Southern Brooklyn

The Commute: Local Bus Routes Are Being Ignored

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

THE COMMUTE: By now you have heard that subway ridership in New York City has reached a 65-year high. Why has nothing has been said about local bus ridership? It is because as subway ridership keeps rising, local bus ridership is on the decline, only stabilizing in recent years.

It is too early to tell if the trend has reversed, or if increasing numbers of riders are choosing the subway but not the bus. Many are willing to walk extra and take indirect subway trips to Downtown Brooklyn to avoid a bus because the train is quicker and more reliable. You are also less likely to encounter a major subway delay than a major bus delay. I believe you have about a 10 percent chance of experiencing a major subway delay of, let’s say, 30 minutes or more. It is more like a 33 percent chance for a major bus delay. You can expect at least a 10-minute bus delay about half the time. Yes, those are my less-than-scientific estimates. Feel free to disagree.

The MTA will acknowledge that subways are quicker and more reliable. They attribute the slowness of buses entirely to traffic and the recent slight increases in bus ridership to Select Bus Service (SBS). They are now pushing SBS at full speed, aiming for seven new routes within the next five years although the jury is still out on the B44 SBS. This link has more of a description of how the new funding will be spent and a link to the source materials is provided at the bottom. The MTA would also have you believe that these SBS routes and a few new local bus routes operating at 30-minute intervals is all the MTA has to do to keep up with future needs.

I have written many times about the need to do periodic comprehensive studies of the local bus system to assure the system is not outdated and meets the needs of current  riders. Aside from a single bus study recently undertaken in the Co-Op City area, the MTA has not done any real local bus studies in more than 20 years, other than the few targeted SBS studies. So we continue to have indirect local routes missing major destination points; inconvenient time-consuming transfers; short, underutilized subway feeder routes with limited transfers to very few bus routes like the B2 and B31; and service gaps recently dubbed “transit deserts.“ In 2012, I recommended extensions to the B2 and B31 incorporating them into other bus routes to better serve Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach.

Poor reliability and outdated bus routes are the major reasons why bus ridership is not at an all-time high as subway ridership is. Bus overcrowding is just as responsible as traffic in causing bus delays. The MTA cannot do much about traffic, but they certainly can relieve bus overcrowding. An interesting fact is that along with the 65-year high in subway ridership, delays have also gone up significantly. Overcrowding, whether on buses or trains, is linked to delays and reliability.

The MTA has to pay more attention to its local buses. Diverting the focus to SBS does not solve the local bus routing and reliability problems. We have more than 200 local bus routes and will never have more than 25 SBS routes, so their impact will always be minimal. I have written much in the past about the B1, the B4 and the B49. I promise to investigate complaints regarding the B36 and will also get around to the B44 SBS.

The MTA has been taking steps to get local buses on schedule, but that is not synonymous with helping riders. In recent years, increasing numbers of buses are skipping stops at the beginning and end of routes or are being short-turned. Sometimes this makes sense. Other times it does not, such as when it causes passengers to wait more than 30 minutes for a bus. Some buses that used to serve passengers making partial trips to and from the depot now operate with “Next Bus Please” signs, supposedly to save money, compounding problems for riders at the ends of routes.

Last week, in about 20 minutes, I witnessed 12 passengers who had to wait at least 30 minutes for a B1 and B49 in Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach during the evening rush hour. The actual number was probably closer to 30. Poor weather was not an issue. I filed a formal complaint with the MTA. Here is that letter:

Late afternoon on 3/20, at least 15 passengers were forced to wait at least a half hour for a bus in Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach as bus after bus refused to stop and pick up intending passengers despite having enough room. Since when is an RTS bus with under 55 passengers considered full when it is capable of carrying another 40 passengers?

Either your bus drivers are doing whatever they want or your dispatchers are just incompetent or have absolutely no regard for the passengers.  Here are the details. B1 Bus #4875 would not stop for me at Beaumont Street at about 4:50 PM despite my attempts to flag it down. Yes, the bus was fairly full, but certainly had room for one more passenger. Then I proceeded to walk to West End Avenue where six other passengers were waiting. At 4:55 another B1 refused to stop that wasn’t completely full either.

Then B49, bus #5138, arrived at 5 PM with only 9 or 10 standees. The entire front of the bus was empty. However, the bus had a “Next Bus Please” sign displayed. Now after two nearly full buses leave Mackenzie Street, why would any dispatcher instruct an operator with only ten standees to put up that sign and not pickup passengers? Is keeping the schedule more important than serving your passengers?

