrow and Wednesday, or any others you may have to improve bus service, at Thursday’s Town Hall (click here for details).

If we stick together as a community and work with our neighboring communities and our elected officials, the MTA will have to hear and listen to us. Communities in the past have rarely initiated bus routing changes. They just sat back and merely accepted whatever the MTA has doled out. The only time they speak up is to oppose a change the MTA is proposing. That is not the way it has to be. Now is the time to be proactive instead of reactive.

The Problems

Sheepshead Bay and Plumb Beach: Our area and surrounding neighborhoods suffer from many bus routing deficiencies. In 2010, we lost the B4 in Sheepshead Bay and Plumb Beach on middays and weekends, cutting off service to a half dozen senior citizen homes, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, the United Artists (UA) multiplex theaters (the only ones remaining in southern Brooklyn since the closing of the Kings Plaza cinemas}, many restaurants and 3,000 residents. Trips now require up to a three-quarter mile walk to the B36, at least one change of buses and sometimes an additional fare. It is a real hardship for Plumb Beach residents without access to an automobile, especially the elderly and infirm, of which there are many, who cannot afford the high cost of frequent car service rides.

The B4, and its predecessor the B21, never operated more frequently than at 15- to 20-minute scheduled headways. That often meant you really waited 30 to 40 minutes for a bus, which was why they were so lightly utilized. In order to justify east-west service in Plumb Beach that more riders would want to use, it is necessary that buses operate at 10-minute intervals. However, for that to happen, new service areas would have to be identified. I believe I have found a way to justify additional bus service to Plumb Beach.

Gerritsen Beach and Mill Basin: The next problem has always existed since bus service in Brooklyn began. Gerritsen Beach and Mill Basin are the most isolated neighborhoods in the entire borough, having direct access only to the Brighton line. All other trips that cannot be reached directly by the B31 or B100, respectively, require a change to the subway, or at least one change to another local bus, or an express bus at a premium fare. Trips which cannot be completed with two buses or a bus and train(s) — and there are many — require a second fare for those who cannot afford unlimited MetroCards. The B31 and B100 get seated loads in rush hours picking up additional passengers once they leave these neighborhoods. Other times, ridership is very light since they are only feeders to the subway. B31 usage was so light during overnight hours (probably not carrying a single passenger to or from Gerritsen Beach) that service was entirely eliminated after 1:00 a.m. as part of the 2010 service cuts. That left an entire neighborhood completely stranded without a single bus route and was unprecedented for a route operated by New York City Transit.

Marine Park: Marine Park also suffered as a result of the 2010 service cuts with B2 weekend service eliminated. Several years ago, the B2 lost its overnight service, a move that was completely unnecessary. The MTA could have extended the B46 (Utica Avenue bus) from Avenue S overnights via the B2 route to Kings Highway Station, and continued to have supplied hourly service with no additional labor costs, and only the cost of gas, since no one is going to Kings Plaza after midnight. They did not do this because it was not their policy at the time to operate a different service during late night hours. (They have since changed that policy by extending the B8 late nights from the VA Hospital to the “R” 95th Street station when the B70 does not serve the station. They could do the same with the B46 if they want to.)

I previously have written about the B2 and explained why this route will eventually be eliminated, resulting in longer walks to a bus and additional inconvenience for Marine Park residents. The reason is that the MTA is continually facing a budget crisis and, like the B31 and B100, the B2 is also lightly utilized outside of rush hours. In recent years, with a general decline in bus usage, B2 patronage has declined further. One option is to extend it at both ends to increase the number of connections, giving it additional purposes other than just serving the subway. It could be rerouted and combined with the B100, improving access within Marine Park and without really inconveniencing Mill Basin residents who will also benefit from a westward extension. Maintaining both the B2 and the B100, only one block apart in most areas, has always been wasteful. The MTA’s probable decision to eliminate the B2 and serve Marine Park with just the B100, with its current route and stops, is unacceptable and harmful to the community.

Brighton Beach: Since the removal of the B4 from Neptune Avenue, bus service has worsened for Brighton Beach residents. They used to have a direct bus to the UA Theater. Now the trip takes three buses and two fares, precisely the type of trip I was trying to eliminate when I made the Southwest Brooklyn bus changes in 1978.

