Home Brooklyn A vote against Select Bus Service for all the wrong reasons

A vote against Select Bus Service for all the wrong reasons

by Benjamin Kabak

NYC DOT’s proposed Select Bus Service plan for Rogers Ave. in Brooklyn includes bulbs for BRT, inset stops for local service and fewer parking spaces. (Rendering via the MTA/DOT SBS Presentation from Dec. 2009)

When it comes to purely local government in New York City, nothing stands in the way of progress more than the Community Boards. These glorified neighborhood associations are generally stocked with people who aren’t representative of their constituents and have not embraced a pro-transit, pro-biking, pro-pedestrian livable streets/livable city agenda. They vote against protected bike lanes and true rapid transit bus lanes because their cars need valuable on-street real estate for below-market parking spots. In a sense, the community boards are a mockery of democracy.

Late last week, in a move that would surprise no one, Community Board 15 out in Sheepshead Bay voted against Select Bus Service along the B44. The DOT and MTA — two organizations that will probably not heed the non-binding CB15 vote — have been planning to unveil a Select Bus Service route from Sheepshead Bay itself to Williamsburg with subway connections to the B, Q, 2, 5, A, C, J, M and Z trains. Already, 42,000 people ride the B44, and the SBS route should increase that total.

The Community Board though doesn’t want it. In car-heavy CB15 where only 50 percent of residents rely on mass transit, its representatives say the elimination of parking spots hurts “the little guy.” “I might start riding the bus more often,” Tom Bowers, a senior who no longer uses his car, said to a reporter. “But most of the time, things like this hurt the little guy.”

Others claimed the new bus route would “inconvenience” the neighborhood while at an April Community Board meeting, members decried the lost parking spaces. Comparing the long Brooklyn route to the Bronx’s Bx12 service, CB15’s chair cast a skeptical eye on the whole thing. “For all this money they’re putting out during a time when they’re cutting service, how much time are they really saving?” Theresa Scavo said. “I dont think six minutes is worth all of this disruption.” If my commute were six minutes faster each way every day, I’d save an hour a week and over two full days in commuting per year.

Of course, these Community Board vote comes as no surprise. As Ben Fried from Streetsblog meticulously detailed in May, CB15 is opposed to safer streets for seniors and feels that SBS pre-boarding receipts would lead to an immeasurable increase in paper trash on the floor. But, hey, more car emissions. I sometimes wonder if these Community Boards are simply parodies of government.

The real problem with this Brooklyn Select Bus Service route isn’t its impact on parking or the supposed cost of painting some lines on the ground and building out some bus bulbs. It’s the route selection. The B44 already serves its purpose; it gets riders to the nearest subway line while passing through some business corridors. Few, if any, people ride from Sheepshead Bay to Williamsburg, and that probably won’t change much with the introduction of Select Bus Service. A Flatbush or Utica Ave. route would have been preferable choices over the Nostrand/Rogers Ave. combination for both the traffic-calming impact and ridership levels.

When time comes to evaluate the bus lanes, NYC DOT and the MTA aren’t bound by the Community Board 15 vote. They can disregard it as the bitter rantings of an auto-centric neighborhood that can’t stand to lose some lane and parking space for the good of everyone else. While Tom Bowers may think better transit service will “hurt the little guy,” he’s completely wrong. Community Board vote or not, the little guy will win when buses move faster.

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Alon Levy June 4, 2010 - 1:32 am

When it comes to purely local government in New York City, nothing stands in the way of progress more than the Community Boards.

You’re right. The CBs do annoying things like oppose the Atlantic Yards landgrab and the Columbia expansion. Let’s do away with them entirely and replace them with a Bloomberg-appointed Commissar.

Benjamin Kabak June 4, 2010 - 1:39 am

Somewhere, there’s a middle ground. But as those examples show, if a Community Board stands against everything, eventually it will stand against the right thing. That doesn’t make it a better form of government, and your example is the other extreme. But that’s nearly besides the point of CB15’s opposition to the SBS B44 route.

Cap'n Transit June 4, 2010 - 8:58 am

And they opposed them so effectively, too!

Alon Levy June 4, 2010 - 1:59 pm

They have no binding power over zoning, Cap’n.

AK June 4, 2010 - 9:07 am

I consider their stonewalling tactics in those cases– since adjudicated to be not “landgrabs” (talk about spin) but legitimate uses of eminent domain (the Columbia expansion decision by the 1st Department (Appellate Court) is all but certain to be overturned by the Court of Appeals (argument was heard this week)– to have “stood in the way of progress”…but that’s just me.

Alon Levy June 4, 2010 - 2:02 pm

Adjudicated? By who – the same hacks who said banning gay marriage was okay because marriage was for procreation?

To some people, progress means improving standards of living. To others, it means mass eviction.

AK June 4, 2010 - 4:32 pm

Your response makes me think you never respect the decisions of any courts because they occassionally rule in a way that doesn’t jive with your personal opinion…which can’t possibly be true, since you are quite smart and understand the place of the judiciary in the republican scheme.

Until the people of this State pass a statute outlining the limits of ED use, as people in dozens of other states have in the wake of Kelo, I will continue to say what I said above– that the cases were adjudicated, with painstaking speed, and ultimately held constitutional (in a ruling that was far from an outlier nationally).

Alon Levy June 4, 2010 - 5:38 pm

I’m not saying the judges didn’t have a reason. The judges who said a gay marriage ban was okay had reasons, too. I’m just saying that from an urbanist point of view, rather than a legal one, Columbia and Ratner have both engaged in a landgrab. The landgrab may be legal, but that doesn’t mean that it’s progress and that opposing it makes you an obstructionist.

Al D June 4, 2010 - 9:10 am

The plan out there calls for SBS in mixed traffic if I remember correctly, and Nostrand Ave is pretty wide south of Ave V. That stretch is also rife with double-parking and also the right hand lane in each direction is atypically wide further encouraging this. So if we are talking a few bus bulbs on the corners that as you say will as help the large senior community out there, these guys are just obstructionist. They don’t get that there’s too many cars out there because of lack of public transit facilities, but give ’em 1, and they don’t want it. It’s been my experience that recent DOT street remake projects are pretty darned good on the whole, so CB15 should welcome a rethink of this corridor that can really use 1.

