Southern Brooklyn

Why is Sheepshead Bay So Complacent About Bus Service? A Call for Community Action

The B4, which used to terminate at Voorhies & Knapp Street, now frequently terminates at Coney Island Hospital. Photo by Erica Sherman

THE COMMUTE: Is it that we are satisfied with the bus service we receive and believe the MTA is doing a great job? I don’t believe that is generally the case. The comments I have seen, especially the criticism of the B36 route, or hearing the elderly Russians grumbling to themselves every time a B1 bus passes them by without stopping indicate otherwise.

Personally, I believe the MTA does a good to excellent job slightly over 50 percent of the time, judging by the times I personally use the system rather than drive or walk. When I decide to take the bus, I feel like I’m making a crapshoot. Sometimes I am lucky and other times not. The customer service study, which I criticized for a number of reasons, came to the same overall conclusion. The question then becomes: Is 50 percent an acceptable standard. Is that all we can expect from a large bureaucracy?

Is the MTA any worse than sanitation, the police or fire departments, or the US Postal Service? Would you find getting 50 percent of your mail on time acceptable, or 50 percent of the fires being extinguished promptly, or 50 percent of major criminals being caught? You obviously aren’t satisfied with sanitation picking up 50 percent of the garbage from the litter baskets or from your household containers? But what do we do about these situations? Most of us reading this do absolutely nothing but just complain a lot to our neighbors or to other readers of Sheepshead Bites.

The Bay Improvement Group organizes annual plantings and clean-ups with the help of volunteers. Interested residents attend the precinct community council meetings and make a difference that way. Community Board 15 has a Postal representative. Other than myself, what does anyone in Sheepshead Bay do for transit aside from use it? That is my question this week.

Since I have been writing this column, I have received a lot of flack from MTA apologists who claim all I do is unfairly criticize the MTA. I’ve complimented them on rare occasions, here and here, but yes it is mostly criticism, but I do not think it has been unfair criticism.

This week will be a little different. I will not criticize the MTA; instead I will criticize the residents of Sheepshead Bay and surrounding communities for not speaking up while other communities have not remained silent and have fought back especially regarding last year’s dreadful bus service cutbacks, although not always successfully.

Areas That Have Fought Back

Local bus routes have been restored in sections of the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, and in Bay Ridge express bus service cuts have been restored. Staten Islanders are even asking for new bus service. Residents have been fighting for service restoration, although unsuccessfully, in at least three sections of Queens: in Northeast Queens against discontinuance of a local bus route, and in southern Queens and Astoria against reduced service or discontinuance of express bus service.

At least they have been fighting. Isn’t that how this country was founded — by a revolution because we were being oppressed by the British? Isn’t that also the reason for the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement? Isn’t fighting, either peaceful or otherwise, the only way real change is accomplished, for example the Civil Rights movement, the Americans With Disabilities Act? Real change does not occur overnight. It usually takes at least 20 years or more just to accomplish something really worthwhile, but it has to start somewhere.

In Bensonhurst, Assemblyman Colton is rallying for the return of the B64 cut last year. In Park Slope, Councilman Brad Lander asked for temporary bus service when the first phase of the Culver viaduct was reconstructed. He failed in that attempt but did not give up. Just look at this recent study and most impressive report regarding the B61 his office spearheaded. Has any Sheepshead Bay elected official ever done anything like this? Is B61 service really worse than the bus service in Sheepshead Bay and surrounding areas?

What We Did

Sheepshead Bay stood silently when the MTA discontinued the B4 in our neighborhood, even after the MTA revealed that shortening the route made it more inefficient, increasing the weekday cost per passenger for the remaining portion of the route. Our elected officials remained silent because they were not approached by large numbers of concerned residents. One even stated it wasn’t his job because the route only sideswiped his district, but after this was exposed by Sheepshead Bites, a representative recanted in the comments and stated the office would fight for B4 restoration. What have they done? The problem was that the only person I know of who asked for their help does not even live in Sheepshead Bay, but needed the route to travel here. Don’t we care about ourselves?

