Home Buses On Day 1 of Doomsday, buses remain second class

On Day 1 of Doomsday, buses remain second class

by Benjamin Kabak

Around the corner from me, former bus stops were clearly marked as such. At other points, though, the shelters sat empty with no signs and no buses passing by. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

For some reason or another, city buses throughout America carry a bad reputation. In far-flung cities across the nation, buses are what the lower classes take as transportation because they cannot afford the luxury of a car. Forget the cost savings and the environment benefits of a full bus; these vehicles are looked down upon by citizens who don’t use buses and the politicians who are supposed to be subsidizing their operations.

In New York, then, as service cuts sent shockwaves through the MTA’s transit system, it is no surprise that bus riders were the most confused. While Transit sent out waves of employees to help straphangers navigate a subway system with a newly-routed M line and no V or W trains to be had, bus riders were left to fend for themselves amidst a sea of gleaming CEMUSA bus shelters and some hastily and haphazardly hung pieces of paper proclaiming “This location is no longer a bus stop.”

As part of their efforts at assessing the MTA’s effectiveness in introducing the cuts to the public, the Straphangers Campaign sent waves of volunteers to the far reaches of the city. The evidence was anecdotally in nature, but it served as an indictment of the MTA as it attempted to guide passengers through the elimination of 570 bus stops and numerous routes.

The biggest problem was one of information or the lack thereof. Bus riders, said the Straphangers in a release, were confused by the service changes and didn’t understand the alternate routes. Along 9th St. in Brooklyn, for example, neither the B77 nor the B75 were to be found, but a new route — the B61 — took its place. Transit said it did not have “sufficient space” at bus stops to post comprehensive information about the replacement routes, and instead, the Authority tried to hang up unobtrusive, but also unobvious, signs about the new info. Go to the website for a rundown, Transit officials said.

Meanwhile, at other routes — an old B48 stop at Franklin Ave. and Sterling Place — the stop had been eliminated, but you wouldn’t know that from the signage. In fact, nothing alerted riders as to the location of the nearest stop, and with the old schedule and route map still posted, people could be forgiven if they thought a bus might show up. Contradictory indications — bus stops with the so-called lollipop poles still standing, no signs indicating the nearest stop, outdated route maps — filled the city.

This problem of an information deficit doesn’t belong only to the MTA. Because the buses are surface transit, they also fall under the auspices of New York City’s Department of Transportation. DOT is responsible for maintaining the bus stop signage and the shelters that dot the city. When two agencies are in charge of coordinating, no one is in charge of coordinating, and those second-class buses and their former stops are left twisting in the wind. It’s hardly surprising that numerous stops still appeared in service, and they probably will look as they do for weeks.

As I walked up Union St. today, I passed a bus shelter at 5th Ave. The bus guide-a-ride, such as the one above, was approximately five feet east of the shelter and not visible to those walking up the hill that gives Park Slope its name. Neither the MTA nor DOT had hung signs up in the physical shelter itself, and except for a police squad grabbing a bite at the Uncle Louie’s stand across the street, the road was empty. The now-defunct B71 could have been just a few blocks away for all anyone knew.

The physical reminders weren’t the only illustrations of the city’s disregard for buses. As of this writing, the maps posted on the MTA’s map page are out of date. Download the Brooklyn map, and you’ll find the pre-service cuts schematic. Considering the minimal amount of time it takes to upload a PDF, this delay in updating the website — to which the MTA has told users to go for up-to-date information — is inexcusable. Elsewhere on the website, PDF files of the new routes had already been posted, but users will intuitively navigate to the first page with old information. This confusion just compounds the problem.

Eventually, someone will come along to determine the future of these spaces. DOT and the MTA say they are working fast to update the signs. Eventually, the markings of the old bus routes will fade away. The road space will probably revert to below-market-rate parking spots when they should become areas for bike parking. The CEMUSA shelters might remain as on-street advertising and semi-useful street furniture. They’ll serve as stark reminders of bus stops that aren’t and of the way we regard buses and their riders. Even in a city of two million daily bus users, the system remains an afterthought at times, left to the aged and poor who need it most and now don’t have it.

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rhywun June 29, 2010 - 1:06 am

Not only are the online bus maps out of date, but I was there yesterday and I could have sword there were extra links to the new maps, which are now gone. Oops.

But yeah, perhaps confusion reigned, or it didn’t look all that bad on the ground. There were vast changes on my corner (one line replaced with two others) but there were still lots of people gamely waiting. I agree that it’s entirely possible that many people had no idea about the bus changes, but one day’s messed up commute will make anyone get up to speed….