JPN June 4, 2010 - 11:15 am

This community board is just like Kate Gosselin. If you not familiar with my analogy, on Dancing with the Stars, Kate and her professional partner, Tony Dovolani, had some heated arguments during dance training. And in the end, her dancing was quite poor as she displayed little ability to dance and perform (compared to the other celebrities). One of the famous arguments saw Tony explaining to her that he teaches dancing for a living. She responded that he is not taking into consideration how she learns. Tony explains aside that he has never been questioned on teaching before and he walks out on her, and Kate responds to the camera, “I don’t get it!”

The community board thinks it knows what is best for the community. But when the professionals try to explain that the impact is quite minimal, they aren’t having any of it. I can be stubborn myself, but their stubbornness is at another level.

If the CB had some sense on transit issues, they could have proposed routing the SBS to the Sheepshead Bay or Brighton Beach subway stations, where it should be successful barring any technicalities.

BrooklynBus June 5, 2010 - 4:44 pm

“The community board thinks it knows what is best for the community. But when the professionals try to explain that the impact is quite minimal, they aren’t having any of it. I can be stubborn myself, but their stubbornness is at another level.”

They are stubborn for very good reasons. Don’t tell me about so called professionals. Sometimes I wonder where DOT engineers got their degrees. They have come before to this board with the most insane proposals, such as eliminating a left turn from Coney Island Avenue to Guider Avenue which would totally disrupt traffic when all that is needed is a left turn signal that the community has been asking for years. When the community tried to explain the implications of banning the turn such as the traffic being rerouted to a neighborhood school, their response was “What school?” They have every right to be skeptical of DOT and the MTA.

If the CB had some sense on transit issues, they could have proposed routing the SBS to the Sheepshead Bay or Brighton Beach subway stations, where it should be successful barring any technicalities.”

The CB has more sense on transit issues than you have. Your SBS proposal makes no sense whatsoever.

JPN June 6, 2010 - 4:56 pm

Fine, I’m an amateur. Please tell me why access to the Brighton Line from that part of Brooklyn will not help transit accessibility there. If the people there want better access to Manhattan, isn’t that the route to go? The route could even loop around Knapp Street, if that is the problem.

Sometimes that the DOT can get things wrong too, and I can admit I’m overgeneralizing with my comment about all CBs. I only reacted to what information was presented to me here in this post and the comments. I was harsh, but did I deserve a harsh response? (That’s a rhetorical question.) I live in Bushwick but I also frequently use transit in Ridgewood. I am not as enthusiastic as others here are about the M reroute along the Sixth Avenue Line, except that it will make for a more comfortable but not necessarily quicker commute from upper Bushwick and Ridgewood. Did I make the recommendation that B13 service be kept to Wyckoff Hospital, which is just a few feet from where I live? Absolutely not, but I’m happy for it. The CBs have been requesting limited Q58 service for many years, and they will get it. I’m grateful for that. You’ve gotten me to come out and say it.

So again, I am an amateur. Shouldn’t I have the freedom to express what I feel is right if I have some degree of familiarity with it? For the record, I have never taken the B44 east of Nostrand Avenue and Shore Parkway but I have taken public transportation to many other parts of the city to be able to say I’m comfortable to judge it. (And no, I do not participate in those other transit forums either, but I have done so limitedly in the past.)

BrooklynBus June 6, 2010 - 8:03 pm

First, I never said that access to the Brighton Line from that part of Brooklyn will not help accessibility there. It would help a lot. What I said was that the SBS should not go to the Brighton Station as you suggested. The problem is first of all what route would you take and how would you incorporate the Knapp Street loop? Please explain and then we could talk more.

I don’t know if you want me to comment on your Bushwick comments or not. All I say is that I like the M proposal. I am not convinced thus far that the West End Line needs two services and if I tell you the reason I heard why the M train has run on the West End Line since 1984, you would be very surprised. I think more people will benefit from a Midtown connection than a Lower Manhattan direct service. It also makes no sense to have that connection there unused. The part I oppose is that they are not extending the J during rush hours to 9th Avenue, because current R service is insufficient for the demand.

No said you shouldn’t have the freedom to express what you feel is right if you have some knowledge and are somewhat familiar with passenger travel patterns in the area and are not just planning by looking at a map and making a proposal just because it looks nice. Anyone can make general proposals, it’s when you get down to the specifics, then you can tell if something is worthwhile or not. So be specific with your SBS proposal and I’ll tell what I think of it if you want me to.

JPN June 6, 2010 - 10:43 pm

First, I should never have said “Brighton Beach”. Second, you’re right that I am essentially making a blind and uneducated proposition as I don’t know the travel habits of the area, forgive me. Third, I said there may be technicalities that prevent an SBS route from working in the BMT Brighton Line area, such as narrow streets in the Sheepshead Bay Road shopping district. For what it’s worth, my route would have the current B44 route from the north until Nostrand and Avenue Z. If the bus were not to serve Knapp Street, it would continue south and turn right on Voorhies Avenue, possibly stop at Bedford Av. and./or Ocean Avenue, and terminate under the Sheepshead Bay station entrance at Voorhies Avenue. The bus would turn left on E. 14th Street, and the first stop northward would be at E. 14th St. & Sheepshead Bay Rd. or Avenue Z and E. 15th St. Then it would continue down Avenue Z, stop at Ocean and/or Bedford, turn on Nostrand and continue route. If it goes to Knapp Street, this route would divert according to the current B44 route along Shore Parkway S. and Emmons Avenue and stop at Knapp Street and possibly at Shore Parkway South & Nostrand.

BrooklynBus June 7, 2010 - 10:17 am

The only technical problem with your route to Sheepshead Bay Station is the fact that Voorhies Avenue is gridlock on weekdays between Ocean Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Station between 4 and 7 PM. (I am not there in the mornings so I wouldn’t know how bad it is then.) Those few blocks can take over ten minutes by car to traverse. I suppose it would be possible to ban parking in the right lane for those few blocks during those hours which should help out the situation, but the larger question is why should it go to the Brighton Station? What would help a great deal would be to restore the B36 short trips from the Station to Sheepshead Bay which were discontinued ten or 15 years ago. Sometimes it is the simple solutions that would help out more than the complex ones.