The bus was stopped for the traffic signal for 30 seconds, longer than it would have taken to pick up those passengers. I proceeded to walk over to the driver’s window and ask him why he would open the door. After he ignored me, I began pounding on his window. Then he pointed to the “Next Bus Please” sign above. I tried to tell him that he was the third bus in a row not to stop, and asked him if he was instructed by a dispatcher to use that sign. But he refused to discuss anything with me.

If the driver of that bus put up the sign of his own accord, I want to file an official complaint against him. If he was instructed to do so by the dispatcher, then I want to file a complaint against the dispatcher for giving improper instructions.

Now here is the rest of the story. At 5:10, another B49 bus #4595, with at least ten more standees than the previous bus pulls in and picks up the seven passengers including me. He makes a meager attempt to ask passengers to move to the rear. No one complies. Does he not have a PA system he could use? No one in the center of the bus could even hear him.

Next we arrive at West End and Shore Blvd and there are another six passengers waiting. The driver does not open his door to the bewilderment of waiting passengers. The same thing happens at Sheepshead Bay Road and Emmons Avenue where another six passengers are waiting to board. Remember, that the bus ahead with his “Next Bus Please” sign had plenty of room for all 19 passengers which the following bus did not. Now with scheduled 10 minute headways and two buses in a row not stopping during the PM rush hour, that is an unacceptable 30 minute wait on the B49.

Since two B1s were also seen not stopping at that time, you can be assured that the same thing was also occurring in Brighton Beach before the Brighton subway with passengers having to also wait 30 minutes for the B1.

Now on my return trip home shortly after 9 PM, B1 Bus #5103 going toward Mackenzie Street runs the red light at Brighton 13 Street one second after it turned red. Are you really emphasizing schedule adherence over safety and serving the passengers? The actions I have seen yesterday leads me to believe that is the case.

I will keep you informed when and if I receive a reply.

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. The B 36 continues to drive me nuts. At approx. 8.25 am I missed a coney island bound B-36, and then waited along with nearly two dozen other riders nearly 20 minutes at Nostrand and Neck Road for a bus. Finally, two northbounds came up the Avenue, made the turn into Neck Road and after a couple of minutes made the turnaround. The larger of the duo loaded up with passengers while the smaller version bus pulled into the stop behind us and promptly flashed the Next Bus Please sign. Of course by the time we got to Avenue Z we were all crushed like sardines. The rest of the ride to Sheephead Bay Road was miserable. I am still surprised that passengers who live along the Ave Z leg of this route aren’t more vocal about this mess.

  2. Your last line is a bulk of the problem. Too many people accept poor service as the norm and just keep quiet. You are correct. If more people were more vocal you would start to see improvement. The MTA views a lack of complaining as if they are doing an acceptable job.

    When I tried to make some route changes when I started working there, the first response I received was, “How do you know it is a problem? Has anyone complained about it?”

  3. From the situation you describe, the Next Bus Please may have been the appropriate action providing either that that bus either picked up at all subsequent stops, or if he did not, your bus had adequate capacity to pick up from the stops he missed.

  4. Most of my gripes about the B-36 would be eliminated if the Transit Authority stationed a Bus Dispatcher on Nostrand and Neck Road. Years ago, before the cuts, I used to spot such personnel working out of a Chevrolet JIMMY, the small SUV of that era. If they can’t pay for a human to be out there, at least install GPS on every bus and track the service. By the way Allen Rosen, what is the frequency of the SBS on Nostrand? It seems to me that during the AM rush hour they run about a dozen an hour or maybe more. How is this working out?

  5. Local bus ridership figures are almost certainly reduced by the number of illegal vans and cars picking people up at bus stops. That there is no enforcement action against these people is astounding to me.

    While the MTA likes to blame bus delays on traffic, countless times I have been on the B44 and B36 buses and had the stop take twice as long as it should have because of all the dimwits exiting at the front – even people who were standing CLOSER TO THE BACK DOOR!!!!!!!!!. I have been in several cities in Europe where you are not allowed to exit the bus at the front and this is prevented by a turnstile-like apparatus at the front of the bus that allows ingress but not egress (I expect that in an emergency or some other extraordinary circumstance those drivers can disable the egress preventer. Why the MTA does not use this tool to speed up the buses is beyond me.

