Is Brooklyn Happy With The Proposed Brooklyn Bus Network Redesign?

Most bus riders don't know it's in the works. Those who do, are not happy.

Is Brooklyn Happy With The Proposed Brooklyn Bus Network Redesign?

Allan Rosen is a former director of MTA NYCT Bus Planning with three decades of experience in transportation and a Master's Degree in Urban Planning. On Twitter @BrooklynBus

Since Bklyner published my opinion that Brooklyn Bus Redesign Misses the Mark, legitimate concerns about the bus network redesign have been raised across the borough.

Northern and Eastern Brooklyn Recap

MTA's virtual workshops for Community Boards 1 through 8 held earlier this year have had sparse attendance – The numbers of MTA and DOT representatives equaled those attending from the public.

One concern raised was the discontinuation of direct JFK Airport service requiring riders to transfer. The number of those needing to transfer, which is in the many thousands daily, was not provided by the MTA, although they were asked to provide it three times over two meetings. They stated, "We have no new data to share publicly at this time." Is it so unreasonable to expect to know how many riders will be inconvenienced by the proposed changes?

Another concern was overcrowding on the B12 between East New York Avenue and Kings County Hospital. Riders also opposed the elimination of the B38 Dekalb Avenue branch to Metropolitan Avenue and the discontinuation of the B57 service to Red Hook. Riders asked to restore the B69 to its former route on 8th Avenue and Prospect Park West, which was eliminated as part of the massive 2010 service cuts.

Neighbors on NextDoor in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, upset over plans to eliminate bus service on Tompkins and Lewis Ave, are circulating a petition to keep the routes. "We NEED better service NOT removal of service," they write.

The stated purpose of the Brooklyn Bus Network Redesign is to speed up buses and move passengers more directly to their destinations. Why is Red Hook not included in those goals – a Red Hook resident wondered in a piece published in Bklyner in January.

Over in Kensington, the KARMA Brooklyn Blog described the proposed changes in Kensington, commenting and raising concerns over the elimination of the B69 service to Windsor Terrace and Kensington, the truncation of the B103 Downtown Brooklyn service, and reductions in express bus service.

What to Expect at the Meetings

About 45 minutes of the virtual meetings are devoted to a recording or reading of the proposal from the internet, usually leaving less than 15 minutes for questions, none of which are typically answered. The MTA merely promises to consider your suggestion. Recordings of these meetings are not available to the public for additional comments.

When I asked for the existing and proposed bus miles and hours so we could be assured that the plan was not a reduction in service, I was directed to the internet for differences in route lengths which does not answer the question. A high-level MTA official later told me the information is unavailable until schedules are prepared. We will see if that information is in the Queens Final Draft, which is expected in a few weeks.

The MTA's attempts at public engagement and outreach to inform of upcoming meetings and how to participate are inadequate – they do not even post notices on the buses with the meeting schedule. A few handouts in bins near the driver will not make riders aware of the upcoming meetings if they don't know to look there. And unless there is a notice on the window, they won't.

Their response, when asked, was that before the first meeting was held, the digital screens (which are not on all the buses) flashed the schedules. Therefore, the assumption must be that all bus riders rode the buses that week or so and memorized the meeting dates and times, so printed notices on the windows were unnecessary.

When the MTA was told that not having in-person meetings discriminates against seniors who are technologically challenged, their response was they made visits to senior centers to explain the plan – as if all seniors frequent them! The MTA promised in the past to resume in-person meetings as soon as it is safe to do so, and also recently promised me they still intend to do that.

At this rate, I estimate that .08% of bus passengers will attend these virtual meetings.

Looking ahead at Meetings in Community Boards 9 – 18.

Neighbors across the borough are organizing to present their own plans and petitions, looking for more say in how their neighborhoods are served. Virtual meetings for Community Districts 9 and 10 are scheduled for February 7th and 9th.

In southern Brooklyn, Councilman Justin Brannan also started a petition requesting the MTAreturnk to the drawing board rather than reduce service and eliminate bus stops.

Radio Free Bay Ridge looked at every proposed stop in Bay Ridge in the draft plan and made a few other comments.

The Friends of Asser Levy Park in Coney Island disagree with the proposed draft and are holding three workshops to gather ideas to present to the MTA in response to its proposal to reduce service in Coney Island and Brighton Beach. They say: "MTA is planning to alter bus service in Coney Island and Brighton Beach. We will be collecting the ideas in one draft to let MTA know WHAT WE NEED. It will be presented to MTA on February 21st during the meeting with the agency."

The first workshop took place in the Coney Island Library on February 4, and the second will be held in meeting room #2 on Saturday, February 11th, 2-3 pm. Capacity is limited to 20 people. Please register to attend. These workshops will discuss the area between Stillwell Ave and West 37th Street.

The third workshop will cover the area from Stillwell Avenue to Coney Island Avenue. It will be held on Sunday, February 19th, at the Shorefront Y, 3300 Coney Island Avenue in Brighton Beach, and will hold 100 participants. It will discuss the B49/68 southern terminal swap, which is opposed by Community Board 13, as well as other changes, with the goal "to explain to the community the proposed changes and collect the feedback that will be submitted to MTA and our elected officials."

"We will consider your suggestions" is just not good enough.

Sending the MTA your comments and attending the virtual meetings is unlikely to stop this plan or make it significantly better. That is why so many communities are conducting their own meetings and starting petitions. I hope more of our elected officials see the need to convene their own town halls and present the MTA with questions they must answer.

"We will consider your suggestions" is just not good enough, especially when within three seconds after a suggestion is submitted on the internet, its status is marked "closed." How do we know if it was even considered?

Communities should submit their own plans for consideration, as the Friends of Asser Levy Park in Coney Island are doing.

When current routes and connections are broken and new ones established, it is incumbent on the MTA to provide an estimate of the number of passengers who would be inconvenienced as compared to those who benefit. My petition against the massive bus stop elimination has over 2,800 signatures. Does the MTA think if they call it "bus stop balancing" or "bus stop consolidation," passengers will not realize their bus stops are being eliminated?  

MTA Chairman Lieber stated that they know they did not get everything right. They did not get most things right.

Allan Rosen is a former director of MTA NYCT Bus Planning with three decades of experience in transportation and a Master's Degree in Urban Planning. On Twitter @BrooklynBus


Sign in or become a Bklyner member to join the conversation.