The MTA’s Sinister Plot To Destroy The B64

The B64 bus. Source: Robert McConnell for The Bergen Network

THE COMMUTE: Here are my predictions about the MTA’s plan to systematically eliminate B64 service. Divide and conquer!

  1. Chop off its head and its tail;
  2. End service overnight;
  3. Severely cut its service frequency;
  4. Eliminate weekend service eroding its ridership base further, then finally…
  5. Eliminate the route entirely by directing riders to more inconvenient alternative routes.

The MTA already accomplished Steps 1 and 2 in June of 2010. Step 3 will be implemented this September. I am surmising that Steps 4 and 5 are planned along with a similar plan to eliminate the B2. More on that later.

Southern Brooklyn Service Adjustments Effective in the Fall

Two weeks ago, in my article “MTA: No More Cuts Please,” I mentioned routine service adjustments for Manhattan and how it would save $900,000 annually. That figure, it turns out, is the amount saved by making service adjustments citywide. I explained why service cuts are bad and why routine service adjustments are good, provided service is rearranged and not cut. Brooklyn’s routine adjustments also go into effect this September and December. Routes in the Sheepshead Bay area affected are the B1, B4 and B82.

According to the Staff Summary requesting the MTA Board to make these changes, average B1 PM peak service will be decreased from every three minutes to every 3.5 minutes, increasing the percent of guideline capacity from 87 to 92 percent. (The discussion begins on Page 123 and the table of adjustments starts on Page 126.)

B4 service in the AM Peak will increase from every 15 minutes to every 12 minutes reducing guideline capacity from 107 percent to 80 percent.

AM peak B82 service will also increase from every five minutes to every 3.5 minutes. PM peak service will also increase from every six minutes to every 4.5 minutes, also to reduce overcrowding. Guideline capacity will be reduced from 128 percent to 92 percent and from 108 percent to 75 percent, respectively. However, evening service will be reduced from every eight to every nine minutes, increasing guideline capacity from 85 percent to 100 percent.

Finally, Sunday evening B4 service, which now terminates at Coney Island Hospital, is being cut from every 20 minutes to every 30 minutes, increasing guideline capacity from 31 percent to 47 percent. Of course this assumes that everyone who now waits 20 minutes for a bus would be just as willing to wait 30 minutes. Most likely, some passengers would seek an alternative since many buses do not keep to their schedule and waits, at times, could even exceed 30 minutes. Guideline capacity will not increase to the projected 47 percent but probably only a few percentage points, with the remaining passengers walking further to another bus or train, switching to another mode of travel, or not making their trip altogether. The MTA, however, is blind to such realities.

The Importance of these Adjustments

Considering the number of bus routes operating in Southern Brooklyn, these adjustments are relatively minor. What is interesting however, is why service probably is increasing or decreasing on these routes. AM peak demand on the B4 most likely increased as Sheepshead Bay residents were forced to reschedule their trips earlier in the day since the route no longer runs there during the midday. Likewise, B82 service increased due to the elimination of the B64 south of 25th Avenue and the addition of Limited Stop service, which occurred simultaneously, adding service to the route and making it more attractive by speeding bus service. Sunday evening B4 service demand decreased, with the route shortened and buses no longer operating into Sheepshead Bay.

Back to the B64

Although the service adjustments are not too significant for Sheepshead Bay, they are significant for our Bensonhurst neighbors because the B64 service is being severely cut. The B64 operates primarily along Bath Avenue and Bay Ridge Avenue in Bay Ridge after acquiring the western portion of the B1 a year ago when a through 86th Street route to Fourth Avenue was finally implemented. That idea first surfaced back in the 1960s and was partially implemented back in 1978 after I, unknowingly, revived it. This worthwhile idea was considered again by the MTA again in 1993, and finally became reality east of Fourth Avenue after 50 years.

However, in typical MTA fashion, they chose to improve the B1 at the expense of another route, the B64, cutting back service from Coney Island to 25th Avenue, ending one vehicle access from Bay Ridge to Coney Island, in effect since the 1890s when trolleys made the trip. They also cut access to the 86th Street subway station in Bay Ridge at the other end, forcing riders to either endure an additional 10-minute bus ride to the Bay Ridge Avenue station, probably losing their seat on the train in the mornings, or having to walk a quarter-mile further to the new B1 to continue to use the same subway station. To ensure riders switch to the B1, at the same time the MTA also eliminated the only other alternative, taking the B8 to the 95th Street station.

Here are the details for Step 3 mentioned in the first paragraph: AM Peak B64 service is being cut from every nine to every 10 minutes (increasing guideline capacity from 71 percent to 86 percent). More importantly, midday service is being cut from every 15 to every 20 minutes (increasing guideline capacity from 54 percent to 72 percent).  PM Peak service is being cut from 10 minutes to 12 minutes (increasing guideline capacity from 53 percent to 68 percent). Finally, evening service is decreasing from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes (increasing guideline capacity from 46 percent to 61 percent).

My Prediction for the B64

Next year, when ridership further declines after next December’s service cuts, the MTA will propose to eliminate weekend service. (Step 4.) Finally, they will propose elimination of service along 13th Avenue and along Bath Avenue. They will retain Bay Ridge Avenue service either by rerouting the B9 from 60th Street west of 13th Avenue, or rerouting the B4 from Bay Ridge Parkway, also inconveniencing passengers on those routes. They will do this in the name of streamlining service to eliminate duplication and increasing efficiency. The effect however, will be to further erode bus service and patronage.

Next Monday, find out why they do not want service along Bath Avenue and how similar plans probably exist to also eliminate the B2 in Marine Park.

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).