  6. Since BusTime was implemented in Brooklyn a few weeks ago, now there is a GPS on every bus, so the MTA does know where all its buses are. How they are using the data is still a mystery. As I stated, with the case you provided above, they seem to have made the correct decision. Remember, even if there was a dispatcher stationed where you suggestl, he cannot Mae a bus magically appear for you.

    As far as the SBS schedule, it varies every hour. Here is the link to the latest schedule which will be changing in a few weeks with additional locals being provided.

  7. Vans and cars picking up at bus stops has been going on since the mid-70s. As with everything the city does, someone makes a stink and there is a major crackdown for a week or so, then it’s business as usual until the next crackdown. Right now the crackdown is against beggars in the trains, but that will also be forgotten about also, when another problem becomes more important. The politicians have to make some noise for something to be done.

    As far as requiring everyone to exit the back door all the time, that does not make sense for the MTA or for the passenger. It makes no sense atthe ends of a route when few get on. It also is not practical when te bus is very overcrowded andyou are sittingin front. There is no way for youto get to te back door. But it is a problem on heavily utilized routes with a lot of turn over.

    Instead of respective annoying automatic announcements on the newer buses that everyone ignores, these announcements should be made at the discretion of the bus driver when appropriate. The problem is that with all te bus driver

  8. The problem is with all the bus driver assaults, the operators are afraid of any confrontations with passengers and are reluctant to make such announcements, or for passengers to move to the rear. The fact that drivers have been working so long without a contract doesn’t help anything. So they do as little as possible. Have you noticed that in the last year fewer drivers are announcing major transfer points? They used to be pretty good doing that. I think morale is very low because of the contract situation and that is the cause of some of the problems we have.

  9. I hardly see Dollar Vans or car service cruising the B 36 but maybe you are better at spotting that particular nuisance than me. AND,You make a good point about the front doors but as the ridership gets older and ages, more passengers come on bus with their walkers and other sorts of luggage on wheels. Sometimes I think I am on a freight rather than a passenger bus (or subway). Pet peeve are riders who have to search for their Metro Cards after they board the bus instead of having it in hand. “OH I know I have it someplace” they cry.

  10. I see you single out people with walkers, but say nothing about students with bulky backpacks carelessly turning around and hitting other passengers. Everyone has the right to use the bus, and that includes those with shopping carts and luggage. Sorry if you don’t like it.

    If you think fumbling for a MetroCard is bad, what did you think of riders who counted change looking for the correct amount of nickels, dimes and quarters? Or how about when the drivers had to break bills and had to make change? It seems that no matter how many improvements are made, someone will always complain. When we get the new smartcards, there will still be complaints.

  11. I disagree.

    I too have been using public transportation since the 70s and there has never been such brazen, uninhibited and rampant poaching at the bus stops as there is now.

    I have ridden extremely crowded buses as often as anyone and, since the crowd is always in flux with intake and offloading, I always manage to make my way to the rear door before getting to my stop, even if I was crushed in near the front. If people had no choice but to use the back door to exit, they would, as a matter of necessity, do what I do (unlike me, as I do it as a matter of logic and consideration). Who cares about it not making sense at the ends of the routes? For that the whole rest of the route should be managed stupidly? Maybe buses wouldn’t be so overcrowded if they could stay on schedule, which would be helped enormously by not having every stop take x number of times as long as it needs to.

  12. Yes, if you are standing, you can start forcing your way toward the rear of the bus three or four stops in advance. But what if you are seated near the bus driver which is now reserved for the elderly and handicapped? Should you stand up three stops in advance of when you have to get off? That is what you are saying.

    As for who areas about it not making sense at the ends of routes, you remind me of the bank commercial that requires you to follow the rope line to the front of the line although there is no one ahead of you. If there are three people on the bus and no one is getting on, and you are sitting in front, and need the block in front of the bus, why in the world should you walk to the back of the bus only to have to retrace your steps once on the sidewalk, especially if you are having difficulty walking? That is what you are requesting by making it a hard and fast rule.

    If bus drivers sensibly enforced the exit at the rear rule, when it makes sense, then less time woud be spent at each stop and buses woud move quicker.

  13. Yes, until 1969. It would take five or ten seconds for each passenger to board. If there were six people ahead of you, you could stay one minute on the stairs waiting to get on. Subwaystinker would have been pulling his hair out.