Serving the Station and Knapp Street really doesn’t make sense when you realize the purpose of the B44 turning right to Knapp Street. It does so to provide the Plumb Beach area with north-south bus service, since there is no bus service along Knapp Street. No one bound for Nostrand Avenue would take the SBS first to Sheepshead Bay Station only to return to Nostrand Avenue to proceed north. Also, SBS along Voorhies would be no quicker than existing bus service along Emmons or Avenue Z.

JPN June 7, 2010 - 11:15 am

To clear up any confusion, I meant to say in both of the routes I suggested, Sheepshead Bay station would be the terminal; the Plumb Beach loop would be served in both directions like the S60 along the Staten Island Expressway.

JPN June 6, 2010 - 6:10 pm

“They have every right to be skeptical of DOT and the MTA.” In this instance, yes. This article is what I found about the situation (and the article says the “What school?” response is actually to a firehouse, but the DOT also didn’t know [which?] school either). It’s related to the reconstruction of a bridge and ramp over the Belt Parkway. Not to defend the no-left-turn rule, but the DOT must have thought there would be enough traffic from northbound CI Avenue and turning cars from east- and westbound Guider Avenue to cause gridlock that a left turn onto Guider from southbound CI Ave. would cause even more of a tie-up. Isn’t it logical to think that?

Theresa Scavo and the board certainly have a passion for their community, that cannot be denied. But they also see that a lot of people use cars as their primary transportation. It’s all up to them whether they think public transportation is better than private transportation. If you’ve lived with cars and had no use for public transportation because it doesn’t suit your needs all your life, that perception is hard to change. The issue of whether that viewpoint truly speaks for the community is the debate here.

BrooklynBus June 6, 2010 - 8:37 pm

Your second part first. It’s not a question of public transportation versus private transportation. I’m sure the Board sees the importance of both. They were concerned that after four years of asking the question, how many parking spaces would be lost, the MTA or DOT would have been able to provide them with a specific answer by now but all they would say is minimal to none. That is a legitimate question. If the answer came back as ten or twenty, I’m sure someone on the Board would be willing to go around the neighborhood with DOT to see if an equivalent number of spaces could be created in the same neighborhood. I have enough experience to know that not everywhere where there is a No Parking Anytime sign, it is needed. If the lost spaces could be replaced, perhaps the Board might have even approved their plan if that was their major objection.

I don’t think you understand what is happening at Guider Avenue. Although the ramp reconstruction is currently ongoing, it has nothing to do with DOT’s Proposal which is the result of a seven year Gravesend Traffic Study. There is no current left-turn rule. There is a current No U-turn rule to prevent cars going southbound from entering the Belt Parkway eastbound. This rule is frequently violated because it is the only way to access the Belt Parkway. The alternative is to travel almost a half mile on local streets through about six additional trafic signals adding five minutes to your trip. What DOT is proposing is that in addition to banning U-turns, they also ban left turns and force everyone onto overcrowded Neptune Avenue which is already backed up. Their proposal would cause total gridlock.

If there were a left turn signal, not only would it make it safer, but U-turns could also be allowed to access the Belt. The community has been requesting this for years and it would make perfect sense. You asked me what DOT is thinking. They claim that they need to maintain two through southbound lanes on the CIA bridge, and therefore cannot have a dedicated left turn lane which would be needed with a left turn signal. That could easily be done by adding a lane in what is now Parks territory and DOT stated that they have no intention of trying to acquire the land from Parks. That would have solved everyone’s problem, but DOT is being stubborn as usual. So their proposal is currently on hold due to the community opposition.

JPN June 7, 2010 - 12:15 am

See, I didn’t know all of that, and I would not have noticed the problem was the two lanes on CI Avenue. Thank you for clarifying.

Well, I read the linked articles, and the fact that CB15 had been trying to get the DOT and MTA to admit how many parking spaces would be lost should not have been omitted from this post. Quote: “‘We didn’t get direct answers from the MTA,’ Scavo said. ‘Many people believe they’re omitting a lot.'” But once the SBS system is built, couldn’t that issue be resolved then?

BrooklynBus June 7, 2010 - 10:20 am

“But once the SBS system is built, couldn’t that issue be resolved then?

In a perfect world, yes but realistically, No, since now is when the communities have their leverage.

Scott E June 4, 2010 - 9:22 am

only 50 percent of residents rely on mass transit”

Only in New York would a figure like this be preceded with “Only” (in the US anyway).

Woody June 4, 2010 - 9:45 am

NYC voters strongly supported term limits (the Mayor and City Council not so much). Perhaps it would help to have term limits on the Community Boards. Perhaps allow 8 years on, 4 years off before a possible reappointment. This measure would alleviate situations (CB7 on Upper West Side anyone?) where a few long-serving dinosaurs dominate key committees, intimidate newer members, and squash new ideas.

Another notion: more public disclosure. Typically members of legislative bodies disclose income and assets within a range. Doesn’t the public have a right to know a few basic facts about CB members? Such as,
*Yearly household income: __ Under $100,00, __ Between $100,000 and $250,000 a year, __ Over $250,000
*Residence: __ Own house, condo, or coop, __ Live in rent-regulated apartment, __ Rent housing at free-market rate
*Personal transportation: __ Own car and use it to commute, __ Do not own car, __ Own car but commute by (__) subway, (__) bus, (__) taxi, (bicycle) (__), walking, (__) other.

If this basic info seems an invasion of privacy, then collect and publish the info anonymously, so, for example CB0, 25% own their home, 25% live rent-regulated, 50% rent at market rate. Such info would help the citizens determine if they feel that the Boards correctly reflect the composition of the neighborhood.

Paulp June 4, 2010 - 9:47 am

the main benefit of SBS is not being required to pay your fare on the bus. hence the BX 12 SBS in the bronx: 70-75% of people do not have the resquisite reciept nesscessary to board the bus. (meaning they did not pay. At a time when MTA is so sort of money, you’d think they’d want more people to pay not less.

Benjamin Kabak June 4, 2010 - 9:48 am

Do you have a source for that widely high figure? The number reported by the MTA (in this pdf) claims fare evasion is less than 15 percent.