The MTA chief who signed off on the service cutbacks personally told me that, if not for my efforts, the B4 would be terminating today at Coney Island Hospital at all times. That shows that even one person without any political power such as myself can make a difference, and there is greater power in numbers. Where were our elected officials? Why did they sit by and let the B4 be discontinued. Were the B4, B2 on weekends, and B31 at night really not needed? That’s what the MTA believes because we did virtually nothing to try to stop them. So which neighborhoods do you think will be affected the most during the next round of cutbacks — the ones where people spoke up or where they remained silent? I think you know the answer.

The MTA is currently making its final plans for the B44 Select Bus Service. I have been very negative about that change and expressed my thoughts here in numerous articles. Some people think it is a great idea. Some storekeepers expressed concern that they were never notified. Good or bad, it will change Sheepshead Bay. How many care? How many showed up at the half dozen open houses or MTA presentations to the local community board? No more than 20 at each meeting for a change that will affect over 40,000 daily riders. That is just disgraceful. You can blame the MTA for poor community outreach, but thousands had to have noticed the public notices in the buses and just ignored them, just like they ignored the ones announcing the service cutbacks.

I made a suggestion for the B44 SBS to terminate at Sheepshead Bay Station instead of at Knapp Street. The MTA promised to consider it, if it was something the community really wanted. Thus far the little feedback I have received is that about half of you like it better than what the MTA has proposed. Ned offered to run a poll to determine which route readers preferred more. I have not asked him to run it because I fear that no more than 20 people will vote either way. That would not show community support for either idea. It would show apathy, that anything the MTA does will be just fine. If you support this rerouting of the B44 SBS, by all means, let all your elected officials and Community Board 15 know. B36 complainers, are you reading this? It is an opportunity for you to get better bus service to Sheepshead Bay station, unless you would rather travel to the Junction for the IRT.

I guarantee you, the first day the B44 SBS operates — even if it eventually does prove to be successful — there will be hundreds complaining of confusion, not knowing how to pay for the bus, and questioning why it was necessary. The media will find one or two people praising the change to show they are showing both sides. There will be complaints why the SBS does not stop at Avenue R when the Limited did. The time to ask for an additional SBS stop at Avenue R is now — not after the Limited is discontinued. An additional stop was added at Avenue D at the request of the Flatbush community. The MTA is willing to listen to you now; they might not later. You have been warned.

What We Can Do

Transportation Alternatives has evolved into a powerful national organization primarily representing the needs of bicyclists. On the periphery, they have also been fighting for mass transit users by starting a riders’ rebellion. We either need to join them or start something similar locally and join forces with groups throughout New York City advocating better mass transit and service restoration.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak with Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphangers Campaign, which I am sure you have heard of. Guess what were the first two things he said to me when I asked him if he reads Sheepshead Bites? (1) He does and (2) He grew up in Sheepshead Bay near Batchelder and Avenue Z and still cares about the neighborhood.

The situation is not hopeless. There are resources out there to help us. Elected officials like Lew Fidler do care. You can all rant about the MTA saying things like “service sucks,” “The MTA is useless,” “They only care about getting their pay checks,” “The elected officials are useless,” “No one will listen to us, so why attend a hearing,” et cetera. But you know what? Talk like that is only self-defeating and isn’t true.

I worked nearly 25 years for the MTA, and you know what, most of those people do care and do a good job. Yes, there are a few rotten apples who get by doing the minimal amount possible just to keep from not being fired, but that is true everywhere. Most of the people at the MTA working behind the scenes perform difficult work every day just to keep the system running. They are the people you don’t have any contact with, so you just take the necessary jobs they do every day for granted, like purchasing materials, writing contracts, distributing materials to where they are needed, fixing things that break down or sitting at a desk tediously working with numbers on the computer all day performing a variety of functions. Yes there is waste. The organization would work much better if employees were appreciated for their hard work and dedication. That, often, is not the case. There are a lot of things wrong with the MTA, but there are also a lot of things right with the MTA.

Although I do not have a good relationship with Operations Planning, I have a good rapport with Bus Operations since my numerous complaints to them over the past three years regarding the B1, the route I use the most often. It took several years of effort and it seems that the situation may finally be starting to improve somewhat. I have had no problems on my last four trips using the B1. My friend saw a bus dispatcher with a pad outside his house at Ocean Parkway and Brighton Beach Avenue for the first time in years. The MTA informed me they will be adding three runs this spring to the B1 as Kingsborough enrollment continues to increase each semester, and also has increased their supervision of bus drivers to ensure they stop for Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach passengers during school hours. An open invitation to meet with me if I continue to see additional problems has been extended to me. I certainly will take them up on that if I have to.

