By Dave Lutz
The proposed bus route changes in Red Hook offer a one-time opportunity to accomplish an agenda item that has been a priority here for more than 25 years. Red Hook and Columbia Waterfront residents have been asking for a direct local bus through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to Manhattan even before the Union Street bus was terminated. Council Member Brad Lander regularly spoke about restoring that bus with tunnel access.
The newly planned B81 bus follows the exact route from Red Hook to Prospect Park. That can allow running the B61 from downtown Brooklyn to Red Hook Houses and then to Manhattan. The B81 would cover the rest of the present B61 route to the park and beyond. The connection to Manhattan could save locals up to a half hour of travel time. This change would eliminate duplicate service and improve service to riders with or without a short extension of B81 service to Union Street.
For B61 passengers, things have gotten worse over the years. Since the recent BQE lane closure, Columbia Street has been added to existing traffic jams on Atlantic Avenue and Smith Street before we transfer to the subway. Expected growth of warehouse, cruise ship, and container port business and a new large pre-k school being built here will further clog our narrow streets, making a direct route to Manhattan even more imperative.
The stated purpose of the new bus plan is to speed up buses and move passengers more directly to their destinations. After seeing the new bus plan, you have to ask: "Is Red Hook included in those goals?"