BrooklynBus June 5, 2010 - 4:59 pm

I just read the pdf you cited and am very suspicious of the MTA’s finding of 10% fare evasion. There are charts for everything but when it comes to fare evasion all they say is several spot checks were made at several locations and the number is 10%. How many spot checks? over what period of time? which locations? This information is not revealed. While the Daily News may not be the best source in the world, I will trust them before I will trust an MTA number with no backup whatsoever. The Community Board and I have enough experience to know that they slant numbers, mislead, and don’t always tell the truth. You are too young and naive to know what is really going on. You don’t believe me now but you will be singing a different tune by the time you are 50.

Alon Levy June 6, 2010 - 12:50 am

Your condescension would work a lot better if you didn’t refer to the Daily Fishwrapper News as a good source.

BrooklynBus June 6, 2010 - 10:46 am

Unfortunately, they were the only ones other than the MTA who have data on this. I’m sure you would have the same problem if a study were done by the New York Post. Be my guest in trying to get the NY Times interested in this.

Alon Levy June 7, 2010 - 12:22 am

Do they have data, or guesses they pulled out of their asses?

BrooklynBus June 7, 2010 - 10:27 am

I’m not sure who you are referring to, the MTA or the Daily News. The Daily News study which showed huge fare evasion was based on observations for about 8 hours by several people if I remember correctly. The link to that study was posted before and you can Google it. It’s the MTA number of 10% that looks made up to me since I couldn’t find any back-up for it in the pdf report Ben linked. No number of observations mentioned, no number of locations studied, no period of time mentioned, etc. Very suspicious because the rest of the report discussing ridership and revenue was loaded with tables and numbers and seemed complete to me.

Benjamin Kabak June 7, 2010 - 10:35 am

The problem with the Daily News report is that it doesn’t offer up a baseline percentage for fare evasion. The reporters claimed they counted 89 fare-evaders after spending one hour at each of three stations during peak hours but didn’t say how many people paid the fare. Ridership on that route is now 46,000 per weekday so a fare evasion figure of 10 percent would mean 4600 riders per day. That doesn’t seem too out of line with what the News found, does it?

BrooklynBus June 7, 2010 - 10:03 pm

The Daily News estimated an average of 30 fare evaders per peak hour at each of the three stations surveyed. The entire route has 18 stations. Expanding that number, there would be 540 fare evaders during a peak hour, or 2,160 for four peak hours a day. I wasn’t able to determine from the MTA report the number of hours SBS operates each day, but if you are willing to assume that almost 50% of the ridership occurs during these peak hours, the MTA estimate of 10% would be correct.

Given the high amount of shopping trips along Fordham Boulevard, I highly doubt this is the case. I thought I remembered reading a figure somewhere of 80% fare evasion, although that might have just been someone’s opinion. A rider calling himself a busfan today posted on BusChat his estimate of 20% fare evasion. That sounds to me like a much more realistic estimate than the MTA’s of 10%. The Daily News merely calls the amount of abuse “flagrant” which is subjective.

Here is what a Bx 12 bus operator posted today about the Bx 12 on BusChat.

“As someone who drives the Bx12 SBS on a daily basis I can safely say that the whole “Select Bus Service” concept is a complete waste of time. At least a third of the vending machines are either totally out of order or do not dispense tickets. Fare enforcement is spotty at best. The bus lane is for the most part useless and if we have traffic signal priority it’s news to me since I cannot see any difference in traffic light sequencing. The NovaBUS LFSA is absolutely the wrong bus for this type of service. It is painfully slow, has less capacity than the Flyer D60, it’s climate control system cannot cope with hot humid weather and the three door feature actually slows down boarding since sensors do not allow the doors to close when someone is standing near them. Passengers, especially kids have figured this out and will stand their holding the bus up while friends get receipts.

Bus Rapid Transit in theory is a good idea but as usual when the MTA attempts it, the execution is flawed. We’ll have to see if they’ve learned anything from 2 years of SBS operations in the Bronx and make improvements to the impending SBS service on the M15.”

Alon Levy June 7, 2010 - 11:21 pm

The Daily News study which showed huge fare evasion was based on observations for about 8 hours by several people if I remember correctly.

Is that a scientific audit? No.

BrooklynBus June 8, 2010 - 10:16 am

It was not a scientific audit. It was observations for one hour each at three selected locations. But that’s not the question.

Please tell me how the MTA estimate of 10%, a figure they pull out of the air is any more reliable. At least the Daily News discloses where their numbers come from. The only thing disputable about their conclusion is if the number they found amounts to “flagrant abuse.”

The MTA merely states abuse at 10% without disclosing any more information. Why should I trust that number more? For that number to be correct, 50% of SBS riders would have to be riding in 4 of the 24 hours of the day. Does that sound reasonable to you considering Fordham Road is such a busy shopping street with most shopping not occurring during those hours, and we are not even talking about weekends where a higher percentage of SBS riders are making shopping trips during non-peak hours.

Paulp June 8, 2010 - 12:19 pm

just see with your own eyes. go on the BX 12 select bus and check it out yourself. everyone who does not present the driver with a reciept did not pay it’s really staggering.

BrooklynBus June 8, 2010 - 9:45 pm

I thought they are not required to present the driver with a receipt but only must present it to an inspector or officer upon request.

Ed June 4, 2010 - 10:50 am

Community Boards do not represent the neighborhoods. They would if they were elected, or if they were selected randomly from the jury pool, or even just the taxpayers, in their neighborhoods. Instead they are appointed, mostly by the borough president, who is usually not from the neighborhood and may not even have much real political support in that neighborhood.

This community board doesn’t want select bus service because Markowitz doesn’t want select bus service. Its really as simple as that. We should stop treating community boards as if they were not part of the machine.

I actually favor decentralization of government in New York, but I could care less about community boards Bloomberg wants to abolish them, and I’m not sure if that would be a travesty or would have no impact at all.

BrooklynBus June 6, 2010 - 8:46 pm

I believe Community Boards are necessary. Bloomberg wants a dictatorship. If he could he would also abolish the City Council which he frequently is at odds with.

How do you know that the Board does not want SBS because Markowitz doesn’t want it? Maybe it’s the other way around. He doesn’t want it because one or more Boards don’t want it. Polticians usually follow their constituents, they don’t lead.