So the situation is far from helpless. You just need to get involved, whether it’s transportation, sanitation, or whatever. Attend meetings of your local community board, civic association, and precinct community council. Let your elected officials know who you are by showing up at public meetings and speaking to them, where they are most accessible. Send an email to the MTA every single time they piss you off, keep records every time they ignore you, and let your elected officials know when they do. You can sit back and bitch to yourselves all you want but that won’t solve a damn thing. If our Founding Fathers just did that, we all would still be ruled by the British today; we would have one less holiday to celebrate, and there would be no weekly fireworks in Coney Island each summer.

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).

Comment policy


  1. I think the contempt the MTA feels for the public, the lack of accountability, oversight, and transparency dissuades people. There’s no worse feeling than futility. I can raise my voice all I want, but until the people I complain to (elected officials) have greater authority in the MTA, my suggestions/complaints/comments will fall on deaf ears. Or at least that’s how it feels.

    Now this is me attempting to articulate why people don’t complain or organize. Me, personally, I’ll be at the next TA Southern Brooklyn meeting, as I was last month. If Sheepshead Bay doesn’t develop improved Bus/bike infrastructure we’re going to end up like Staten Island.

  2. Hmm. The bus fucking sucks. If I had to choose between walking 2 miles, and taking the bus I would rather walk 2 fucking miles. 

  3. Yes, the “MTA” feels contempt for the public, but it is not everyone in the MTA who feels that way.  Don’t only complain to the elected officials.  Bombard the MTA with complaints also, but not general ones, because they will ignore those.  Give them routes, bus numbers, times, subway complaints, etc.  Let them know of your dissatisfaction.  What’s easier than sending e-mails?  It will keep them on their toes even if you feel they are ignoring you.  They will see the spike in e-mails and know something is up.  When everyone is silent, they feel people are content and there is no need to make any inmprovements.

  4. Look how Ned’s exposing the dirty conditions on Sheepshead Bay Road got it cleaned up (at least temporarily) the next day!  Community activism does work.

  5. When it comes to a lot of local/limited bus routes, I agree with you.

    The B44 SBS will change your opinion though. For SBS/BRT routes only though. Not local/limited/express unfortunately.

  6. Express meaning the express buses that use the highways to/from Manhattan. Meant to say local/limited/express bus routes in the first line of the original comment too.

  7. My problem with the bus is not so much the route, but the people who actually use the bus. When I get on the bus, I think to myself. “hmm, How are half of these people still alive.”

  8. Please explain.

    You ask yourself this because you think down-and-out people tend to use them? Or people that have been on the bus for so long (because the thing is so slow) are half-dead (your words, not mine!) because it takes them so long to get to their destinations and this exasperates them?

    I brought up the B44 SBS because it will be a lot faster than what you might be used to. Five stops from Knapp Street to the Junction. It will only take about 16 minutes to make that trip.

  9. TWU and its members (MTA employees) have their own problems though. TWU is quite a weak union. Details to be provided upon request.

  10. Not to get into this again, but for how many people will the Junction be their final destination? Aside from Brooklyn College, it is not a place many people in Sheepshead Bay wish to go.  If they are changing there for the subway, then 16 minutes is only the beginning of their trip, not the end. 

  11. People I have a problem with:
    1. Kids. I fucking hate kids on the bus. Especially during school hours, and you have a bunch of fucking high school and middle school kids screaming and jumping all over the bus.

    2. Old People. What do you say to the god of death? Apparently they say “Not TODAY.” 

    3. Sassy Black Women who talk on their cell phones: Bitch, everyone can you talking to Shanequa. 

  12. [Private thoughts] What a card. [/Private thoughts]

    Just yanking your chain. Seriously though. I was not looking at the final destination. I was looking at people wanting a subway. You have emphasized that before and stated it once again in this article Al.

