Southern Brooklyn

SBS Nostrand Ave Service: Speak Up Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace


THE COMMUTE: No one is getting married, but if you want the MTA to make any changes to the proposed Select Bus Service (SBS) route on Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue planned for early 2013, now is the time to let them know and they will listen to you. At least that is what they told me last week at their Open House at Brooklyn College. Your opportunity to speak up will be on October 25 at Community Board 15’s monthly meeting.

I went to the Open House with a list of questions to ask of the MTA regarding their plan, and I promised to tell you their answers this week. I was able to ask most of the questions but not all. Don’t let this plan hit you by surprise. Learn now what they are planning and, better yet, read between the lines to learn what they are not telling you. I hope to help you with that.

If you currently use the B44 Limited at Avenue R, you will now have to use the local because the SBS will not be stopping there. If enough passengers request that a stop be added there or anywhere else along the route, they will add it. If you say nothing, do not complain later. Don’t blame the MTA. That is why it is important for you to attend Community Board 15’s October meeting. If there is anything you do not understand about this plan and want clarification, you should also attend.


SBS to Sheepshead Bay Station Proposal

Earlier this year, a friend of mine suggested that the SBS operate to the Sheepshead Bay subway station, rather than to Knapp Street. Originally I thought that it would not be possible to find a turnaround at Sheepshead Bay station to turn the articulated (accordion-style) buses there, so in an earlier article I suggested that the B44 local, which will be using regular length buses, terminate there and the SBS make all stops below Avenue Z.

Sending some B44 service along the B36 route would relieve overcrowding on the B36 during rush hours and at school dismissal time. Years ago, the MTA operated additional rush hour B36 service between Avenue U and the subway station. When that service was discontinued, some riders switched to car services or asked relatives to drop them off or pick them up at the station. Providing additional service would return some of that lost clientele.

Later I realized that such a plan would require the MTA install fare machines at about a half dozen additional bus stops south of Avenue Z, increasing the project’s cost and making that proposal somewhat impractical.

Taking a closer look at the intersection of East 14th Street and Avenue Z, I believe with some modifications to the intersection, it could be feasible for the SBS to turn around there. Further study would be needed to find out for sure.

I tossed out this idea to the MTA at the Open House and they did not dismiss it out of hand. They promised to look into it and return an answer within three months outlining the following possible scenarios. 1) They would not do it (for whatever reason); 2) They like the idea but they are too far along in the planning process to make the change; 3) They like the idea and will change their plans to incorporate it but only if enough people from the area indicate that they prefer it to what is now proposed, i.e. both SBS and local buses terminating at Knapp Street with the SBS making stops south of Avenue U only at Avenue X, Emmons Avenue and Nostrand Avenue, and at Knapp Street and Emmons Avenue.

I do not believe that the current light B44 ridership south of Avenue U merits doubling of service there, especially when the MTA will not provide weekday afternoon or weekend B4 service east of Coney Island Hospital to service the Sheepshead Bay Station. In my opinion they are hoping that B44 riders south of the Belt Parkway will choose to ride to the Junction instead of Sheepshead Bay Station via the B4 by providing three to four times as much service on the B44 than on the B4 when it operates. If B4 ridership then further erodes, the MTA will seek to eliminate it entirely east of Sheepshead Bay Station, as they proposed in 2009.

A B44 SBS terminating at Sheepshead Bay Station would make it usable by Kingsborough Community College students in the off-peak direction, where there would be much excess capacity available for them, greatly shortening their trip time since many students travel long distances. I overheard one student on her cell phone the other day repeating a conversation she had with her teacher who marked her late. She told her friend that she gets up at 7:30 each morning to attend an 11:30 class and wasn’t responsible for the public transportation system, so being late was not her fault. (Aren’t cell phones great?)


Nostrand Avenue Traffic (Sheepshead Bay)

The SBS plan calls for an exclusive bus lane between Avenue X and Emmons Avenue, northbound from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and southbound from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. This means that through-traffic and cars making left turns will have to share a single traffic lane. If the car in front of you wants to make a left turn at the Shore Parkway Service Road, Voorhies Avenue, Avenue Z, Avenue Y, or at Avenue X, you will have to wait for it to find a gap in oncoming traffic even if you are going straight and do not wish to turn – possibly causing you to miss several green signals.