  14. “I believe you have about a 10 percent chance of experiencing a major subway delay of, let’s say, 30 minutes or more. It is more like a 33 percent chance for a major bus delay. You can expect at least a 10-minute bus delay about half the time. Yes, those are my less-than-scientific estimates. Feel free to disagree.”

    Do you have any basis in fact for these numbers at all? If you’re going to make such wild assertions, some evidence would be nice.

  15. It says, less than scientific. There is no evidence for those numbers. I said you can feel free to disagree. I was also not including subway weekend work when subway delays can be greater. How far off would you say those estimates are or would you not venture a guess?

  16. I should have kept my Bus Driver/Good Humor change maker that I had as a kid. Now it would be an antique and Foamer collectible. Exact fare and Metro Card totally eliminated bus driver robberies, but I am not so sanguine that it has speededi up the loading process. Too many fumblers and insufficent Metro Card producers (ie Fare Beats with useless cards). Thanks for the memory.

  17. i ride bus and subway every workday and often weekends too. Allen’s point is well taken, even if the numbers are un-scientific. By nature, subways run at mainly predictible intervals, Bus service in Brooklyn is a crap shoot.

  18. I believe I once used those exact words “crap shoot.” when it works, it works great. When it doesn’t work, it is God-awful.

    You can’t say the same about subway service which works well most of the time and we are indeed fortunate to have subway service which is lacking in many other cities.

  19. Actually I am more sympathetic to the elderly and infirm than you imply. I singled out walkers to argue AGAINST Barbara’s suggestion to install one-way turnstyles at the front of the bus, which would negatively impact those with wheeled carts and walkers. So a hearty Yes to anyone who wants to ride the bus but No to students with bulky backpacks who conk me with those parachutte-size appendages. I have the same issue on the subway where people with packs on their backs think that because it is behind them out of their sight, the backpack is not hitting me and thee.

  20. Yes, it shifted the bus driver robberies to cabbies.

    At least the MTA could say, not our problem anymore.
    But it came back later to haunt them in the 1980s with robberies of token clerks.

  21. What an hardship – a real travesty – to have to walk to the back of the bus and retrace your steps once you’re off if you’re going to a point in front of where the bus stopped. So maybe you didn’t like “extraordinary circumstances”? Maybe you’ll like “extenuating circumstances” better for people who have trouble walking – a category that I in fact fit into but don’t use as an excuse for outright laziness.

    Using the same “logic” with which you equate your rope line in the bank example to what I’m saying, why then should drivers have to remain stopped at a red light when there is not another car or pedestrian in sight?

  22. You really can’t compare the two circumstances, getting off the back of the bus vs. waiting at a red light. You may not see a pedestrian in sight or another car, but a speeding car can come out of nowhere and so can a pedestrian. We accepted this rule because we feel it is better to err on the side of safety.

    That’s why in New York City we don’t allow right turns on red lights, which are allowed virtually everywhere else, because we have many intersections with heavy pedestrian crossings. Again, we err on the side of safety. Getting off the rear of the bus has nothing to do with safety and should not be a hard and fast rule. Instead it needs to be enforced when needed.

    Also what do you do about those who need the bus to kneel or them, or buses that have lifts in front? When do you make xceotions?

  23. The rules for safety are just one part of the same “system” that inconveniences the few (the drivers who think they shouldn’t have to waste their time waiting at a red light at 3am when there is nobody else on the road or people for whom retracing 15 steps is a hardship) for the greater good of the many. Perfectly analogous to what I’m saying.

  24. Trust me, I don’t like having mine smack into anyone. It’s just hard to see behind me, especially since my bag tends to stick out somewhat. If I happen to hit someone, I simply apologize to them and try to be more careful.

  25. It’s already been stated that they DO NOT equate, as one is an inconvenience whereas the other is a genuine safety issue. Keeping cars from running red lights is to help save lives; exiting through the rear is just to minimize delays. In other words, the systems are not the same. To further show that the systems are different, running a red light may result in arrest and license revocation because you violated strict laws; other than a few seconds wasted, leaving a bus from the front results in nothing, as it’s not really something you can be prosecuted for. The bus drivers, the only ones that can really call someone out on leaving through the front, are not authorized to hand out tickets, and the police would be wasting their time with something so petty and, at times, more logical than trying to leave through the back.

    By the way, if you don’t like the use of capital letters, deal with it. I had to emphasize that just to help drive the point, since you decided to reject it the first time.