    The point is that the B44 SBS will be the better and faster subway feeder than any crosstown bus in Sheepshead Bay or Midwood, and that a trip on a (2) or (5) train from Flatbush Avenue-Nostrand Avenue to any big destination of interest that is also accessible by the (B) or (Q) (Atlantic Avenue-Flatbush Avenue and Manhattan), takes either the same amount of time or marginally longer than a trip on the (B) or (Q) train from Sheepshead Bay Road-East 15 Street, Avenue U-East 16 Street, or Kings Highway-East 16 Street.

    Assume zero wait time and zero idle time for bus-subway transfers and you will find that the B44 SBS to the (2) or (5) to whatever final destination you want to choose, will take the same amount of time as the B4/B36/B3/B7/B82 to the (B) or (Q). And that is only on paper. In practice, SBS will probably have the upper hand (be faster) since local/limited/express buses deviate from their schedules an awful lot more than subways and SBS buses.

    Then the other thing is that hopefully the idea of using the B44 SBS to reach northern Brooklyn and Queens would catch on as we discussed before.

  13. Comment that said “just yanking your chain” was for Al. From now on I will start the reply with “Re: whoever” due to the restrictions of this new format that has been implemented.

  14. Re: Kon

    Callousness much? I agree with 1 and 3 but not 2. I guess these things really deter you from public transportation altogether.

    But if you do not feel the same way about trains, then I can tell you something:

    I get the feeling that people carry on on buses so much for complex reasons. I feel that after having to deal with crowded, unpredictable, unreliable buses that take so long to get around, the people that use them on a daily basis start going kinda nuts. To tell you the truth this is probably one of the reasons why assaults happen so much.

    There are so many things passengers deal with when using local/limited buses: The bus takes forever to show up. There is no room. It is very crowded. It makes so many stops. I feel like I am getting nowhere. There are 10 people at each stop and it takes so long for them to board so we can finally move. Now wheelchairs want to board. And walkers. The bus operator has to take time to operate the lift and secure the wheelchair. Every time you think nothing worse can happen to the bus, something worse happens. This is why people despise them so much.

    My feeling is that after having dealt with so much, people go kinda nuts and do all kinds of shit like assaulting bus operators, talking loud on the cell phone, and talking loud (or yelling) in general. I feel that this is less prevalent on SBS and subways because the trips are faster and there is less stress on everybody for many reasons, which I feel are obvious (off-board fare collection and fewer stops, to name a few). As a result the people are more civilized. Also they really have to look out for their bus stops/stations (to avoid missing them), which directs a good bit of their attention to the passing scenery, preventing them from carrying on so much.

    Local/limited buses on the other hand, are a damn free-for-all, especially after school hours. It is insane and I have witnessed this firsthand. Subways and SBS buses still get the kids and the kids carry on, but another consolation is the fact that you do not spend as much time getting where you want to go since they are faster. So if you get on the bus and kids are carrying on, it is less of an issue on SBS buses because at least you feel like you are getting somewhere fast and in the case of the B44 it will be much faster, due to the logistics of the B44 route (straight as an arrow, hardly any turns, no highways/bridge/tunnels feeding into the B44 SBS corridor, no long-term construction in the corridor, offset bus lanes etc).

    That is another factor: The trip feels longer and often is longer on local/limited buses, when compared to subways and SBS buses. Not that I am trying to sway you, but these are my two cents. People go nuts on local/limited buses because they are quite difficult to use, especially every day. On rapid transit, on the other hand, the people are calmer and more civilized because rapid transit is easier to use, less psychologically taxing, and less stressful.

    Very psychological indeed.

  15. Re: Kon/myself

    By the way, I was told by some reliable sources that wheelchair/walker passengers tend to avoid SBS because they usually evade the fare on local/limited buses due to the fact that they do not normally have it.

    On local/limited buses they can get away with it, since bus operators do not issue summonses for nonpayment and generally do not make a big deal about nonpayment. They should not either, since assaults and murders against bus operators have occurred because of nonpayment.

    On SBS, they cannot get away with it since the fare inspectors issue summonses. So they (wheelchairs and walkers) seldom use SBS. Sweet victory.