AlexB June 4, 2010 - 11:36 am

This SBS route will definitely be a useful addition to the system, but I never understood why they didn’t pick the Utica Ave corridor. It has the highest ridership of any bus in the city, probably the highest in the country. Because Utica Ave is farther from the subways than Nostrand, it would have been most useful, too. They need to get SBS on the B35, B6, B41 and B46 routes ASAP, with as much enforcement of the restricted lane as possible.

The argument about the community boards resonates with me, but I think it was a bit too damning. My main complaint is that they are all appointed by the mayor and borough pres. Why can’t the community elect its own representatives? Someone who is a friend of the mayor or the borough president is most likely going to have money, be older, and not especially interested in looking out for the poorer elements of the community; i.e. someone who doesn’t care about transit and biking improvements.

JPN June 4, 2010 - 11:47 am

The previous commenter said Markowitz doesn’t want SBS. Although that’s the first time I’m hearing of that, that may have something to do with it.

With the B46, Malcolm X Boulevard and Broadway are narrower than Utica Avenue, so that may be a reason. A southern crosstown route for the SBS (like the B6) would have been my second choice behind the B46. You’re soon going to get a peak-period B82 limited, if that’s beneficial to you.

Alon Levy June 4, 2010 - 2:20 pm

I honestly don’t know why they picked Nostrand over Utica, either. But it would’ve been a fairly close call. Utica at the time ranked second in the city (it only became first in 2009), Nostrand fifth. The real travesty is that once they started adding new routes, they went for 34th and not Utica.

While elected CBs would be best, the appointed CBs are in practice quite close to their community. They usually vote based on the wishes of the most politically active residents, and they represent the local power brokers. In other words, they’re just like city council in a small city.

BrooklynBus June 4, 2010 - 7:50 pm

SBS works best on a four lane roadway not two. It would not work well on the entire B46 route, but would work between Eastern Parkway and Kings Plaza.

Alon Levy June 4, 2010 - 10:05 pm

While BRT works best on wide roads, where there’s room for a median, sometimes there need to be compromises. There’s a whole host of compromises: transit malls, parking cuts, narrower lanes, narrower sidewalks. Utica north of Eastern Parkway and Malcolm X don’t even need those, as they’re wide enough for six lanes.

BrooklynBus June 5, 2010 - 5:06 pm

What are you talking about? Utica north of Eastern Parkway and Malcolm X are two lane roads and two parking lanes? Maybe wide enough for 6 bicycle lanes, but six vehicular lanes? Certainly you jest. If you are thinking of cutting the sidewalks, they are certainly not wide north of Eastern Parkway, unless you want three foot sidewalks. There is only one single sidewalk that is extra wide and that is on the eastern side of Utica Avenue for one block betwwen Crown and Carroll Street. Visit an area before you start spewing out meaningless recommendations.

Alon Levy June 6, 2010 - 12:58 am

I do know what I’m talking about, you know. I meant six lanes including two parking lanes; eliminating parking lanes is a possibility when the streets are narrow, and my point is that it’s not necessary in this case. (And if it is, then I’m sure it’ll be a big inconvenience for ultra car-dependent Bed-Stuy and Brownsville…)

The width of the lanes on Utica and Malcolm X is such that it’s possible to squeeze four driving lanes and two parking lanes. The streets would then have two SBS lanes (in the center, as is standard practice), two regular driving lanes, and two parking lanes. The only problem would be at stations, where the parking would be removed to make room for raised boarding strips.

BrooklynBus June 6, 2010 - 11:57 am

Then you obviously have never been to that part of Utica Avenue. I’ve spent 25 years of my life walking on those streets almost on a daily basis. Utica Avenue narrows considerably north of Carroll Street and maintains that width along with Malcolm X all the way to Broadway. Without narrowing the sidewalks, there is absolutely no way you could get 4 lanes of traffic plus two parking lanes there. If you don’t believe me, check out Google Earth or maps with satellite view or street view. Then tell me you still think it could be done.

Alon Levy June 6, 2010 - 8:57 pm

I already checked it on Google Earth.

“I lived here 25 years” doesn’t make you an expert on public transportation.

BrooklynBus June 7, 2010 - 10:35 am

If you checked it on Google Earth you obviously were looking at the wrong street or in the wrong place. As I stated, Utica Avenue above Carroll Street narrows considerably. It only has two travel lanes and two parking lanes. The same is true for Malcolm X Boulevard. How you cannot see that and can continue to argue that point is beyond me.

I lived here 25 years” doesn’t make you an expert on public transportation.

Please don’t twist my words. It may work elsewhere but not with me. I am an expert on public transportation but that has nothing to do with what I was saying. It wasn’t the fact I lived there for 25 years that was important, but the fact that I walked along Utica Avenue virtually daily between Empire Boulevard and Eastern Parkway for 25 years, so I am extremely familiar with that stretch of road.

AlexB June 7, 2010 - 12:45 pm

Measuring Utica’s width from sidewalk to sidewalk in google maps, I got widths between 38 and 44 feet. There is no way to fit more than four lanes north of Eastern Parkway unless you widen the sidewalks, which is almost always a bad idea.

If you got rid of the parking lanes, you could have one bus lane and one driving lane in each direction. If SBS is in Utica Ave’s future, it might be best to make Utica/Malcolm X one way northbound to complement the already one way southbound Stuyvesant/Schenectady and give the buses a dedicated lane on each, similar to the Nostrand/Rogers combo. Then you could preserve the parking lanes and speed up the buses.

There isn’t anything you can do on Broadway besides remove parking.

BrooklynBus June 7, 2010 - 7:11 pm

You are correct and a one-way pair is definitely a possibility, but since Stuyvesant/Schenectady is already paired with Troy and Lewis, Utica would have to be paired with Rochester which is currently two-way. I guess the bus could use either Schenectady or Rochester in the southbound direction, if such a decision were made.

I stlll think there may be enough demand to warrant SBS just as far as Eastern Parkway.

Alon Levy June 7, 2010 - 11:23 pm

For your information, best industry practice in constrained ROW is to take away parking, build a transit mall, or run buses in mixed traffic. I can give you a link to the guidelines if you’re interested. Professional agencies only use one-way pairs when the streets are too narrow for more than one lane of traffic.

