Southern Brooklyn

The Commute: Why The MTA Can’t Be Trusted

A familiar sight: Next bus please! Source: afagen / Flickr

THE COMMUTE: They do not keep their promises, tell different communities different stories, and they mislead.

In my March 31 article, I promised to keep you informed regarding any MTA response I receive regarding my continual complaints about B1 and B49 buses not stopping to pick up passengers in the afternoon in Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay. My lengthy complaint received a response (15 business days later, the maximum time allotted by the MTA), which basically stated that they sincerely apologize for the buses not stopping and that they will try to do a better job in the future.

It was a nice gesture but it did not answer any of my specific questions. The MTA closed out my complaint without solving the problem. However, I responded on April 21 with the following:

I appreciate your apology and the fact that you are striving to do a better job. However, I would just like to let you know that the very day I received your response, I and three other passengers were passed up again by a B1 bus, this time at Falmouth Street, also in the late afternoon.

No sense in providing the date, bus numbers or times since you are not taking any action regarding the bus operators or dispatchers I reported on. Luckily, this time three of the four passengers were able to take the B49 to the subway which was right behind. One passenger however, could only use the B1 and was forced to wait at least another 10 minutes, and possibly a half hour if two consecutive B1 buses did not stop, which is a distinct possibility, according to past experience.

I also would have appreciated a response to my questions regarding MTA policy for buses skipping stops when they are behind schedule and there is not another bus able to pick up those passengers. The problem still exists and I will continue to keep you informed until it is corrected.

I received a secondary response two days later on April 23, which stated:

We appreciate your interest in New York City Transit. We have forwarded your additional comments to appropriate Brooklyn Road Operations supervision for investigation and review.

Twenty-two business days passed and no further response. On May 14, the day I attended the MTA public hearing, the same thing happened again in the late afternoon. Two in-service buses passed by without stopping, although there was room for at least 10 additional passengers. Not knowing when the next bus will stop, and not wanting to be late for the hearing, I decided to take the bus in the opposite direction to Kingsborough, where I could change buses. I crossed the street and walked back one block to the bus stop and saw a bus coming. However, the driver also made no attempt to slow down or pull over to the curb. So I start walking out to the center of the street. When he stopped, I asked him why he didn’t pull over to the bus stop. He responded that he didn’t know I was waiting for a bus and thought I just wanted to cross the street.

The following day at about the same time, a B1 skipped Falmouth Street again, but luckily, this time there was a B49 right behind that did stop. However, if you wanted a B1 destination other than the Brighton subway, you were still out of luck.

So, What Is The Point?

Sheepshead Bites readers know that I have been complaining about this problem for around five years. At first, the MTA was very responsive, stating that they only could address the problem if I provide bus numbers, times, and locations. So I did that from that point on. Then they met with me personally on about a half dozen occasions, sometimes sending up to six employees to discuss the problems with me. Each time they made promises that they would remedy the situation. First they provided extra buses. They posted notices in the depots, which helped only for several weeks. Then they told me they would reinstruct their dispatchers, who I believe sometimes actually make the situation worse. Bus operators were then instructed to leave the college not quite full so as to be able to pick up remaining passengers. Off the record, I heard that bus operators were threatened when that was attempted.

I am not saying the MTA has been ignoring this problem or that they have not tried. Still, it’s been five years and the buses still do not stop when school is in session. School enrollment increases each semester and the MTA bases the number of buses on the previous semester’s enrollment, so the demand always exceeds the supply even with the yellow buses provided by the college.

When I suggested sending virtually empty B44 SBS buses to Kingsborough during school hours, to ease the burden on the B49, it was dismissed due to “funding limitations.” The MTA acts as if they have all the answers, which they obviously do not.

So, Why The Headline?

In five years, the MTA has not been able to solve this problem, which they promised to do on a number of occasions. They promise to reply within 15 days, and they do not. Nor do they notify the complainant that they need additional time. Some complaints and suggestions are just ignored or routinely dismissed. Recently, the Upper East Side’s Community Board 8 summoned the MTA to explain why M31 service along York Avenue is so unreliable, with off peak buses scheduled at every 20 minutes and often arriving every 40 minutes. Weren’t Bus Time and Bus Trek supposed to reduce bus bunching? Why didn’t the MTA mention the status of Bus Trek at that meeting?