  16. Don’t understand why the B4 does not terminate at the B/Q station rather the Coney Island Ave, just 4 short Blocks. I do understand why the B2 was cut because the 100 is just 1 block walk and there is direct service to the Brighton Line to Kings Plaza via the B-3 at Ave U since there is no Brighton Express Service.  Also the shortning of the B64 since the B82 is just 1 block away, took them long enough to change the B1/64 lines should have been done years ago. As to the B 5/50 Merger should have been a 5/7 Merger with one  service along Kings Highway rather then 2. I also feel that the Q35 should be limited service between Glenwood and Kings Plaza, no local traffic between those 2 points since it is a Queens Route, and the B36 should be extended Express Service during School Hours to Brooklyn College, no stops after Ave U make it easy for students and those needing IRT  less crowding on the B44.

  17. The B4 does not terminate at the B/Q station because the people in charge do not understand the routes the way we do.  I was promised over a year ago that they would look into making that change and am still waiting for a reply.  The problem is that it may look more expensive on paper but it isn’t because the bus unnecessarily lays over for 20 minutes at Coney Island Hospital and that prevents a complete transfer to the B68.  (You can transfer from the B4 to the B68 but not from the B68 to the B4 because of the layover. 

    A B5/7 merger made sense over 50 years ago, but demographics have changed since.  I believe the Q35 returned to limited stop a while ago.  Read about the B44 Select Bus Service going into effect next year regarding express service to Brooklyn College. 

  18. Is the MTA any worse than sanitation, the police or fire departments, or the US Postal Service? Would you find getting 50 percent of your mail on time acceptable, or 50 percent of the fires being extinguished promptly, or 50 percent of major criminals being caught?

    Of course not, but the MTA gets me to my destination close to 100 percent of the time.  Whether I’m satisfied with the service is a different question from whether I received the service at all.  (I’m never satisfied with my visits to the post office, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t receive mail.)

    Local bus routes have been restored in sections of the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, and in Bay Ridge express bus service cuts have been restored. Staten Islanders are even asking for new bus service. Residents have been fighting for service restoration, although unsuccessfully, in at least three sections of Queens: in Northeast Queens against discontinuance of a local bus route, and in southern Queens and Astoria against reduced service or discontinuance of express bus service.

    Most if not all of the service restorations have been cost-neutral.  For instance, weekend M50 service was restored, but the eastern end of the line was lopped off.  NYCT has been happy to make service modifications that don’t increase operating costs – no need to fight.How about this service proposal: terminate the B4 at Sheepshead Bay station during the entire span of service.  The rush hour extension to Knapp would be eliminated, but off-peak riders would have access to Brighton line.  To be fair, I don’t know if this is cost-neutral, but, if this change would be beneficial to riders and potential riders, it’s something NYCT could look into.From your examples, it looks like “fighting” hasn’t been very successful.  Unless you have a cost-neutral proposal, don’t get your hopes up.  With Cuomo’s recent cut of $320 million annually, it’s time to prepare for even more cuts.

    At least they have been fighting. Isn’t that how this country was founded — by a revolution because we were being oppressed by the British? Isn’t that also the reason for the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement? Isn’t fighting, either peaceful or otherwise, the only way real change is accomplished, for example the Civil Rights movement, the Americans With Disabilities Act? Real change does not occur overnight. It usually takes at least 20 years or more just to accomplish something really worthwhile, but it has to start somewhere.

    This argument is starting to become … a bit over the top, don’t you think?  A disagreement over how a transit agency chose to reduce service in response to a funding crisis is not quite at the same level as British oppression.If you want to fight a worthwhile fight, I suggest you fight for a stable, adequate funding framework for the transit system.  Not only does that address the cause of the problem rather than just one of the symptoms, it’s also a cause that every transit rider in the city can get behind.

    I guarantee you, the first day the B44 SBS operates — even if it eventually does prove to be successful — there will be hundreds complaining of confusion, not knowing how to pay for the bus, and questioning why it was necessary.

    Just like the Bx12 and the M15 and the M34.  But the Bx12 and the M15 have worked out quite well in the end, despite the initial confusion and skepticism.  (It’s too soon to say on the M34.)

    The time to ask for an additional SBS stop at Avenue R is now — not after the Limited is discontinued. An additional stop was added at Avenue D at the request of the Flatbush community. The MTA is willing to listen to you now; they might not later. You have been warned.

    They’ll listen to you both now and later (witness the Sedgwick Avenue stop on the Bx12 that was added to SBS several months after service started up, as I’ve pointed out to you already).  That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get exactly what you want, either now or later.