According to Department of Transportation representative Eric Beaton, DOT does not anticipate problems because “not that many cars are making left turns, and there are gaps in traffic.” He further stated that if there are problems they will make changes.

I asked Beaton if they will be monitoring before and after traffic on neighboring parallel streets. All he would tell me is that they have “before” counts, but would not elaborate for which streets they have “before” counts or how old those counts are or provide any further information. It is up to the community to suggest which streets should be monitored before the exclusive lanes go into effect and when those counts should be taken to accurately determine the traffic impact.


My Predictions Regarding Traffic in Sheepshead Bay

Drivers that are too impatient will illegally enter the bus lane at each of the above corners to get around the car waiting in front of them. Drivers that do wait who do not have their left signal on will be honked to encourage them to pass in the bus lane. Occasionally police will issue summonses to violators. If red light cameras are installed, all violators will be ticketed and drivers will learn to obey. If that happens, it will take you 15 minutes to travel the few blocks between Avenue X and Emmons Avenue by car when the exclusive lane is in effect. Motorists will soon tire of this delay and will seek alternatives such as switching to Bedford Avenue, slowing traffic there. Those going only a few blocks will divert to residential East 29th Street or Haring Street. When a lane was reduced on Gerritsen Avenue, many cars just switched from Gerritsen to neighboring residential Stuart Street, so you can assume something similar will happen here.

After several months of viewing the traffic situation, and hearing complaints from businesses that they are losing customers because of changing shopping patterns due to the increased traffic, DOT will then make changes, but only if traffic is really bad or the outcry is great. They will most probably ban left turns at the corners in Sheepshead Bay where the exclusive lane exists or reduce the hours the exclusive lane is in effect easing the problems somewhat.

The other alternative is that we will just live with slower traffic in the neighborhood and more traffic delays. If you weren’t happy with DOT’s changes on Emmons Avenue, which will only get worse in the summertime, you will not be happy with the changes on Nostrand Avenue between Avenue X and Emmons Avenue.

Tomorrow: The Benefits of SBS and Other Considerations

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).

Comment policy


  1. Would it be possible to make the bus lane a bus/passing/turning only lane? The lane markings will be disruptive to drivers during the hours sbs won’t run since 1) drivers won’t be aware of the specific hours and the lane will be a de facto 24hr bus lane, and 2) cops will ticket drivers legitimately using the lane when sbs isnt running.

  2. I am sure there will be signs stating the hours the bus lane is in effect. No one should receive a ticket when it is not in effect. There are exclusive bus lanes all over the city, for example on Livingston Street, that are only in effect during the rush hours.  Those are curb lanes and there is little enforcement, but generally people are not confused by part time bus lanes.

    Current rules allow you to make a right turn from a bus lane.  They could also allow you to pass a car making a left turn by entering the bus lane, but that might get a little tricky because anyone driving in the bus lane who gets a ticket could state he was merely passing a car making a left turn.

    Anyway, do you have any opinion on the SBS going to Sheepshead Bay Station instead of Knapp Street as it pertains to helping Kingsborough Students?  I think it could be a big help if they added shuttle B49 service from the Station to the College.  Also, they might not need the Limited anymore in the mornings.

  3. I like your idea of sending SBS to the Sheepshead Bay station, and I’m glad it’s being considered.  (Do you think it would make sense to run selected SBS trips all the way to Kingsborough instead of running separate B49 shuttles?)

    I don’t think the lane configuration will be as disastrous as you predict.  The same basic layout works fine on Bedford.  Yes, some of the traffic will shift to parallel streets, but one of the major advantages of a grid is that there are a lot of parallel streets to absorb the overflow, so the additional volume on any single street will likely be negligible.  Some of the traffic will shift to less congested times of day.  And if SBS really is faster and more reliable than the current B44 Limited, some of the traffic will shift to the bus.

