Manhattan Beach’s MTA Bus Battles? Not So Clear Cut

THE COMMUTE: Last month, I wrote that some neighborhood residents want assurances from the MTA that this Memorial Day will not be a repeat of last year’s holiday, when thousands attempted to leave the beach at the same time, severely overloading the bus system. This week’s Bay News reported that a pow-wow was held about this matter on April 29 between the MBNA, Community Board 15’s chairperson Theresa Scavo, and unnamed MTA officials.

The MBNA is asking for extra buses on summer weekends from the “new” stop at Hastings Street directly to the Brighton subway because, according to resident Stan Kaplan, “Everyone leaves the beach at the same time and just wants to get to the train… We really need just to take hundreds of people from the beach quickly and efficiently.”  MBNA spokesman Edmond Dweck stated, “Buses were so full that they couldn’t stop for everyone,” referring to Memorial Day of last year.

Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, “Here is the rest of the story.”

On more than one occasion I have written about B1 and B49 buses bypassing intending riders because they are too full with college students boarding at Kingsborough Community College, forcing waits of up to an hour for those trying to board after the first stop and before the subway. This occurs every school day, Monday through Thursday, and affects the residents of Manhattan Beach who rely on the buses. It’s not something that happens only during a few weekends in the summer. Yet the MBNA as well as the other community group has remained silent about this.  So why is the MBNA so concerned about the beachgoers?  Well, they are not. What they are concerned about is getting the beachgoers out of Manhattan Beach as quickly as possible so they do not linger and do G-d knows what.

To correct some inaccuracies, first of all, not everyone “just wants to get to the train.”  Only about half the people want the subway.  The rest make their way home entirely by bus.

Second, the “new” stop is not new.  It has been there since the 1930s. It was removed in 2005 but restored in 2008.  Now, here is the best part. Who was responsible for having the bus stop removed? Rumors have it that it was at the request of an MBNA executive board member that didn’t want people congregating near his house.  It was restored due to the efforts of myself, the Manhattan Beach Community Group, and Scavo because of the severe overcrowding its removal caused at the neighboring Falmouth Street stop, the only other stop near a beach exit.  The MTA claimed it was given no notice by DOT, the agency responsible for placing and removing bus stops, prior to the bus stop’s removal, so it requested DOT to return the bus stop after three years and DOT obliged.

However, the MTA did have prior knowledge of the bus stop’s removal.   On April 22, 2008, two months before it returned, NYCT President (who at that time was Howard Roberts) wrote to Theresa Scavo, “Similarly the B1/B49 bus stop at Oriental Boulevard and Hastings Street was removed because it was only two blocks from the bus stops on Falmouth Street and Jaffrey Street on Oriental Boulevard… When and if there is an occasion for a mass exodus from the beach due to a storm or some other event, the current bus stop at Falmouth Street can accommodate the customers boarding the two bus routes.”

Two years later on Memorial Day, that statement proved grossly inaccurate because even after the Hastings Street stop was restored, both stops could not adequately handle the crowds after a thunderstorm last year.  Yet the MTA makes inaccurate statements all the time and gets away with it, like their arguments for also removing the bus stop at Ocean Avenue and Oriental Boulevard two months before the removal of the Hastings Street stop.  That stop still has not been returned.  They first tried to blame Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, then Councilman Nelson, and finally the Community Board for requesting the stop to be removed.  All stories proved false.  (Again, rumors say that it was also removed because the homeowner whose house the bus stop was in front of pulled some strings and had DOT remove it, similar to what occurred at Hastings Street.)

Bus riders should not be inconvenienced because of the selfish needs of a few and the MTA and DOT need to recognize this. The MTA needs to be more customer-oriented. But as Courier-Life reported, Scavo is “optimistic that improvements are imminent.”

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).