    Transportation Alternatives has evolved into a powerful national organization

    Transportation Alternatives is a local organization.

    The situation is not hopeless. There are resources out there to help us. Elected officials like Lew Fidler do care.

    I’m sure Lew Fidler cares enough to tell you that he cares.  But what has he done to tackle the transportation funding question?  Because that’s all that really matters.

  19. If 20 minutes of recovery time is appropriate at Coney Island Hospital, then wouldn’t the same 20 minutes of recovery time be appropriate at the subway station?

    As I pointed out in my other post: if you want the B4 to be extended to the station, then come up with a way to reduce operating costs.  For instance, eliminating the part-time Knapp Street part of the route might save enough to pay for a full-time extension to the station.

  20. In the early days of SBS on the M15, when the customer service agents were still at the stops, I was watching a wheelchair passenger argue with the agent that he didn’t have to pay a fare.  The agent, of course, insisted that he did.  As if on cue, a second wheelchair passenger showed up just then and, without asking any questions, went straight to the ticket machine and paid her fare.

    I don’t know if wheelchair passengers usually evade the fare, but some of them certainly do, while others have no problem paying.

  21. Disqus is not letting me reply to your previous post so I will answer here.  I never said that a 20 minute layover is appropriate at Coney Island Hospital. I was saying the opposite, that is is excessive.  It’s just that’s the way the schedule works out. You could probably go to Sheepshead Bay Station with the same number of buses and shortening the layover or at most adding one minute to the headway, so operating to the subway station in actuality would not cost any more than to the hospital, so it would not at all be necessary to curtail Knapp Street service, and that doesn’t even address the issue of added revenue due to a full B68 / B4 transfer and a B49 transfer and B/Q transfer that would result.

    Maybe the MTA gets you to your destination 100% of the time but not me.  The B36 didn’t show up for 20 minutes today for me so I walked several blocks to the B68 instead.  Long story short, a 30 minute bus trip or 10 minute car trip took me 50 minutes today.

    Its not on the same level as the British oppression, but there are parallels. I’ve discussed at length the unfairness, misleading data and conclusions etc, surrounding the service cuts and do not intend to reopen that issue again now.

    I intend to address the funding issue next week.

    You are correct about Transportation Alternatives being local.  My error.

    Lew Fidler is a Councilman.  He doesn’t have much say about transit funding. 

  22. My reliable source is my friend who told me that a bunch of M15 SBS bus operators from 126 Street depot told him that the wheelchairs seldom use the M15 SBS. Another reason why SBS is so popular among the bus operators. Sweet victory. =)

  23. FYI, as acknowledged by the MTA, Lew Fidler was the original proponent of the MTA Mobility Tax which raised approximately 3/4 billion dollars directly for the MTA.

    Question asked. Question answered.

  24. Looking at the schedule, I see the 20-minute recovery time between the AM and PM rush (and I agree that it’s probably excessive), but recovery times seem to be much shorter in the evening and on weekends.  My proposed extension would mostly take place on weekends, so there would be a cost.

    The headway is determined by ridership at the peak load point.  Why should riders on the rest of the line have to wait longer and have less of a chance at getting a seat?  You often claim that the MTA isn’t adhering to its own guidelines, so why are you suddenly proposing that the MTA ignore its loading guidelines?  Or do you want bus loading guidelines to be tightened systemwide?Dissatisfaction is not the same as not receiving service at all.  I was dissatisfied yesterday when my D train randomly stopped between stations for five minutes with no announcements, but I still got to my destination.  Or are you suggesting that the MTA fails to get you to your destination half the time?No, there really are no parallels.  Transit agencies across the country have been cutting service due to funding crises – there’s nothing unique about the B4.  And the MTA is under no obligation to show you, personally, the exact data used to devise the service cuts unless you file a FOIL request.The City Council is responsible for the city’s budget.  If Lew Fidler really cared about your bus service, he could have advocated for increased city spending on transit.  Has he?  He certainly has nothing at all to say regarding transit here, so perhaps he doesn’t really consider it much of a priority:

  25. I will grant that Fidler did propose a payroll tax to fund transportation as early as 2007.

    But it was proposed as one of a generally outlandish set of nine proposals, a supposed alternative to the congestion pricing plan that was then on the table.  And it was intended to finance the construction of three tunnels, not to support the existing transit network:

    The payroll tax that was ultimately enacted three years ago was one prong of a two-pronged approach to funding the MTA developed by the Ravitch Commission.  The other prong, bridge tolls, did not pass, despite Ravitch’s warning that “This is not a series of separable recommendations. This is an effort to spread the burden amongst the largest group that one possibly can.”  Alas, we didn’t heed his warning, and we all know what happened to the payroll tax last week.