John June 29, 2010 - 5:36 pm

The link is still there, but instead of being in the smart place to put it (where the maps are), they are at the “Changes to take effect June 27th” link.


Edward June 29, 2010 - 1:16 am

I actually posted signs on the bus shelter in front of my job on 42nd St to let riders know the M104 now terminates at Times Square, so they’d better get on the M42 if they want to go across town. The M104 sign and bus schedule are still up on most stops along 42nd St, and only the little yellow placard lets riders know there is no M104 any longer.

On Staten Island, I noticed that the S66 was more full than I’ve ever seen it due to its taking over for the S60 Grymes Hill shuttle, but alas the bus stops on Victory Blvd and on Grymes Hill had S66 signs with S60 schedules and maps still posted. Very confusing. I can imagine what other parts of the city had to deal with. For now my car looks like a better option more and more. I drove from SI to Midtown Monday afternoon and it only took 30 mins, though traffic was unusually light as it can be in summer. Still, with the cancellation of three express buses and two local routes on SI, and the elimination of the “W” train at Whitehall St, I’m sure I’m not the only one who will drive into Manhattan.

ferryboi June 29, 2010 - 4:39 pm

Update: MTA took down the homemade signs and put up confusing yellow signs with info written in sloppy, handwritten pen that is barely legible. They took down the very clear signs along 42nd St and used electrical tape to put up their own signs. Unfortunately, the electrical tape coverd the new M42 route map and new schedule! Honestly, I don’t get the way these people think.

John June 29, 2010 - 5:34 pm

Don’t forget that the S67 isn’t running, and usually, that was the fist bus that showed up on Victory Blvd. The S66 is getting all of the former S67 passengers in Westerleigh that would rather walk to Jewett Avenue than wait for the infrequent S57 to take them to the Victory Blvd buses, as well as customers from Victory Blvd itself.

ferryboi June 29, 2010 - 6:15 pm

Not necessarily a bad thing since the S66 was always half empty anyway. I would imagine residents of Grymes Hill would like the one-seat ride to the ferry terminal or Manor/Victory/Port Richmond shopping areas, at least on weekdays. I’ll admit to missing the S67, which I often rode when it was the R106 (showing my age, I know!).

John June 29, 2010 - 7:13 pm

I’m not saying that the S60 elimination was a bad thing either. I was actually the person that proposed that the S66 run up Grymes Hill. The S66 usually wasn’t that popular because it lost passengers on Victory Blvd to the more popular S61/S62 and lost passengers that were headed towards Forest Avenue and the North Shore to routes like the S48.
I suggested that the S66 run during weekends because the S54 is being discontinued and Grymes Hill would be left with no weekend service. I know that the S60 only got 90 riders on the weekends, but the fact that the S66 offers service to the St George Ferry and Port Richmond would probably double or triple the ridership and efficiency to $4-$6 per person on weekends from $13 per person. Just something to consider for the future, since there is a need for the network coverage that the S66 would provide.

Alon Levy June 29, 2010 - 3:57 am

Neither the lack of detailed explanations nor the general second-class status of first-world buses is an accident. Buses cost more to operate than trains at every level: more drivers, more maintenance, more stops. This is especially bad in the US, where buses stop excessively frequently. So it’s not surprising that the MTA has the resources to help people navigate at the train stations but not at the bus stations, nor that it has the resources to make trains nicer.

Andrew June 29, 2010 - 6:50 am

I’m not sure I understand this complaint.

Every discontinued bus stop that I’ve seen has had one of those big red signs for weeks if not months. Every stop with a service change had one of the yellow signs listing all of the changes. Large signs have also been posted on the buses themselves. Anybody who bothered to read them should have been fully informed of what was coming. Developing and posting customized signage for each stop would have been exceptionally labor-intensive and probably impractical.

And employees were around to assist. They obviously weren’t stationed full-time at all affected stops – contrary to popular believe, NYCT doesn’t have thousands of spare employees sitting around, ready to do this sort of work – but I did find an employee at one particularly busy stop yesterday, and on Sunday, somebody drove up to my stop (he was presumably circulating around the city) and asked if everybody was aware of the changes.

A single subway station is much busier than the busiest discontinued bus stop. With limited personnel available, someone assigned to a subway station has the potential to assist far more riders than someone assigned to a bus stop.

As for the bus stop signs, is it a lack of a coordination or is it merely a lack of manpower to take down or modify thousands of bus stops at the stroke of midnight on June 27? DOT doesn’t normally deal with so many changes all taking place at once – some signs had to be updated in advance and the others will be updated or removed in the coming weeks. (Nothing could be removed in advance, because a bus stop is also a parking regulation, and removing a bus stop sign in advance would have immediately led to cars legally parked at the curb in a still-active bus stop.)