Meanwhile, in Glendale, Queens, when Community Board 5 complained about infrequent and overcrowded bus service, the MTA representative promised more efficiency because of bus tracking. “Managers [sic] now how the ability to keep better track of things. It’s a great advantage.” Why do different community boards get different stories?

Manhattan Community Board 8 suggested the route employ low floor buses to reduce dwell time, a seemingly logical suggestion due to the high numbers of seniors and disabled passengers using the route to access a half dozen medical establishments along York Avenue. The MTA had no response and made no promises to try to increase bus reliability or to provide additional service. “It is not financially prudent for us to schedule more buses than there are riders,” they said, although riders insist that they often end up walking rather than waiting for a bus.

The MTA also intentionally misleads. When announcing new projects, only the advantages are mentioned. Disadvantages are ignored and are not known until after implementation. Regarding the B44 SBS, the MTA ignored repeated requests from Community Board 15 for the number of parking spaces that will be lost. They also never stated that those waiting at local stops south of Avenue U would have waiting times reduced by 50 percent at non-SBS stops. The MTA’s East Side Access Project will benefit Long Islanders traveling to the Manhattan’s East Side, but it will hurt Brooklynites, since all service to and from Atlantic Terminal will become a shuttle service to Jamaica. Anyone wishing to go further will not even have the convenience of an across the platform transfer. This has never been publicized.

The MTA is slowly returning service that was cut in 2010. However, they refuse to call them “service restorations,” but rather refer to them as “rider initiatives,” in order to make it appear that new service is being added. I have written many times regarding the misleading customer satisfaction surveys — not designed to assess customer problems, but to serve as propaganda as to how well the MTA is doing. I am certain if B1, B49, and M31 riders were queried, 75 percent of the passengers would not be satisfied with the service provided, as MTA surveys claim.

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).

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Comment policy


  1. MTA has the same problem as UPS does. You just can’t control so many people in so many different positions. It only takes one stupid/lazy person to break the chain…and UPS and MTA has no shortage of those people. In fact, it’s the go to place for jobs for those people. “One Flew Over the Coocoo’s Nest” was actually inspired by these government funded failures.

    These things will not be fixed unless you fire 95% of all of their employees and start from scratch.

  2. If you fired 95% of the employees, who would do the work during the hiring process to replace (at least some of) them?

    Do you really think 95% of the employees at the MTA (or even UPS) are bad apples?

  3. About 5% of all of MTA is doing any work, anyway, so you wouldn’t feel much of a difference. The rest are mindlessly doing whatever the minimal job requirements they are required to do. Put a freaking cow in there, it would do a better job. Sometimes the only way to fix something is to demolish most of it and start from scratch. It’s a scary thought for most people, but it can be done. The MTA is beyond damage control phase. Yes, I think 95% are bad apples.

  4. “About 5% of all of MTA is doing any work, anyway, so you wouldn’t feel much of a difference.”

    Where did that number come from? I’d bet that at least 10% of MTA employees, and probably more, are either bus operators, train operators, engineers, or conductors. Are half of them not doing any work?

  5. The MTA is racist. I do not see anyone but Black men in the MTA. I wonder how many domestic incidents that these men have.

  6. Thanks for letting mta know, hopefully they do something about this. At around 8:00am, I take the b49 bus for my morning commute in sheepsheadbay. The driver (only for a couple of days) seemed to be very impatient and if he sees one or two people waiting he just keeps driving. Unfortunately I don’t think mta takes these complaints seriously as some of us are trying to get to work.

  7. Your knowledge of the MTA is just over simplistic. Do you think the MTA is similar to a series circuit where when one light bulb goes out, all the others just cease to operate? You couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a very complex organization and each agency is if different as is each department within each agency. Broad generalizations just do not apply. Also, the analytical ranks are totally different from the operational ranks.