    Unless somebody steps up to the plate with a real solution, prepare for more cuts. If the city and state think that transit is important, then the city and state have to pay for it.

  26. I haven’t studied the schedule but I’ve watched the B4 lay over for 20 minutes on numerous occasions on the weekends. That is more than enough time to travel to the Station and don’t forget if it does that the loop down to the Belt Parkway which it makes at all times becomes totally unnecessary, thus shortening the route and save money. I once saw the bus wait three minutes during the rush hour just to merge back into traffic from the terminal bus stop. That’s about an 8 minute reduction in travel time westbound by not veering off Avenue Z.

    What I meant was there is a 50% chance you will get to your destination with a severe delay, not you will not get there at all. The MTA has an obligation to be honest with the people. It is not fair to say that alternate bus service is 1/4 mie away. People cannot fly and they cannot cross the Belt Parkway where there is no opening. The B36 may be a quarter mile away, but if you have to walk a quarter mile to a street that crosses the Belt Parkway, your actual distance is from a quarter to three quarters of a mile. To say it is a quarter mile is totally misleading and wrong.

  27. I rarely use the buses anymore because it is really uncomfortable with my scooter/wheelchair slowing every one down, I get super nervous, so I just scoot on the street or take access a ride. All I know about what’s happening is from this blog.

    When I told people who do not use the internet about the new bus and how upset small businesses on Nostrand are because of the parking, deliveries, etc., I was met with complete disbelief that this will ever really happen.

    It is hard to believe that the MTA and this community would ignore, disrespect, remain ignorant of a solid business like Silver Star and all the other small businesses up & down Nostrand.

    As for protesting, in my heart I do, but I cannot deal with barricades or news vans or people that block curb cuts. I will sign petitions, write e-mails…


  28. No. You are wrong. 

    I tried numerous times over the last 20 years to pay bus fares on the M15, M79, the M104, the M5, M31, etc., and the drivers would not let me. This was an institutional decision someone made to speed things up.Nowadays if you have an access a ride card, you use that and pay $1 something extra. I don’t know exactly because I stopped using most all buses since moving back to Brooklyn.

  29. The actual policy is clearly spelled out at

    All buses are accessible to customers who use wheelchairs.  To pay with a Reduced-Fare MetroCard, dip the card in the farebox with the stripe facing you.  To pay a reduced fare in cash, have identification and exact fare ready.  If you enter a bus via the rear door or center wheel lift, the operator will offer you a postage-paid, pre-addressed envelope to pay your fare.  If you use a wheelchair or an assistive device for ambulation and enter a bus that has a front door lift or ramp, pay the fare in coins or with a MetroCard.  If you can’t put coins or dip a MetroCard in the farebox, ask the operator for a fare envelope.

    For the first 2+ decades of wheelchairs on buses, all boarding was through the rear door, and I doubt those envelopes got much use.  So drivers probably stopped bothering to hand them out, and pretty soon everybody got used to the idea that wheelchair customers don’t pay, even though that was never the policy.

    It looks like some education is in order, first and foremost for the drivers themselves.

  30. While my original proposal for what is now called the Mobility Tax was in fact a plan to fund the MTA’s capital plan, it is still a matter of public record that the MTA gave my proposal to Mr. Ravitch with their recommendation that it be used to solve their funding problem. They in fact testified to that effect at a Council budget hearing a number of years ago.
    While the recent modifications of the tax were all good, the fact remains that since the demise of the commuter tax, this is the first and only time that our neighbors in the suburbs who also use our NYC transit system contribute in any way to the cost other than at the fare box. And as we all know, every transit ride is subsidized by the cost beyond the fare that is paid.
    I will allow others to characterize the balance of my 9 point plan in oppositoin to congestion pricing (and residential parking permits, it’s evil twin). Suffice it to say that some of the other aspects of the plan have been since implemented while others should have been. And as anyone who ever travels the Gowanus Expressway knows, the recent decision to abandon the plan to replace it with a tunnel, ending decades of perpetual repair and maintenace at the cost of hundreds of millions—while simultaneoulsy opening the western Brooklyn shore to jobs, housing and parkland—-was a short sighted and poor decision, flying in the face of long term urban planning and vision.