  4. As I stated, it was my friend’s idea to send the SBS to Sheepshead Bay Station, not mine. Anyway, the problem with running the SBS all the way to Kingsborough are two-fold. (1) There is no room at Mackenzie Street for an additional bus especially an articulated one and the College wouldn’t want it on it’s property. (2) it would run into community opposition.

    The difference between Bedford and Nostrand is that on Bedford when someone needs to make a left turn, everyone passes in the bicycle lane, whether legal or not, so there is no traffic backup. If they try passing in the bus lane, unless they allow it, which I highly doubt, they are liable for a summons.

    As for traffic shifting to other parts of the day, I doubt you would even notice this on a shopping street. Since cars tend to double-park during midday, traffic on Nostrand is never a picnic.

    The problem of traffic shifting to the SBS is that someone’s origin and destination would both have to be in the Nostrand Avenue corridor which is a very small percentage of total trips. Most people either transfer to the subway or a crosstown bus which would be just as slow.

    The only major destination I see in the corridor where someone could decide to leave their car home is the Kibgs County-Downstate Medical complex, but I don’t think too many people would be willing to walk from Rogers Avenue or change for the B12. I think they would prefer to stay withtbe local which would continue to take them near the hospital area.

  5. Well, the community opposition could be quelled by having the buses stop only at Kingsborough and not anywhere else in Manhattan Beach. As far as the artics go, one solution could be to just have the buses layover further back at say, Langham Street or Kensington Street.

    I mean, it would save the MTA money by having to run less B49 service (especially the trippers), so I could picture them going for it.

  6. There are gaps in traffic now because the two lanes allows traffic to flow through at a greater rate. Once it is one lane it will not be that way. Take a ride over to Garitsen ave and ave U. They reduced the traffic lanes northbound at the intersection from two and a turning lane to one and a turning lane. It used to take 10-20 secounds to clear most of the traffic through the intersection allowing southbound traffic to make a left onto ave U. Now there is rarely a break in traffic and turners often have to wait one or more traffic signals to make a turn creating extra pollution all to meet Bloomnuts goal of traffic calming by reducing two lane in each direction to one lane roads. All this does is slow the law abiding driver down, create extra pollution. The super speeder crosses into the yellowed off median and speeds on. This SBS lane is a disaster. Thier studies on the effect a flawed with the answer predetermined and they look to find data that meets the predetermined answer. Few homeowners and coop owners will use this SBS b44 as few ride the B44 now south of ave U

  7. Exactly correct about finding data to meet their pre-determined conclusions. I don’t know why others can’t see that. And if the cars who want to turn right from Gerritsen onto Avenue U didn’t have Stuart as an alternative, then Gerritsen would be hopelessly clogged at Avenue U. Stuart used to be a quiet street. Now sometimes you can’t even get through the Avenue U light on the first signal.

    DOT doesnt want to collect the proper data. That’s why they won’t reveal which streets they have “before” counts for. So they will be able to deny that traffic increased on the parallel streets.

  8. parallel streets are currently quiet residential streets filled with middle class taxpayers and children playing in the street and who do not take the B44. Why should they have to be inconvienced to serve out of neiborhood people? This city spits on the middle class . An this current DOT is making it harder and harder to live in brooklyn and live a middle class lifestyle. Narrowing roads that keep traffic flowing and forcing traffic on quiet side streets make no sense. Take a look at many former middle class area’s that have emptied out jus tto be backfilled by illegal immigrants who pay little to no taxes and consume tax dollars. Instead of having the NYPD ticket reckless drivers who go 50 in 30 zones (and still do going into the yellow medians, he punshes tax paying drivers. Sheepshead bay is not a transit freindly layout nor is anywhere in this part of brooklyn. Transit is good for going to and from work only. As for the B36 issues. Select B36 should terminate at Sheapshead bay station in both directions. The overcrowding issue is due to poor line management which creates big gaps in service and then 2 or 3 in a row. I call it the Ulmer Park Shuffle. The problem can be reduced with active bus monitoring whoch i hope is done once gps bus montoring is extended to brooklyn. I rode the B36 from both terminals to sheepshead bay for 25 years.

