Kensington/Prospect Park South – A new bus lane went into effect Wednesday, October 23, on a half mile-long stretch of Church Avenue, between East 7th Street and Marlborough Road, bringing hope to thousands of bus riders for a slightly faster commute on a heavily congested stretch of roadway. The bus lane will be in effect from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Sunday and is expected to speed up the B35, which runs between Brownsville and Sunset Park, as well as express buses between Coney Island Avenue and Ocean Parkway.
B35 route is the third busiest bus route in Brooklyn, according to DOT, transporting almost 30,000 riders a day at what often equals walking speed. The B35 is also the borough’s slowest bus, according to the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, averaging a measly 4.8 mph. On this particular stretch, a report by the MTA and DOT said the bus averaged 4.25 mph during peak hours, compared to the 6.7 mph average bus speed in Brooklyn overall. Average walking speed is considered between 3 and 4 miles an hour.
Cars will be allowed to park overnight during non-bus-lane hours and on Sundays, and DOT has also added metered parking and designated truck loading zones on side streets by commercial establishments.
The route will also have traffic cameras “soon,” according to a spokesperson for DOT, though we are still waiting for them to clarify what kinds of cameras. Transit signal priority was implemented at 51 intersections on Church Avenue over the summer, according to a DOT spokesperson.
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Only the eastbound bus lane had been painted red as of Wednesday, though the westbound lane is clearly marked as a bus-only lane. And though police officers at Church and Coney Island Avenues said that no standing orders are now being enforced, the bus lane is still being blocked by parked cars and trucks. As a result, buses are forced to move outside of the bus lane anyway.
“The public needs to be mindful it’s a bus route,” said Sophia Mangual, a B35 driver who has operated MTA buses for a year-and-a-half. “But they just don’t care.”
Mangual said she was happy that the route had gotten a bus lane, and that getting to drive in it would probably make her job easier and more satisfying “for a few blocks.” But in her estimation as a driver on the route, the lane’s duration is too short and doesn’t even cover the most congested section, which she says is further east. And she is not optimistic that police will enforce the no standing rules in the lane.
“It makes the flow of traffic more difficult,” Mangual said of the bus lane parkers. “This area needs to be heavily enforced.” She said that traffic cameras will be a welcome addition to the route.
Hajime Yoshida, a freelance jazz guitarist who usually rides the B35 four or five days per week to a school music teaching job or to gigs, said that he is looking forward to a significantly faster commute. So much faster, in fact, that he estimated his commute could drop from 48 minutes to just 20 minutes.
“It will be awesome for us,” Yoshida said. Nonetheless, he said that the bus lane could be a challenge for drivers in the area.
The DOT proposed a bus lane in June, and as often happens when a bus lane is proposed, residents expressed concerns over the summer about the elimination of parking spaces.
Congregants at B’Shert Reform Temple chastised Council Member Mathieu Eugene at a July meeting, arguing that the bus lane would complicate their commute to Shabbat services. The Temple won, and the new bus lane now ends just before it at Church Avenue and Marlborough Road.
In an emailed statement, Jaqi Cohen, Campaign Director for the Straphangers Campaign said that the bus lane implementation is a “major win for riders.”
“The implementation of the Church Avenue lane means that 30 thousand daily bus riders get to spend less time stuck in transit each day,” Cohen said, “and more time doing literally anything else.”
This article has been updated to note that transit signal priority was implemented on Church Avenue over the summer.