  26. I think she wants turnstiles to prevent anyone from getting off at the front, rather than enforcement. As I explained, when the bus is extremely crowded and you are sitting beside the driver, it is not possible to walk from the front to the back anyway unless you vacate your seat several stops before you have to get off and slowly try to push your way through, hoping you allowed enough time to get to the back door.

    If you have to ask the bus driver to wait for you to get to the back door, so much for time saved. She also didn’t answer my comment about buses with the ramp in front or pasengers who need the front door to kneel for them. It is just not practical all the time to make it a hard rule, but definitely needs to be encouraged more.

  27. By the way, try actually reading what is written. Nobody said anything about NOT STOPPING at red lights.

    Clearly the word analagous is too much for you.

  28. SHE did answer your points – there are to be ways of dealing with exceptions built into the system, remember my “extenuating circumstances?” Why did you even bother to ask that when I had already made the statement? Oh I know, it can’t possibly be done, it’s too insurmountable a problem to engineer that into the bus itself and the rules by which the system is run. Let’s just complain about how bad the buses are. That’s it. Let’s never accept that in order for things to be better as a whole there will be issues and that some people might have to get over being the center of the universe and follow a rule they don’t like.

    I just love how we’re so special that what other cities do cannot possibly work here. There are no old or disabled people anywhere else in the world.

  29. Have you never been on one of the buses where the step up at the front and the step down at the rear are not so absurdly high and thus getting on/off is not a problem for any but the most severely impaired? I have. Explain to me why all the buses aren’t like that because pure stupidity is the only explanation I can come up with. It clearly isn’t an engineering limitation.

    Not long ago there would have been people arguing that the handicapped, especially those in wheelchairs, just couldn’t use public transportation. But being required by law to make it possible somehow overcame all the obstacles. Hmmm. I’m glad that there are people in this world who look past impracticalities and inconveniences to actually solve problems.

  30. Try taking the damn thing off your back and holding it by the handle (or a strap) before you head into a crowd of any kind. That’s much more considerate and you don’t end up smacking into anybody (except possibly their legs, which is much less offensive).

  31. All those car service cars sitting under the Sheepshead Bay station at night aren’t there because someone called them – they’re poaching bus riders.

  32. I suggest that you read what is written. What I wrote and what you wrote. I said “waiting at red lights” not “stopping at red lights.” And in you rant about buses with high steps you wrote. You ask me to explain why all the buses are not like that and say “pure stupidity” is the reason they are not. So you want it to be difficult for passengers to get on and off all buses?

    You probably meant the opposite of what you said, that it is stupid for buses to have high steps and they all should have low floors, Correct? Well to answer your question, the buses were not all purchased at the same time. The high floor buses are much older and we are not buying them anymore. So do we just throw the old ones away? No. We wait for them to wear out. And the decision to buy high or low floor isn’t as cut and dry as you make it, calling it a “stupid” decision. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. We now choose low floor because we feel the advantages are greater.

    The fact is we still have many high floor buses that aren’t going away tomorrow and it is not practical to insist tat everyone always exit from the rear in every instance even when it does not benefit anyone to do so and even causes inconvenience.

  33. And if the bus service was more reliable, there would be fewer of them. People don’t want to wait 30 minutes for a bus although the MTA believes that headway is quite acceptable, hence new routes at 30 minute headways that few will ever use.

  34. Everyone has the right to use the bus, Mr. Rosen, subject to limitations. At section 1050.9 of the link below is the MTA’s rule. It is the rule that allows people to take their bicycles onto the subway but not at rush hour, when they would be interfering with passenger traffic. The same is true of baby carriages and luggage and shopping carts on buses at times when the buses are crowded. The same rule would also apply to backpacks if the MTA were inclined to enforce that. Note that devices that provide physical assistance are exempted.

    g)No person may carry on or bring to any facility or conveyance any item that:

    is so long as to extend outside the window or door of a subway car, bus or other conveyance;

    constitutes a hazard to the operation of the Authority, interferes with passenger traffic, or impedes service; or

    constitutes a danger or hazard to other persons.Nothing contained in this section shall apply to the use of wheelchairs, crutches, canes or other physical assistance devices.(h)

  35. Babs, you offer an interesting observation. I thought the car service/green apple cabs were competing with each other to take people to areas that the buses do not serve, certain remote locations. I have never used one so your information was news to me. I will continue to rely on B 36. My idea of ‘poaching’ is the more common tactic of Dollar vans trolling the bus stops along the Routes, looking to harvest passengers who are waiting in vain for a bus ride. But you make a valid point too.

