Southern Brooklyn

Our Mass Transit Future – Part 3: What Happened To Democracy?

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.

Is There A Conspiracy To Not Improve Our Rail System?

One person thinks so and I agree. John Rozankowski, in a recent article for Suite 101, discusses how the desire to construct a soccer stadium is behind the plan to kill the reactivation of the Rockaway Line. I suggest you read that now.

I recently wrote about the MTA’s bias against buses, how buses have long been treated as the stepchild of our mass transit system. However, when the option is to build new rapid transit lines or reactivate existing rights of way, the bias is now towards buses, specifically SBS.

In Queens, the powers that be will soon initiate two studies to kill the chances of reactivating the Rockaway Line: One study, to convert it to a bicycle route and hiking trail, and another, which will claim to solve the north south travel problem in Queens, by installing SBS along the Woodhaven/Cross Bay Corridor. That plan, however, if it comes to fruition, will be to the detriment of Southern Brooklyn, and will actually make north / south travel for automobiles and trucks across Queens even worse. Even if you do not drive on Woodhaven Boulevard, you can expect increased traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway and other alternatives such as Ocean Parkway or the BQE, as current Woodhaven Boulevard users switch to alternate routes once traffic on Woodhaven slows from 30 mph to 15 mph or less when a lane for general traffic is removed.

The Need For A Balanced Transportation System

Yes, it is true that money is not available for new subway lines and SBS is the cheapest alternative. However, the cheapest alternative in the long run is not always the best one. We see that now with the need to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. (Did you know it is officially the Governor Malcolm Wilson Bridge? I digress.) Have you asked yourself why that bridge needs replacement after only 50 years of existence, while no one is talking about replacing the Whitestone Bridge, which is just as old, or the RFK, which is older? It is because Governor Dewey was looking to cut costs when building the Tappan Zee, while Robert Moses was looking out for future generations when designing his bridges.

Moses has been much maligned for his insistence of not including mass transit in his plans and actually designing his facilities to preclude use by mass transit. Where is the outrage toward Governor Andrew Cuomo for not including mass transit in the design of the new Tappan Zee (or should I call it the Governor Andrew Cuomo Bridge)? First, he steals mass transit operating funds necessitating service cutbacks, then he proposes a new bridge without mass transit and, as Rozankowki points out, he is in line with big developers, which will result in a potential useful mass transit line (The Rockaway Line) being turned into a virtually useless greenway, if he has his way.

Cuomo claims there is no money for mass transit. That is true because he refuses to make transit a priority.

Other than Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who else has proposed new funding sources for transit? Why is this not a state or national priority? Why are the conclusions of so-called studies determined before they begin? Why should an engineering study of an SBS corridor along Woodhaven begin before the community is asked if they even want SBS there? After the preliminary engineering money is spent, how likely is it that another engineering study would be undertaken if the Queens communities would prefer an alternate route for SBS? Not very.

Why are communities not being consulted regarding a Woodhaven Boulevard SBS? It should not be forced down their throats. Why does the governor fund a study for a greenway without funding a similar study for the alternative plan to reactivate a mass transit line? Assemblyman Goldfeder of Queens is trying to change that. Why should we be required to accept ill-conceived future SBS plans when the success of existing services has not been adequately measured? Where is the democracy?

We need a balanced transportation system. One that includes new rail routes and a thorough revamping of outdated bus routes. Perhaps we cannot afford new subway lines right now, but should they be totally ruled out for future generations? Why are we not including plans to reactivate underutilized or un-utilized rights of way, such as the Tri-Boro RX Plan, the Staten Island North Shore Line, and the Rockaway Line, which would cost a fraction of what constructing new subway lines cost? We do not need a one-size-fits-all solution, which is how the MTA and DOT are treating SBS.


There are dozens of groups fighting to protect the environment. Why are there no national transit advocacy groups? Who is fighting for mass transit funding? Is it you? Or do you just complain when your bus or train is not running properly? A successful mass transit coalition must start with a grass roots effort. The will of the people must prevail — not the will of elitist big developers or non-caring government entities.

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.

Comment policy


  1. I should add if you want to read more about the LIRR Bay Ridge Line, click on the link for Triboro RX Plan.

  2. As I mentioned before, I would love to see a crosstown train service in the middle of Brooklyn. If nothing else (though we should certainly have more), I would have at least part of the Triboro RX plan between Second Avenue and Broadway Junction.

    It’s embarrassing when a Borough President comes up with a plan when state and national politicians can’t. Hey, I bet even Bloomberg would come up with something (or at least agree with Scott Stringer, which he probably does). I’m sorry, but I don’t see how gay marriage is more important than public transportation. Yes, I brought that up; no, I do not hate homosexuals. My point is how mangled Cuomo’s priorities are. Public transportation affects people on a larger scale than a law concerning marriage.

  3. It’s because the gay population represents a large voting block so they have to be catered to. Advocates of public transportation are silent, unlike environmentalists or the bicycle lobby. We need to stick together and get our voices heard.

  4. When did I say they weren’t important? I said gay marriage is not more important than public transportation (or, for that matter, education, employment, and medical care).

    Gee, I TOTALLY wasn’t born at a Brooklyn hospital at all. My parents must not be legal citizens. Wait, I was? Hold on, they were also born and raised in this country? Guess what? I’M AMERICAN. I just can’t vote yet (though I will be eligible to become a voter soon).

    Assume elsewhere.

  5. […] Last week I stated that we need a balanced transportation system, and not only Select Bus Service, to serve our future needs. That is still true. However, if the MTA sticks to its March 2014 deadline for implementation of BusTime — and if it eventually displays an estimated wait time instead of how far away the next bus is, and BusTrek is fully instituted and it works — that would indeed be good news for bus riders. Having bus information at the bus shelters, which CEMUSA is required to do, but is not doing, would even be better news. […]

Comments are closed.