BrooklynBus June 8, 2010 - 10:22 am

To Alon Levy:

“Professional agencies only use one-way pairs when the streets are too narrow for more than one lane of traffic.”

Or when the one-way pairs already exist. So what you are saying is they would not create a one=way pair for the purpose of SBS. I’ll accept that. But on the other hand, the Fulton Street Transit Mall which is what you are talking about never operated the way it was intended, and I wouldn’t exactly call that successful.

As an aside, it would have been nice if you would have admitted you were wrong about the width of Utica Avenue instead of just disagreeing with everything I post.

AlexB June 4, 2010 - 11:59 am

The crucial thing for Utica Ave would be bus lanes south of Fulton St. It could run in mixed traffic to the Williamsburg Bridge. Speaking of which, does it not seem logical to anyone else to continue the Nostrand and/or future Utica Ave SBS lines over the Williamsburg Bridge and run them up 1st/2nd Ave and across 34th St? After all, they are building dedicated lanes there that will be in effect by October. I think being able to cut that corner and not have to take the 2/3/4/5 or A/C all the way through downtown Manhattan would be useful.

I don’t live in Brooklyn anymore (moved to Queens), so this is all my opinion of what would be good for the borough rather than my personal transit needs. A limited B82 sounds like a good idea.

Benjamin Kabak June 4, 2010 - 12:04 pm

That’s an overall criticism many have with the DOT/MTA Select Bus Service program. The routes unnecessarily stop at borough boundaries. Instead of connecting boroughs, the SBS routes, by and large, connect commutes to subway stops that connect to other boroughs. The B44 SBS should go over the Williamsburg Bridge and up 1st Ave. It’s short-sighted not to do so.

AlexB June 4, 2010 - 12:04 pm

Looking at the map in the presentation from the DOT, the SBS will go east after it gets to the end of Nostrand in Sheepshead Bay, like the current B44. In other words, it would not provide a transfer to the B/Q as mentioned in this post.

BrooklynBus June 4, 2010 - 8:04 pm

Your point about the B44 being the wrong route is correct. The problem is that the average trip length on the B44 is only 2.6 miles. Although an SBS bus will save 19 minutes for the 9 mile route, someone getting on at Emmons Avenue going to Flatbush Avenue will only save 6 minutes. Since the average passenger gets on closer to Avenue U, not Emmons, the actual average savings is only 4 minutes. If just the priority signals were instituted without the rest of the SBS, a minute or two could be saved. So we are talking about all that construction for a net savings of only 2 or 3 minutes. So the question to ask is all that expense and loss of parking spaces an non-bus vehicular lane loss worth that type of time savings for the passenger?

The MTA looks at the 19 minute savings because that means lower operating costs. Also SBS stops are further spaced than limited stops so that means an additional service cut. Originally in 2004, SBS was promised as an additional layer of service not as a replacement for limited.

Also, without altering other routes, an excess of service will be provided along Rogers Avenue while service on New York Avenue will be reduced as much as 50 percent if articulated buses are used on the local B44.

A far better choice for SBS would have been a modified B82 route from Cesars Bay Bazzar to the Gateway Mall using Avenue P instead of Kings Highway where it is only two lanes. (I suggested this in 2004.) The reason being that the average trip length for an east-west route would be higher than 2.6 miles, perhaps as high as 5 miles. That would make the time savings worthwile for the passenger.

BrooklynBus June 4, 2010 - 8:19 pm

I disagree with your headline, “A vote against Select Bus Service for all the wrong reasons” The vote against SBS was for the right reasons. They voted against it because, rightly so, they do not trust the MTA because the agency has not been forthright in its response to information. First, after repeated requests, they still have not provided CB 15 with the number of parking spaces lost other than saying it would be minimal. They would not state if articulated buses would be used on the local route, or if two or three-door artics would be used on the B44. Two-door artics slow down service greatly when they are overcrowded, so there might not be any advantage at all if they were used.

Also, does it make sense that SBS stops and local stops will not be at the same bus stops? That means you have to commit yourself to one service or the other when either service might do. Running down the block to catch the first bus soming increases the likelihood of passenger accidents.

Another complaint was that people will miss a bus by having to pay off-board, since drivers are instructed not to wait for anyone at the kiosks.

There are just too many flaws with this plan for it to have been approved.

And yes, it would make a lot more sense if it were extended over the Williamsburg Bridge and along First and Second Avenue but the MTA is not interested in what helps the passenger. All they want to implement are service cuts and SBS is just another service cut.

Sharon June 4, 2010 - 9:10 pm

90% of households along Nostrand south of kings highway drive cars. The neighborhood is laid out semi suburban. Most residents don’t use the b44. 40% of residents probably NEVER rode the b44. Stop applying a manhattan centric view to this part of Brooklyn . This is a middle class area which always get screwed in this city.

Benjamin Kabak June 4, 2010 - 9:11 pm

90% of households along Nostrand south of kings highway drive cars

Stop making up numbers. That’s just not true. No area of the city has car ownership rates that high.

Sharon June 5, 2010 - 11:13 am

90% of households along Nostrand south of kings highway drive cars

Stop making up numbers. That’s just not true. No area of the city has car ownership rates that high.

by Benjamin Kabak on Jun 4, 2010 at 9:11 pm

have you ever been to the area. Drop me an email and will give you a tour of driveway after driveway with Cars in them. I should know. I have only lived there for over 30 years

have you ever been to the area south of kings highway. Drop me an email and I will take you on a tour and speak to the people. I have lived there for over 30 years. If all bus service would go away and the mta would build park and ride lots by the subway, many people would be happy

Benjamin Kabak June 5, 2010 - 11:46 am

Sharon, I’m sure you have a good feel for your neighborhood, but your numbers are grossly distorted. In the US as a whole, the car ownership rate is 89 percent. In other words, 89 percent of all U.S. households own cars. In New York City, that rate drops to approximately 45 percent. Even in the most car-dependent areas of the city — of which Community Board 15 is not one — ownership rates don’t approach 90. The vocal minority may prefer auto improvements, but the vast majority of people — even those who live south of Kings Highway — would benefit from transit improvements. In fact, when last surveyed, 50 percent of CB15 residents commute daily via public transit, and that survey was conducted two years ago before gas shot up and the economy went down. That number would be even higher today. That’s just the way it is.

