The Commute: Bus Riders Spoke Up

THE COMMUTE: About 25 bus riders asked questions of the MTA during the NYC Transit Riders Council Bus Forum last Wednesday before an audience of approximately 100.

Disabled riders were given priority and spoke for the first 45 minutes. Seniors were also adequately represented. Complaints ranged from buses skipping stops and stops eliminated on Manhattan crosstown routes at key transfer points, to those about bus drivers and service cutbacks of 2010. Several seniors complained that Select Bus Service (SBS) is inconvenient for them because the bus stops are too far apart. Only a few riders praised SBS as speeding their trip. The SBS route receiving the most criticism was the M34. One person stated that he is a regular user of it and it saves him a whopping 30 seconds. He added that because of the money spent on it, none is left for bus improvements in the outer boroughs. A question was asked why there are no bus stops along Ocean Parkway at Avenue Y and Avenue Z for the B1. I responded for the MTA that it was a Department of Transportation (DOT) decision to omit those stops which the MTA wanted, since I attended those discussions with DOT in 1978.

Unlike MTA hearings where Board members seem generally disinterested and do not reply to questions being asked, an attempt was made to answer every question and a promise was made to investigate ones that could not be answered. Andrew Albert, chair of the NYC Transit Riders Council, did a good job moderating and most of those on the panel listened intently and constantly took notes. The two-minute time limit was not really enforced, although speakers were advised to quickly conclude their remarks if they ran over. The meeting lasted 30 minutes longer than scheduled in order to give everyone who signed up an opportunity to speak.

A recommendation was made that separate forums be held in each of the boroughs next year because a single forum for the entire city really is inadequate. Considering there are more than one million daily bus customers, not even counting weekend riders, the approximately 25 riders who spoke amounts to less than .003 percent of riders. The following was my statement:

Statement Before NYC Transit Riders Council Bus Forum, April 25, 2012
My name is Allan Rosen. Thirty-one years ago the MTA hired me to head Bus Planning. I am now retired and writing for Mr. Irick, it is a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for the cooperation I received from your staff. While problems still exist, they are trying their best to solve the ones I told them about.
I wish I could say the same for Operations Planning. They are arrogant, unresponsive and unwilling to listen to suggestions. They created a situation with the B4 and the B68 allowing for a transfer in only one direction, confusing riders. The route was cut back to Coney Island Hospital most times where the bus inefficiently sits for a 20-minute layover.
In that time it could go to and terminate at Sheepshead Bay Station, allowing for a full B68 transfer. They promised me 18 months ago to re-examine the situation, but never responded after numerous reminders. On weekends when the B4 no longer operates, a dozen livery cabs line up outside the station.
Their planning leaves much to be desired. They insist all improvements be cost neutral, refusing ones costing only a $100 a day extra and also wrongly assume service improvements will not generate additional revenue. Demand lost to car services is not even considered.
B4 elimination in Sheepshead Bay forces riders going to Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge to make an indirect subway trip to Downtown Brooklyn instead of traveling by a direct bus route. That is why bus ridership is declining while subway ridership is increasing.
Curtailing bus routes, severing connections necessitating more trips require extra buses and additional fares are disincentives for bus use. Statistics show many of the routes cut now operate less efficiently.
Although insufficient patronage to restore the B4 is claimed, Select Bus Service next year will double B44 service south of Avenue U. The B44 on Emmons Avenue will only carry about six per bus, the same number of riders carried by the B4 before its elimination most of the day.
SBS is trying to force riders to use the IRT rather the Brighton line, by providing three times the amount of service in rush hours as the B4. The B44 SBS should operate to Sheepshead Bay Station supplementing deficient B36 service instead of going to Knapp Street.
Transfers between the SBS and the local should not prevent a second transfer to another bus or subway.
Seniors cannot walk a half-mile to a bus. Many riders who currently use the Limited Bus will be forced to take the local slowing their ride.
Other efficiencies could be made. Some routes could benefit from separate Friday schedules. B1 ridership is less than half on Friday afternoons yet you run almost the same numbers of buses.
Afternoon B49 shuttles to Sheepshead Bay Station only carry a dozen riders per bus. Through buses could use the pre-1978 routing during those times making their second stop at Avenue Z, saving 15 minutes. I could send you details.
Thank you for your time.

Quarterly Routine Service Adjustments

Twenty-one bus schedules are changing on 17 routes citywide, effective July 1. [PDF: See pages 48-51 of the MTA Report] Fifteen of the 21 schedules will result in less service while the remaining six schedules will see additional service. No routes in our area are affected. The changes are supposedly cost neutral. I say “supposedly” because we are asked to take the MTA’s word. There is no transparency. The table on Page 51 shows the percentage change in revenue miles for each schedule change. In order to determine if the changes are indeed cost neutral, changes in actual revenue mileage (not percentages) or a dollar change for each schedule change needs to be shown. Beach routes such as the B1, B49 and B68 used to get additional summer weekend service. None is shown for this summer. Not all routine adjustments are cost neutral. Adjustments for April saved $700,000 to reflect reduced ridership.

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).