Op-Ed: Select Bus Service On Nostrand Is A Sham

Photo by a-NeRo86 via Flickr

The following op-ed is by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981). For a complete list of his contributions to Sheepshead Bites, which includes many articles about the bus cuts, MTA and DOT, click here.

In light of the Select Bus Service / Bus Rapid Transit meeting held at Brooklyn College, I came to the following conclusion: SBS along Nostrand Avenue needs to be scrapped. Not because drivers are against it, or because some parking spaces would be lost, but because it is just a poor idea and will not work.

The reason is simple. Unlike on Fordham Road or Second Avenue where people ride significant distances on the buses and can save more than just a few minutes, no one uses the B44 to ride from Sheepshead Bay to Williamsburg, potentially saving them up to 15 minutes.  Instead people ride between Sheepshead Bay and the Nostrand Avenue subway terminal at Flatbush Avenue, or between Midwood and Crown Heights, between Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, or between Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy. So the average passenger stands to save no more than four to eight minutes.

Stops are further apart than the B44 Limited, so you have to walk further to get the bus. Since the SBS stops are separate from the local stops, the benefit of combined headways is lost unless you want to be running from one stop to the next. In other words you will have to commit yourself to either the local or the SBS, not being able to take the bus that comes first. The service will be halved along New York Avenue and doubled along Rogers, making it more difficult to access Kings County Hospital.

The communities have every reason to be skeptical of the MTA, NYCDOT and SBS when the story continually changes. In 2005, the MTA stated that SBS would be an additional layer of service on top of local and limited service. In 2010, the same MTA person stated that SBS would replace Limited and told CB 15 that the exclusive bus lane would not apply in their Board.  Now they are proposing the loss of a needed traffic lane between Emmons Avenue and Avenue X.

Elsewhere, in Flatbush using a traffic lane is now proposed instead of using a parking lane for SBS as was originally proposed. Anyone who drives in Brooklyn already knows how difficult it is to get around by car.  The loss of a vital traffic lane without providing for left turn lanes would result in north-south gridlock across Central Brooklyn during rush hours. Providing left turn lanes would involve the loss of many more parking spaces.

Switching from car to SBS is only an option if both your origin and destination happens to lie in the Nostrand Avenue Corridor. Any transferring to east west routes would require a minimum of 60 to 90 minutes per trip and is not an option for anyone who owns a car.

Bottom line is there are other ways to save six minutes (such as strict enforcement of double parking laws on bus routes) without all this expense and inconvenience of SBS. It simply makes no sense as presently structured and is merely a service cut masquerading as a service improvement.

B44 SBS could work is if it continued over the Williamsburg Bridge and connected to the First and Second Avenue SBS, but that would take people out of the trains. Do we even want to do that when operating trains is more efficient than operating buses?  Also, the lost service on New York Avenue needs to be replaced with reinstituting the B23 Cortelyou Road route eliminated last June, and extending it to Kings County Hospital or Crown Heights. The B49 needs to be rerouted off Rogers and onto Ocean Avenue so as not to provide a glut of service along Rogers. Other routes need to be changed as well so that the B44 SBS operates along the same route as the local, not to confuse people more by making an already complex system even more complex.  This route is being planned in a vacuum and that is only part of the problem.

At least Robert Moses did whatever he wanted without any sham community meetings. Why not just pick another route that will work better than ram something down peoples’ throats they don’t want or need and will cause much more inconvenience to motorists than benefits to bus passengers?


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