BrooklynBus June 5, 2010 - 5:14 pm

You are correct. Most people would benefit from transit-related improvements. But that’s not the issue here. The issue is whether SBS on Nostrand Avenue is really an improvement at all and if it is really worth the effort and cost of construction. That’s what I asked the MTA at their presentation to the board. Their response was that they don’t care about the construction costs because the Feds are paying for it. Well I do care because that is my tax money and this is just a big waste of money given the average proposed time savings for the customer.

For you to insinuate from CB 15’s negative vote that they are anti- transit is unjustified. They asked the right questions but didn’t receive appropriate answers. That was the reason for their negative vote.

You really need to be a little more objective in your reporting and less opinionated. Your headline isn’t even objective: “A vote against Select Bus Service for all the wrong reasons.” While I agree with your generalizations that community boards often do not represent their constituents and that local groups with their nymbyism often stand in the way of the greater good, you certainly have not proved that in this case. They are not standing in the way of progress. They are standing in the way of another CIty boondoggle, and we are not talking about the merits of SBS in general, but one specific proposal as presented.

Benjamin Kabak June 7, 2010 - 10:29 am

Just to clear up one point: This a blog, not a supposedly neutral newspaper. It’s going to be opinionated. I’m not making any pretenses toward purely objective reporting (which IMO is an unattainable goal as personal bias seeps into reporting). This site has a clear agenda as you should know since you’ve been reading it for long enough.

BrooklynBus June 7, 2010 - 11:04 am

Yes, I agree that purely objective reporting is difficult but it should be attempted, blog or newspaper. You certainly have the right to your opinion and if you couldn’t do that, you obviously wouldn’t be doing a blog. But you can at least present all the relevant facts, slanted or otherwise, and then let the reader draw their own conclusions. The problem I have is when the opinion appears right in the title of the article and then crucial facts are omitted. Then a blog becomes nothing more than propaganda.

Apparently your clear agenda is to apologize and make excuses for the MTA since your criticism of them is minimal. I’m waiting for an article linked to Tuesday’s NY Post report which showed how the MTA is using the riders as pawns in its war with the union, by not filling vacant runs when bus drivers call in sick. That is unconscionable since someone may have to wait an hour for a route operating every 30 minutes. This practice truly shows their contempt for the riding public. Yet you always want to paint the union as the villain. That statement is not meant to justify archaic work rules preventing the MTA from making their services more efficient.

Much more could be accomplished if the MTA didn’t view the unions and the public as enemies rather than as allies to work with. The only exception to that statement was Howard Roberts, past NYCT President, who was willing to work with the unions and be allies with them. In fact, that was one of the reasons he was fired the first time he worked at the MTA.

Apparently, your readers shouldn’t expect to be fully informed of transit issues by just reading this blog. They also need to check out other forums. I also now realize why you really pulled that article, you know the one I’m referring to, because it didn’t agree with your agenda.

JPN June 7, 2010 - 12:13 pm

You don’t say. Sarcastic remark aside, I don’t have any problem with you having an agenda. However, I am growing up in a generation where I have to expect there bias in reporting. I’m tired of it, but until there’s a backlash against the divisiveness, I’ll have to be resigned to it. If having a slant makes you popular, as a business decision and as it reinforces your viewpoint, you have to go for it. I still respect you for your intelligent commentary on public transportation in New York City, even though I don’t agree with all of it.

Benjamin Kabak June 7, 2010 - 12:20 pm

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. That’s why we have these debates. If anything, it increases the dialogue, and I know I’ve changed my views on various topics based on discussions in these comment threads.

And to be clear, the agenda I have is to stimulate discussion on transit and transit-related development in New York City with an eye toward finding ways that the subways and buses can be better run and better managed while expanding the system and encouraging people to eschew driving for public transit. It’s a lofty goal, and I know I don’t achieve it that regularly, but that, right now, is the driving motivation here. It’s definitely not to excuse poor performance and management on the part of the MTA.

As to the issue of bias in reporting, I’ve done some non-transit-related academic work on the topic, and the idea that reporting should be bias-free is a relatively new idea from the 20th Century. The press was more vibrant and more active as a place for debate when bias was thrown out the window. The yellow journalism scandals of the early 1900s pushed slanted coverage into disfavor, and newspapers have spent a lot of striving from something that is nearly impossible to attain. But that’s neither here nor there.

BrooklynBus June 7, 2010 - 7:37 pm

I respect what you are saying. I just hope I am having some impact by participating. There’s nothing more frustrating than going to a blog (not this one) where everyone has the same point of view and all they do is pat each other on the back. When you try to bring in an alternative viewpoint, they just try to shout you down because they are all so closed-minded they won’t listen to any counter-arguments. I’m glad your goal is at least to stimulate discussion.

Rhywun June 6, 2010 - 4:52 am

The current plan I believe is for one “test” route in each borough. That means there’s plenty of time to work out the kinks (and reduce chances of opposition to future plans) before they start doing more sensible routes like Utica Av. So I’m not so worried about route choices at this point.

Alon Levy June 6, 2010 - 7:13 am

Except 34th Street!

BrooklynBus June 6, 2010 - 12:03 pm

Actually 34th Street is the one that may work, but for that to happen, they would have to come up with an adequate plan of where to funnel the exixting traffic without causing total gridlock on surrounding streets.

I wish I had more faith in DOT but I don’t after seeing how 7th Avenue is virtually at a standstill at times, north of 42nd Street. I doubt it if it was that bad before, but if it was I wish there were some numbers that shows how neighboring streets fared as a result of the Broadway changes. DOT was very quick to call it a success, which is what they would have done no matter whatthe numbers showed. It took the MTA to point out how the buses were slowed down.

Alon Levy June 6, 2010 - 8:58 pm

34th Street has about one third the bus ridership of Nostrand or Utica.

BrooklynBus June 7, 2010 - 11:09 am

Possibly true, but there also is the possiblity of significantly increasing travel times due to slow midtown traffic.