Many cannot simply walk a few blocks to the B36 because of the Belt Parkway, as the MTA stated in the documents, justifying the cuts. They seemed to think it was possible to fly over the Belt Parkway when it first proposed eliminating Neptune Avenue service in Brighton Beach. The truth is that crossing the Belt Parkway is only possible at limited avenues requiring an extra half-mile walk. Their conclusion that B4 riders could easily switch to the B36 proved erroneous when statistics showed that B36 ridership dropped after the B4 was cut, rather than increased.

Although there are only two extras blocks to walk to the B1 from Neptune Avenue if you need to go to Bensonhurst, as the MTA also stated, you also need to walk further once you arrive there, or transfer to another bus, which the MTA neglected to mention. Those who could have easily used the B1 before the B4 was eliminated from Neptune Avenue would have been doing it already prior to the service cuts if it were their best option. Inconveniencing bus riders does not build ridership.

You cannot plan merely by looking at numbers and consulting a map as MTA planners seem to do. You need to learn passenger habits and use the system to see how it operates in reality before making decisions that negatively affect people’s lives. This is why we have to attend this town hall — to educate our elected officials and the MTA as to our needs. We cannot accept business as usual, which is more service cuts in the future. The time to start asking for improvements is now. When you start to believe the situation is hopeless, then you are defeated. Don’t become defeated.

Tuesday and Wednesday: My proposed routing improvements. Be sure to come back.

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).

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  • us citizen

    Very well thought out proposals

    • Allan Rosen

      Thank you.

      But the actual proposals and a map of them is the subject of tomorrow’s article.

  • Gene2T

    I like the way B2 is right now. No buses at night is good. No buses on the weekend is .. ok. Plus from it is that you can park on the bus stop. but there is plenty of parking in marine park as is . B2 has to stay the way it is right now.

    • BrooklynBus

      But that is not the choice the MTA will give you when they decide it is duplicative and not necessary at all. Then you will always be able park at any former B2 bus stop. Will that be better? Read what else I have to say about the B2 tomorrow.

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  • winson

    Slashing the B4 and B31 were too very bad decisions

  • Andrew

    Are you seriously suggesting that an overnight service that nobody used should not have been discontinued?

    For the B4 to operate on a 10 minute headway, it would have to carry enough riders to support a 10 minute headway – that’s what loading guidelines are all about. I’m highly skeptical that there’s any way to attract that much ridership to the B4.

    Nobody said that “B4 riders could easily switch to the B36.” The MTA merely listed the B36 as an alternative for some former B4 riders.Some form of B2-B100 combination is inevitable and makes perfect sense. I doubt it will follow the exact current route path of either the B2 or the B100. The only reason it hasn’t happened yet is that they’re operated by two different agencies.

    • Allan Rosen

      I didn’t say it should not have been discontinued but there were other alternatives that were not investigated such as the B3 looping down in one or both directions to serve Gerritsen Beach.  That would have not involved a second driver and the diversion during that time of night would not have been more than about 6 minutes.

      No.  The MTA listed the B36 as an alternative for some riders and the B1 for all others.  The implication was that in all cases one of those buses could be used.  In reality, that was not the case.  If you were near Brighton Beach Avenue and Coney Island Avenue, it would now take you 3 buses and two fares to get to the UA Theater instead of one. Other trips required a three-quarter mile walk to the B36, well over the stated guidelines.

      I really don’t believe the MTA will seek to combine the B2 and B100 unless the yare prompted to.  More likely they will leave the B100 unchanged and just eliminate the B2 entirely calling it duplicative.

      See tomorrow’s article for my proposed solution. 

      • Andrew

        So you’re suggesting that real, live B3 riders be dragged 6 minutes out of their way to serve … nobody? That’s absurd. And the B3 already has very little recovery time at night, so adding 6 minutes to the running time would probably force an increase in headway or another bus.

        Nobody claimed that every B4 rider would have either the B36 or the B1 as an alternative. They were listed as alternatives for some riders, as indeed they are.