    That said, most employees want to do a good job and most do a good job. Having worked there, I woud say it is more like 5% that are rotten apples, not 95%. Yes, perhaps 25 to 50% do just the minimum to get by. But what is wrong with that? They get the job done. Yes, it’s nice wen employees go beyond the call of duty to do a superior job, but to get that from employees, you have to treat them with respect and treat them right, where the MTA could use much improvement. How do you expect an employee to perform when he is consistently passed over for a promotion when he sees less qualified employees promoted instead for whatever reason? It doesn’t exactly inspire the best in people.

  8. You are again just making up numbers off the top of your head. If you want to demolish the MTA, what would you replace it with and why would it be any better. Either make some intelligent remarks, or keep your opinions to yourself.

  9. Here is the problem. I know that many others are affected, but no one speaks up. It sees that I am the only one. The elderly are the greatest victims here, being forced to routinely wait 30, 45, or 60 minutes for a bus in all types of weather. They don’t know who to call or write to. Working people like yourself are busy and have other priorities. It only takes a few minutes to send an e-mail. If everyone did that or contacted their elected officials, you would see how quickly the problem would be solved.

    When I worked there and tried to suggest improvements, the response I would frequently get was, “How do you know it’s a problem? Has anyone complained?”

  10. When announcing new projects, only the advantages are mentioned……..unless that new project is proposed by groups outside the MTA, in which case only the disadvantages are mentioned.

  11. I have proposed many improvements from inside the MTA but outside the department that was supposed to be making the suggestions and they were treated just as if they were made from outside the organization, with only the disadvantages mentioned. And if they coudn’t find any disadvantages, they would change the proposal and mentioned disadvantages for something I never proposed!

  12. The B1 doesn’t always stop at Stillwell Ave and 86th Street either, particularly during evening rush hour. Very frustrating. Riders are waiting at the stop for 20+ minutes!
    And you’re right that they’ve kept the LIRR change a complete secret. That’s infuriating! Not shocking that those traveling to/from Manhattan are prioritized over everyone else. What else is new.

  13. And I’ve tried complaining to them. I’ve complained about it when they say “next stop, 25th Ave” on the D train and then next thing I know we’re express to Stillwell, no warning. I’ve complained about them creating a mini-polar vortex on the newer 2 trains (which, if they stopped, might – gasp – save them some money!). Nothing changes. The only time changes have ever been made were when strong political/community pressure was placed on them. Lone emails won’t do it; we need petitions and letters en masse.

  14. Try calling this guy…
    Darryl C. Irick

    Vice President / President

    2 Broadway #2015

    New York, NY 10004

    Phone: (646) 252-5872

    fax: (646) 252-5815


    Try visiting PCAC or MTA board meetings that will fall from death ears.

    or grab a local news station.

  15. I have been in touch with Mr. Irick and met him once. He reads most of what I write. In fact see set up sone of the meetings I had with operations personnel. However, my last three emails to him have not received any replies which was part of the reason for this piece. I also send links to all the news media, and various individuals at the MTA, so they are also quite aware of this column as are our elected officials. One top official at Operations Planning specifically wrote back to request I not send him any more e-mails.

  16. Allan I Support your effort regarding this mess but nothing will change….I used to be very pro active then I realize its all bull shit I wasted my time, money and caused unnecessary stress to myself…

  17. I want these damn crooks politicians fix damn roads that we pay for, our cars break to often. Allan you will probably tell me to write them an email or call 311 they are all useless piece of shits…They only know how to extort money and make new imaginary laws

  18. I once lost a tire due to a two foot deep pothole about six inches wide that you could not see until you were on top of it, My coworker reported it. The City blamed the hole on the Gas company who blamed it on the City, So I sued both of them. The City attorney actually happened to be a nice guy. Long story short, they each agreed to pay half to cover my bills. You can’t give up fighting. Because then you are defeated.

  19. Well, they are pretty much of useless jerks. This situation has been on going for many years.


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