BrooklynBus June 6, 2010 - 12:10 pm

Plenty of time if you have a lifetime. Don’t forget BRT was first proposed in 2004. It is now already 2010 and we still have only one route. Under the original plan all the five test routes should have been implemented by now. A second round won’t begin until 2014 at the earliest. At that pace, it will have taken 14 years for ten routes, and that represents only a miniscule amount of the local bus service we have so most bus riders won’t see any benefit.

I think the money could be spent more wisely that would benefit more people.

Rhywun June 6, 2010 - 11:58 pm

Glacial progress is an annoying fact of life here in any public project. That doesn’t mean this crucial project shouldn’t go ahead. How would you spend the money “more wisely”? It’s certainly not enough to build any amount of subway. And pouring more money into today’s already overburdened, slow bus service does nothing to address the problems in underserved areas.

BrooklynBus June 7, 2010 - 11:36 am

I never said that I didn’t believe that SBS wasn’t a crucial project. I’m very much in favor of the concept. It’s the actual results that I am concerned with. One of the problems in this society is that we look toward sexy solutions to solve problems when all that may be necessary are simple solutions and some common sense. I’ll give you an example.

For four years I used the B46 to commute to the Eastern Parkway subway. For the last three blocks,the roadway narrows by one lane necessitating a merge and traffic delays. In order to prevent this, there is a No Standing regulation for those three blocks between 7 and 10 AM so there would not be any merge. Two or three days a week there would be at least one car illegally parked necessitating a merge anyway. On those days an additional five minutes would be added to my trip. That single regulation if enforced, had the same benefit for the average rider as the entire B44 SBS.

So what I’m saying is that if the police paid more attention to enforcing parking regulations and preventing double parking along bus routes, you could save as much time as BRT, and since revenue would be generated, you may even make money in the process. The problem in NYC is that traffic regulations aren’t enforced to speed buses and other traffic, but solely to raise revenue. That’s why you will often see someone getting a ticket for double parking when his action isn’t even blocking any traffic, while vehicles who do block traffic are not ticketed.

Another big problem with bus service in NYC is that in some areas, bus routes are totally archaic and do not serve the people, as is evidenced by areas with large numbers of illegal vans. In some cases, a miniscule investment perhaps as little as $50,000 per year could make a significant improvement. However, the MTA will only make changes involving reducing service. One can argue that the current budget situation doesn’t allow for any increases to operating costs. But the same was true during years the MTA had a surplus. All changes had to be operating cost neutral or a service cut. They always made a zero projection for increased ridership which is why even when improvements were made, they were usually coupled with a cut that hurt riders and made the system more inconvenient to use by destroying route connectivity.

When I would ask them how do they know that additional ridership will not more than make up for the increased operating cost? This was their response — If we get more riders from the change, that would be great, but we can’t assume that even one new rider will ride the system because of it. So much for “if we build it they will come.”

The system can never improve if all that is made are service cuts.

limitednyc June 8, 2010 - 8:56 pm

I’m am so happy that cb15 said no btw i’m a resident of cb15.
first of all i’ve been against the b44sbs since the proposal came out for many reasons, let me list them:
1. not operating on ny ave
2 not serving fulton street
3.not servering king county
4 not stopping to connect directly with the b6.
we all no. no matter what the 44 will eventally recieve artic. they way the buss stop between ave u and the bay have been made artic ready.

BrooklynBus June 8, 2010 - 9:54 pm

Two door artics on the local B44 is the worst that could happen for this route because 4 artics are used to replace five 40 foot buses. That means that when the buses get really crowded they will spend more time at the stops slowing the service and you will have to wait longer for them. Also, since the SBS will not be on New York Avenue, bus will run there about half as often. And there will be a surplus of buses on Rogers Avenue. To run the SBS on Rogers, the B23 should have been extended from Flatbush Avenue on Clarendon Road and run north on New York Avenue to Kings County Hospital. But that can’t happen since they are discontinuing the B23.

limitednyc June 9, 2010 - 4:04 pm

where do u segest use of normal artics.

BrooklynBus June 9, 2010 - 6:16 pm

Perhaps along the avenues in Manhattan.

BCD October 22, 2010 - 9:05 pm

I was looking at the map of the B44 Select. http://www.mta.info/mta/planning/sbs/nostrand.html

One glaring problem with the line is the traffic on Lee Avenue. Don’t know about Bedford from Flushing up to Taylor, but it is a big mistake not putting a bus lane on Lee between Roebling and Flushing. I’ve seen so much traffic over there and it seems to routinely cause the B44 to run late. Today I was on a bus that got to Knapp Street 14 minutes late. This would not have happened if it weren’t for the traffic on Lee.

I think we could run without bus lanes on Nostrand from Flushing all the way down to Farragut, if anything just modify the way the traffic signals operate to help out the Limited/SBS (signal priority). There should be a bus lane from Farragut down to Avenue H and then after that they need to be more stringent about double parking, especially in front of those car dealerships by Avenue M and Kings Highway. Signal priority at Kings Highway and possibly by Gerritsen might be in order. But Nostrand moves from Flushing all the way down to Farragut and from Kings Highway down to Shore Parkway (save by Gerritsen perhaps).

Keith Charles Edwards October 11, 2011 - 9:07 am

I live in that neighborhood. The Commnunity Board is useless to me. It does not represent my interests. It is favors its own and those that they otherwise favor. Flatbush is an unsophisticated community, filled with unsophisticated bores. I pray for gentrificaton. I just do not want to see the good people pushed out.

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[…] it has received the usual array of windshield criticism. Community Board 15 voted it down due to its potential impact on parking while drivers complained that pedestrian-oriented improvements would take away space for their […]

Streetsblog New York City » Across Brooklyn, More Commuters Rely on Transit to Get to Work January 30, 2012 - 3:55 pm

[…] bus lanes, off-board fare payment, and bus bulbs, at least one community board along the route has voted against the proposal. “Why would you even take the bus?” one Community Board 15 member […]

Across Brooklyn, More Commuters Rely on Transit to Get to Work | Body Local NYC February 1, 2012 - 9:07 am

[…] bus lanes, off-board fare payment, and bus bulbs, at least one community board along the route has voted against the proposal. “Why would you even take the bus?” one Community Board 15 member […]


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