  36. Follow your own suggestion of reading what is written.

    First of all, you are replying to my reply to sonicboy87 in regard to the stopping versus waiting at red lights. Running red lights, to which the sonic fellow refers, implies not stopping at all.

    Secondly, I said exactly what I meant to say about low platform buses, not the opposite and that was why aren’t all buses equipped with low platforms. Read it again.

    “The fact is we have many high floor buses that aren’t going away tomorrow” – you really need to stop talking to people like they’re simpletons.

    And again, the inconvenience of the few is deemed acceptable for the greater good of the many. It is how our society works, at least in theory if not in practice. There are just too many centers of the universe among us for it to actually work.

  37. I was not referring to the green cabs that, I believe, are legally allowed to pick people up in the street. Plain old TLC-plated car service cars are not and for years there have been long lines of them under the station. I don’t know what effect the legal green cabs have had on the illegal TLC cars or vice versa.

  38. Really, now you’re condoning poaching at the bus stops, which reduces ridership, which then lets the MTA justify putting fewer buses and more minutes between them, thus making people wait even longer, thus making them more likely to take those cars and on and on and on until the buses wind up with 30 minute headways?

  39. Of course you are correct when you state “subject to limitations”. But look at the context in which my comment was made. It was specifically to a response complaining about walkers which are not restricted by the limitations you quote.

    As far as luggage is concerned, the driver could allow someone on with luggage when the bus is empty, and then it gets crowded later on. What is the driver to do? Ask the person to get off before his stop? Of course not. So the result is the same. You have a crowded bus with someone with luggage decreasing mobility on the bus. There is not much you can do then.

  40. We are both guilty of not reading what is written. I responded to a comment about red lights that was addressed to Sonicboy when I thought you were addressing it to me.

    But as far as the buses are concerned, you ask why all buses do not have low floors and I responded that the high floor buses are much older than the low floor buses, like ten years older. The MTA thought about it for a long time before they decided to buy some, like they think a lot about jumping into any new technology since there is a big risk it will not work out. Yes, sometimes, they think too long, but you also have to be responsible and adequately test something before you make a large purchase.

    The fact is you can still have the greater good for many without the inconvenience of a few just by selectively enforcing existing rules, instead of making hard and fast rules which would have to e broken

  41. A which would have to be broken anyway when someone needs to use the lift in front or needs the front door of a high floor bus to kneel in order to get off. (My keyboard locks when I ake a long post.)

  42. You misread what I wrote or I wasn’t clear so I won’t respond to your comment. When I said “fewer of them”, I was referring to fewer cabs, not fewer buses. Do you still have a problem with what I said?

  43. I understood that you meant fewer poachers. I was pointing the vicious cycle that unchecked poaching causes that results in fewer buses and longer headways.

  44. Low floor buses have been around since at least 1995.

    If as the article says high floor buses can be in service for 15-20 years, we should be seeing a lot less high floor buses. And yes, I see that they are more expensive but when you have a problem to solve that has to be a factor in your determination of value.

    If we lived in a time and place where people were less inconsiderate, less lazy and less hostile, I might consider selective enforcement of rules adequate. I haven’t lived in such a time and place for many, many years now.

  45. I said nothing about poaching. Of course you are correct about the vicious cycle but no one was talking about that. So if there was no misunderstanding, why are you accusing me of condoning poaching at the bus stops? What in the world led you to that accusation and conclusion

  46. That would mean that the oldest high floor buses date from 1994. That seems correct. Low floors may have been around since 1995 as you say, but I remember the MTA resisting them for a number of years claiming they would not survive on NYC’s potholed streets. I believe we started to buy them around 2002. Then we mixed high floors and low floors for a number of years until we started to buy low floors exclusively. That’s why we still have so many of them. It won’t be that long before they all are gone unless the MTA decides to buy more new high floor buses.

  47. I’d have to agree with Allan on this. The van/cab situation only exists and thrives because of demand, you can create all the laws and crackdowns you want, it wouldn’t stop them.

    Besides, using that reason to justify service increases/decreases is flawed since it ignores potential customers and acts as if it’s services are run in a vacuum. If a business started to bleed customers, they investigate why and take corrective action. Why shouldn’t the MTA do the same when reasonable and appropriate?

