The following is an op-ed by Assemblyman William Colton, representative from the 47th District serving Bensonhurst, Bath Beach and Gravesend.
Improving and restoring public transit services, such as our subway and bus lines, will greatly improve the quality of life for those living and working in southwest Brooklyn.
When public transportation services are cut or reduced, the entire neighborhood suffers. But, if public transit is improved, whether by restoring previous services or adding new ones, the entire community benefits. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
In 2010, the MTA cut the southern portion of the B64 bus line, which runs from Bay Ridge to Coney Island. The route was cut south of Harway Avenue. As a result, local stores starting losing business. Foot traffic on the street slowed down, as those who previously took the bus to travel no longer passed by or waited in front of these small businesses. In addition, a burden was needlessly placed on many neighborhood residents, including our working families who had used the B64 to commute to work and travel to shop, pick up their children from school, or complete other important tasks.
Those who suffered the most from the service cuts were those who are most vulnerable – our children, the disabled, and the elderly. While the MTA suggested that the riders of the B64 find alternate public transit routes, for many, this was burdensome, and for others, simply not possible. Children had previously relied on the B64 bus service to get to school, and now had to transfer to other buses or the subway, or their walking distance increased. Senior citizens and the disabled had great trouble and difficulty walking up the flights of stairs to the nearby D Subway Train Stations, or walking to other bus routes on other streets, such as the B82, which were several blocks away. And for some seniors and disabled peoples, these other options were simply not possible given their physical limitations, leaving them without any opportunities to use public transit.
However, the community came together in 2012 and successfully won the restoration of the B64 bus route to Coney Island. It was because we all joined and worked together, regardless of our religious, cultural, and ethnic differences, that this community victory was possible.
Last year, we saw other communities in Brooklyn coming together and fighting for the restoration of another bus line, the B37. Again, by building a coalition of a diverse group of people, these communities won the restoration of B37 bus service.
I am now planning on using the same community-based model, which was used in our B64 victory, to fight for additional public transit service improvements and restorations. Our Southwest Brooklyn Public Transit Improvement Coalition is ready to take on a new challenge that will better our share of transit services.
I truly believe that if public transportation in our neighborhoods of Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Bath Beach, and Dyker Heights is improved, the quality of life for all of us will also greatly improve. When bus and subway services are added or restored, the most direct consequence is a decrease in waiting time or number of transfers. This significantly decreases the amount of time people will have to spend riding the buses and trains, shortening commutes and making travel easier. The extra time saved by adding or improving services would mean more time for families to be together and partake in recreational activities. Business would also improve for our local stores, as people would have more time to spend shopping as well. Furthermore, additional services would increase commerce for small businesses, as bus or subway lines would be added to locations previously underserved or not served at all. In addition, when services are improved or added, people are less inclined to travel by car. This would decrease vehicle traffic, while increasing pedestrian traffic that further stimulates the local economy. And unquestionably, the stress and hassles of long travel times would be lowered, making traveling not only quicker, but less troublesome and hectic.
Of course, all these benefits would improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of residents and workers of our local neighborhoods in Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights, and even beyond. Overall, improving public transit is a no brainer, and would make the community of southwest Brooklyn a better place to work, live, and raise a family.
If you would like to get involved in fighting for improved public transit in our community, or have any other concerns you like to be addressed, please email me at [email protected] or contact my community office at 718-236-1598.