    Can’t please everyone Andrew, but the proposal that I crafted is responsible for more funding for mass transit than the system has seen since the invention of the choo choo train….and saved the fare at the time, at least for the time being.

    Lew from Brooklyn

  31. It’s pretty clear from the schedule what the recovery time is.  If you’re regularly seeing buses sit at the terminal for 20 minutes on weekends, then the schedule is overly padded and buses are either arriving early or departing late.

    I don’t know what you mean by a “severe delay.”  Who gets to decide what counts as severe?  I certainly don’t think anywhere near 50% of my bus rides are severely delayed.  Weren’t you discussing dissatisfaction before?  I can be dissatisfied even without severe delays.

    Regardless of having to cross the Belt, the B36 is 0.4 miles from the B4 on Emmons.  It’s not a quarter mile at all.

  32. Thank you for your comments.

    If your goal is to save the fare, then I’m afraid we have very different goals.  My goal is to ensure that the basic infrastructure of the subway system – the tunnels, the tracks, the signals, the switches, the pumps, the electrical distribution system, the subway cars, the stations – is brought up to a state of good repair, that an ongoing source of funding is in place to maintain that state of good repair.  (A simple signal failure – and most of the IND still has its original failure-prone signals dating back to the 30’s – will instantly generate major delays for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.)  The transit system needs more lines and more frequent service on existing lines to accommodate the growing population of the city – not service reductions, like the ones that took place last year.  The transit system cannot forced back into a policy of deferred maintenance, as anybody who rode the subway in the 70’s and 80’s knows all too well.  The struggle for funding is not primarily about the fare.

    Yes, every transit system is subsidized.  So is every road system.  Your point?
    Please correct me with I’m wrong, but the recently abandoned tunnel proposal was to replace the tiered section of the BQE through Brooklyn Heights, not the Gowanus.  I don’t think I’ve heard anything about the Gowanus tunnel proposal in years.  But in either case, do you really think a vehicular tunnel is the best use of our limited funds?

  33. […] We have unions fighting for their members not willing to give up archaic work rules hindering the MTA from becoming more efficient, and we have politicians who do not care about transit, with Albany constantly reducing MTA funding. We also have you, the public, who loves to bash the MTA, but is not willing to do anything constructive to improve matters. […]

  34. Nothing has changed in the past 3 years. The MTA still refuses to bring back the X-29 Express Bus. The problem is the lack of action by our politicians and also the lack of action by the riders themselves. Seems the residents are AFRAID to open their mouths to any degree.

  35. I met someone a few months ago who is trying to get the MTA to alter the X28 so it makes a stop at West 5th and Neptune. Don’t know if that would help you.

    The MTA said they would rather extend the BM3 which would be inefficient and make the trip 20 minutes longer than if the X28 was rerouted. They prefer the latter because the city would subsidize it and not any changes to the X28. They only look at operating costs, not what is best for the passenger.

    I suggest you contact Councilman Mark Treyger’s office.

  36. It’s 2017 and NOTHING at all has been done to either bring back the X-29, extend the X-28 or the BM3. Our neighborhood is still being treated as the Red Headed Step Child of the MTA.

  37. My first question to you is how did you ever find the article after six years?

    My other question to you is what have you done to bring back the X-29, extend the X-28 or the BM3? Have you contacted your elected officials? If you did and they have done nothing, let everyone know who they are. Embarrass them into doing something. Write letters to the local newspapers. Have you tried to organize people to help you? Have you started any petitions? Change won’t happen by just waiting for it.

    Contact those running for mayor. You may be surprised with the results. I sent a four page e-mail about transportation to Sal Albanese who is challenging de Blasio for mayor. Guess what? He wrote back that he wanted to speak to me and we spoke for ten minutes on the phone.


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