    If bus service was better in the first place, there’d be no demand and therefore no vans or illegal cab pickups. Case in point, there aren’t any vans on First and Second Avenues in Manhattan. There’s no demand for them there – bus service is frequent.

  48. I said at least 1995 because the link I sent you said they became widely used in the UK in 1995 – they were required in London – so they probably were available at least five years before that. So it has taken NYC as much as 24 years to have the few low floor buses we have now when a major European city, with from what I saw much greater traffic challenges than NYC’s, had already mandated them 20 years ago. Yes, I call that stupid.

  49. “And if the bus service were more reliable, there would be fewer of them.” (fewer cars poaching from bus stops)

    That sounds to me like the end justifying the means. Regardless of how reliable or not bus service is, private for-hire vehicles picking up passengers at bus stops is, hmmm, how do you say?…. illegal. And worse, it contributes to service cutbacks. So, saying – effectively -that these poachers are filling a need is – effectively – condoning it.

  50. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Was service cut back which created the demand for these cars or did these cars lower ridership enough that the MTA could quantify it and make cutbacks (however BS) based on it? I started riding the subway to/from the Sheepshead Bay station to a job in Manhattan in 1976. The police always ticketed car service cars for sitting just east of the bus stop and picking people up. Now, maybe that had a lot to do with there being a yellow taxi stand across the street (from 15th Street back to 14th) at the time, but the prohibition against a for-hire vehicle that was not a yellow cab picking up passengers on the street – and of course at bus stops was and still is the only place it makes any sense – was very strictly enforced.

    You really can’t compare Manhattan to Brooklyn. First, there are thousands of yellow cabs that don’t need to poach because anyone who is sick of waiting for a bus can just flag them down. And because of the vested interest of the holders of yellow cab medallions – which can cost a million dollars apiece – there would be a lot more enforcement against poachers if they existed. Second, Manhattan is always better served transportation-wise than the outer boroughs.

  51. They are in fact filling a need. But I am not condoning it. Even if they were not picking up passengers, they are still illegally parked and should be ticketed. I wouldn’t be surpised if they are paying someone off so as not to be ticketed. This has just been going on for too long a time.

    Remember when yellow cabs still served Brooklyn, across the street between East 14 and 15 Street was a taxi zone to legally pick up passenger?. Now that we have the green cabs, that should be reinstated and the illegal cabs should be banished from the station area.

  52. The person you responded to took issue with people with luggage in the same sentence they mentioned walker yet you chose to call them out for having a grievance with people with walkers. You then proceeded to say that people have a right to come on the bus with shopping carts and luggage so TS if they don’t like it.

    It’s easy to come up with a scenario that suits your argument – I can do it too. How about the person with luggage or shopping cart that wants to board an already crowded bus. Should that person be allowed to board? No. Will they be allowed to board? Most likely they will. Why? Because either the driver is indifferent or the person will get hostile with the driver because they think, like you said until I took issue with it, that they have a right to board the bus with their stuff.

    If we lived in a time and place where people were less inconsiderate, less lazy and less hostile, I might agree that hard and fast rules were not necessary. But I haven’t lived in a time and place like that for a very, very long time.

  53. OMG – we’ve been talking to each other too long about this subject, now we’re thinking the same things. Look at the response I just sent to Kriston Lewis.

  54. I have been making that point to the MTA for almost 40 years about them not considering latent demand and planning their services in a vacuum. In one ear and out the other.

  55. I am glad you asked that question, which came first the chicken or the egg. Because I actually know the answer. I can’t speak specifically for Sheepshead Bay but have a strong hunch that the service cuts came first. Specifically the MTA’s decision to curtail B36 rush hour shuttles from Avenue U to Sheepshead Bay station. I bet the cabs started to fill the void. I am not sure when service was cut but believe it was around 1980.

    The reason I said I know the answer because around 1976 I wrote a 40 page report using empirical data for te Department of City Planning showing how private cars started picking up bus passengers at the same price as the bus fare along the Utica Avenue B46 route when service was cut from 2 to 4 minutes in the rush hour although the buses were jammed at 2 minute headways. It was due to the 1975 budget crisis. The MTA had no idea of their ridership during specific times of the day. They only had annual figures and did not know how crowded the buses were. The cuts were justified by saying you will only have to wait another two minutes for a bus

  56. A few months later, car services replaced private cars, and severals after that ame the dollar vans. The same process was repeated on other routes. Car services filled the void whenever service was cut. The MTA unoficially welcomed the vans, because it reduced the number of buses they neede so with fewer buses and fewer passengers, they lost less money per passenger, improving their budget situation. That’s why they never wanted to do anything about the dollar vans.