  9. No driving person is shifting to SBS. As allan stated they use nostrand as a through street to another part of brooklyn. The only person who is going to trug on multiple buses to a destination are poor people with no other choice, Secound, people living on nostrand south of kings highway RARELY EVERY GO anywhere on nostrand north of kings highway with the exception of Brooklyn College and people living in the projects. There is nothing for us up there. This SBS plan is flawed and should not be implimented south of ave U. PERIOD. But this mayor is blind to the middle classs. We get spepped on Over and oVEr

  10. The thing is the local buses already lay up at Kensington and Langham when the terminal is full. At 2:45 PM, you can count up 12 buses inside and outside of the terminal. Most of those buses are B1 buses.

  11. Don’t blame the mayor. It is not his doing. I believe the MTA is the major player here. DOT is merely trying to accommodate the MTA. They picked the route, not DOT.

    Your travel patterns are correct and the plan is very flawed. If there are doctors or other non-poor people who need to go to Kings County Hospital/ Downstate, they will continue to drive. The only people who stand to save significant time by the current proposal are the few health care workers who work at the several nursing homes near Knapp Street. But that doesn’t justify the doubling of service south of Avenue U.

  12. Don’t hold your breath on GPS being expanded throughout Brooklyn. I don’t expect that to ever happen and no one ever said it would be used to help keep buses on time. The current thinking is that it would just let you know how long you would have to wait, not to reduce that wait.

    Your discussion about not punishing reckless drivers but everyone else instead by slowing their trips, also applies to handing out summonses. Most fare beaters on SBS will get away with it. The MTA will be collecting fines from people who are genuinely confused and do not understand the misleading signage, or else people will board and take their chances when all the fare machines are broken or run out of paper and a few will be ticketed.

    In my 40 years of driving, I’ve never seen a frequent lane changer (like every five seconds) get ticketed for reckless driving because he was going faster than everyone else but I’ve often seen someone not blocking traffic get a ticket for double parking within five seconds of stopping his car. Heck, I’ve even seen a meter maid getting a picture of a cars registration while a car was preparing to stop at a bus stop and was still moving. Not knowing the driver’s intentions, she hadn’t broken any law yet.

  13. How far are those buses going? If they’re just short-turns to Ocean Parkway, the B44 would provide a ride that’s just as fast to reach the subway.

  14. I think 2 are B 49s to Sheepshead Bay, 2 to Empire Blvd, 2 B1s to 25th Avenue, 2 B1s to 13th Avenue and about 4 to Ocean Parkway. The terminal still would have to be expanded to accommodate artics.

  15. But what if you had 4 B44s replacing the 2 B49s and 4 B1 short-turns? Wouldn’t that end up using less space?

  16. B44 SBS turnaround at Sheepshead Bay

    What about having a B44 terminate at E16th and Sheepshead Bay Rd. with a short walk for passengers to the Sheepshead station. Then the bus can turn left on Sheepshead Bay Rd. and right on Voorhies Avenue with a first stop under the Sheepshead station (Voorhies Avenue end). Then continue with a right on E14th and either a stop at Sheepshead Bay Rd and/or a stop after turning on to Ave. Z just beyond E15th. With a stop under the subway overpass on Ave. Z.

  17. You should have responded in a more recent column about SBS because I almost missed this. Technically, the only problem I see is the right turn onto Voorhies which would be very difficult for a bus, especially and articulated one because of the angle of the street.

    Please respond (if you choose to) in yesterday’s thread instead of this one where I suggested another alternative which might be easier to implement, just extending the B44 one stop to KCC during college hours. The advantages are fewer SBS stops and you wouldn’t need more shuttles to KCC. There will be plenty of capacity on SBS buses because KCC riders will be on the bus against the peak. You could run alternate buses to KCC and still provide SBS service to Knapp Street when service is frequent enough or extend more SBS trips from Avenue U.

    It certainly needs to be considered and could be implemented in the future.


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