        I can’t imagine why you don’t think the combined B2/B100 (whatever it’s called and whoever operates it) won’t combine the routings of the two.

        • Allan Rosen

          How many real life B3 riders do you think there are at 3 in the morning. No more than just one or two I guess. Some buses may even run empty also. And no you would not need to add another bus. There is little difference if the bus operates every 60 minutes or every 66 minutes, both suck. It’s not as if the bus arrives on the hour to meet a train.

          I don’t know of anyone from Knapp Street and Emmons who is now taking the B36 instead instead of the B4. Do you? If people switched, why did B36 ridership drop instead of being increased?

          • Allan Rosen

            And yes, they may combine the B2 and B100, but not in an intelligent manner, but if it means losing some of the subsidy because they do it, you know what their priority will be. It won’t be the customer.

          • Andrew

            I’ve been on late night B3′s with at least half a dozen riders.

            The B36 isn’t an alternative at Knapp. It is an alternative between Coney and Ocean, and to a lesser extent between Ocean and Nostrand. (And the B1 is an alternative for most of the former Neptune segment.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/aemoreira81 Adam Moreira

      You don’t have to send every B4 trip the full way…you might send only every third trip there and termnate the others at Coney Island Hospital or Sheepshead Bay (B)(Q).

      • Allan Rosen

        Are you proposing hourly service to Knapp Street?

        • http://www.facebook.com/aemoreira81 Adam Moreira

          My mistake. Half-hourly service or every 40 minutes, depending on how many buses run per hour…send alternating buses to Sheepshead Bay for coverage.

          • Allan Rosen

            They would have to change their planning standards to do that and it would open up reducing service on routes with 20 minute headways all over the City.

          • Andrew

            The policy headway is 30 minutes during the day. Plenty of bus routes have headways longer than 20.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/aemoreira81 Adam Moreira

    One thing you didn’t mention, however, was Bergen Beach, which, like Gerritsen Beach and Mill Basin, are also isolated. In the 2010 service cuts, however, the B3 was eliminated through Bergen Beach (down to Avenue X) entirely, and that area lost all of its service. I think that it could have kept service at 30 minute headways off-peak and 15 minutes peak, with express bus cuts to the X27 and X28 being done in its stead.

    The X28 on middays should become superfluous once the elevator for Bay Parkway on the D is installed.To me, what I would do is: For Marine Park, create a second version of the B100, the B101. This route would be almost like the B100 except with one variant: Between Mill Avenue and Flatbush Avenue, the B101 would utilize Avenue U. B100 and B101 trips would alternate, but the B101 would provide direct service to Kings Plaza. The B2 might end up eliminated, but Marine Park would still have service to Kings Plaza (via the B3/B47 stop). The B31, B100, and B101 could then be interlined for operational purposes.

    I can understand why the B31 route was eliminated overnight.

    As for the B4, money needs to be found to restore it on 30-minute headways on at least weekdays and Saturdays.

    • Allan Rosen

      While initially important, I don’t think B2 service to serve Kings Plaza is that important anymore, especially since weekend service was eliminated and since the B9 was extended.  Brighton subway riders to Kings Plaza previously had no choice but the B2 before the B9 was extended.

      • http://www.facebook.com/aemoreira81 Adam Moreira

        Mill Basin could gain from it though.

        • Allan Rosen

           True, but my proposal still brings it one block closer.  Maybe the solution is to route it down Flatbush and Avenue U instead of on Fillmore east of Flatbush on weekends only when fewer people would be using it to access the subway.

          • http://www.facebook.com/aemoreira81 Adam Moreira

            I would keep some service down Fillmore and T on weekdays and Saturdays, however. It does seem ridiculous that Mill Basin has no direct service to the mall closest to it when a simple routing change could solve that.

            Since that is operated by MTA Bus, the savings from not having to run the B2 on weekdays through a varied B100 routing could be put to restoring service to Bergen Beach, which lost its bus service in 2010—at 30-minute headways, which would be about every third bus. Or the B41 Bergen Beach branch could be sent down East 73 and 74 Streets, with the savings being in truncating alternating local B41 service from Bergen Beach to Empire Boulevard outside of the rush hour on weekends, and all runs on the weekend.

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