  57. That’s not all that feasible an option, considering how bad it is on my back with both straps. I’m practically stumbling with it in front of me. Also, I’m usually only getting off in one to four stops if I just so happen to end up in a crowded area, anyway. On the bus, I just go to the back, which is far less likely to be packed (especially on the low-floor buses).

  58. You are correct in most of what you say, but you are contradicting yourself also. You want hard and fast rules like always exiting through the rear, but if a driver does not permit you on with luggage or a shopping cart, is that really so hard and fast? Or is it at his discretion that the bus is too crowded? I think in such a circumstance the driver would be more interested in if he was late or not and how much extra time it woud take you to board and get off, than on how much bulk you had with you. No, a hard and fast rule in that case would be no carts or luggage when there are more than 55 people aboard and it woudn’t be at the driver’s discretion. Once you invoke discretion, it is no longer hard and fast.

  59. I do it all the time with a very heavily loaded backpack. Even during my recent bout of frozen shoulder, I managed to do it. It’s just simple courtesy; when I first started using a backpack some years ago, it took me approximately one subway trip to figure it out.

  60. I typically try to avoid crowds like the plague. On a different note, I don’t see the practicality in trying to walk onto a train with a heavy bag. That usually causes one to slow down, especially if the bag drops to the knee/shin area. That in itself isn’t courteous, as it delays everyone else waiting to go somewhere.

    My main goal is to keep it out of everyone else’s way as much as possible. This is why I prefer a seat. I can keep my bag away from the main paths as much as possible so people don’t knock it over, step on my bag, or trip over it. Before you ask, no, I don’t drop it right next to me while I’m sitting (in my book, that’s about as bad as smacking someone with a bag).

  61. I’m not any slower carrying my backpack by the handle than i am with it on my back. It does take practice.

    If your main goal was really to keep your backpack out of everyone else’s way as much as possible, the last thing you’d be doing is keeping it on your back, which pretty much guarantees that several times a day, you’ll smack people in the face and not even realize it.

    I always drop my backpack on the floor between my feet if and when I sit down. Note that this is also much, much easier if I’m already carrying the bag than if I have to wrestle it off my back after I get on the train, a procedure that also carries a very high risk of smacking somebody.

  62. Joining this discussion to relay an experience that myself and my daughter just had this morning via the B44 SBS. I take my daughter to school that is on Avenue L. I have an unlimited MetroCard, which allows us to take the B44 SBS from Avenue U, if we can’t get the B44 local. By taking the B44 SBS, we are able to catch up to the B44 local, if it is still at the Kings Highway stop. This morning a B44 SBS, came from Avenue U and without stopping was going to proceed without any passengers, which would be myself, my daughter and two other passengers. We were able to stop the bus and get a ticket to board. We boarded, but one passenger, an elderley woman was just behind us. The bus driver proceeded to close the doors and I got his attention to let him know that there was one more passenger that was trying to get on the bus with us. That started the bus driver on a monologue, that he was already being courteous, by waiting for us and that the last passenger could wait for other B44 SBS buses, as two more would be arriving shortly. From there, our “conversation” morphed into the logic that the bus driver was using was illogical; how does he know that we could wait any longer for a bus; there should be more B44 local buses; the machines don’t work properly (brought up by the passenger that was “allowed” to get on the bus); the bus driver should work on his customer service; the bus driver should not talk this way to customers, especially with children on the bus; we were trying to get a B44 local, etc. Too exhausted to write any additional narrative…..

  63. The bus was obviously late and trying to make up time. The question to ask is why would he have passed you up if not given specific instructions to do so by a dispatcher? He should not be making that decision on his own. However, in the bus driver’s defense, in this case not picking you up if in fact there were other SBS buses right behind, would have been the correct decision for him to get back to schedule. I do not think that he was being illogical. If subways waited for every single person to get on during the rush hour, they would never be able to close their doors at stations like Grand Central.

    The machines not working correctly is a separate issue, and I do not think the bus driver was wrong in this case by not wanting to wait for the other passenger if he already was late.

    There will be more locals soon and Avenue L should become an SBS stop shortly which should help you. I do not know how you expect the bus driver to improve his customer service unless he just agreed with everything you said instead of telling you what he really believed.


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