BrooklynBus June 30, 2010 - 11:34 am

The problem with those pink and yellow signs is that although the pink ones indicate it is no longer a bus stop, it is generic and doesn’t provide specific information as to where the person should go to get a bus. The yellow signs also are generic and could only provide the amount of information that could fit on them.

Twice on Monday and Tuesday, I told two people waiting for the B4 at a stop it shared with the B49, that they would have to walk two blocks for them to now get the B4. None of the signs indicated that. On East 14th Street, the MTA to its credit, did post a paper sign telling people where the closest bus stop is, but it certainly will be gone long before DOT gets around to remove the permanent signs.

To even add to the confusion, DOT posted two new signs several weeks ago for the B4 where it wasn’t even supposed to stop. But to their credit, those new signs were removed by Tuesday, the second day of the changes.

Andrew July 2, 2010 - 7:42 pm

I agree, they’re not ideal, but they’re probably the best that could be expected given the manpower available. A customized sign for each stop would be very costly to produce and to post.

Chicken Underwear June 29, 2010 - 7:13 am

It it the third day of the new bus routes and the MTA home page still refers to the changes as happening in the future. “Subway and bus service changes that may affect your trips begin this coming Sunday, June 27.” Today is June 29. If you

If you click the link on the top of the home page you get the old map.


That is kinda sad

Chicken Underwear June 29, 2010 - 7:17 am

Even sadder is that (virtually) nobody is parking in the now obsolete bus stops. (I would not.) So I called 311 and asked if I could. They transfered me to the 78th precinct. The police officer that answered the phone told me “Sure,if there if the sign says it is no longer a bus stop, then you can park there.”

Yet I saw a car with a ticket for parking in the former bus stop on 8th ave near 5th Street, where the B69 used to go.

BrooklynBus June 30, 2010 - 11:20 am

Although it is not a bus stop, the No Standing regulation remains in effect until DOT changes it which will probably take three months for them to get to all of them.

Chicken Underwear June 29, 2010 - 7:33 am

Then there were the 3 ladies of a certain age sitting in the bus stop shelter on Sunday June 27, on Union St and 4th Ave. I asked them if they were waiting for the bus, they said yes. I told them that the bus was discontinued. This caused an argument between the 3 of them over the meaning of “Effective June 27th, 2010”

I am not making judgments about their ability to read signs or the MTA’s ability to inform. The sad part was the fact that they then had no way to walk up the hill to the Park Slope Food Coop.

Scott E June 29, 2010 - 8:08 am

What surprises me is that the MTA didn’t put up a “Special Edition” website for a few days, like they did during severe winter weather, screaming the fact that changes were in effect. Literature directs riders to mta.info, but even with the new redesigned site, there wasn’t an obvious notice stating what the changes were.

As far as the signs themselves go, I assume the sign in the photo at the top of this post still had the familiar round Bus Stop sign. But changing the paper in the existing signframe is useless. Often they are covered with stickers or graffiti, and the “regulars” never read them. If, when shuttle buses replace subways, they can temporarily hang yellow cardboard signs on the pole noting these stops – quite obvious to see – why not do that for service cuts?

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jon June 29, 2010 - 9:07 am

I’m sorry, but for the regulars not to know that their bus was being eliminated was not the MTA’s fault in any way. The service cuts were one of the biggest stories in the city this year. The MTA put up the notices on bus stops more than one month ago. I understand that many of them get covered by notices and graffiti, but I doubt both of the stops they use everyday were obscured. This is just griping from people who were too lazy, dumb or just plain uninterested to actually read for thirty seconds. The fact that any stop that was seeing a bus eliminated had a sign listing every eliminated route just makes it that much worst. All you had to do was, once in the last 4-8 weeks take a bus that was being eliminated or even just walk by a stop that was losing some service.

The MTA should do a better job with their website, but they can’t go to every house and let people know about what is happening to their bus. Then again if the MTA did do something like that, the first complaint out of the politicians and full time gripers would be that the MTA was wasting money when they could have put up signs at the stops.

Benjamin Kabak June 29, 2010 - 9:49 am

Jon: I certainly don’t disagree with you, and I said as much late last week. People just don’t listen, and that’s their own faults. That said, in these examples, the bus stops aren’t labeled clearly as no longer in service. The structures are up with only the barest of signage. That’s something the MTA and DOT should have addressed before the service cuts went into effect.

BrooklynBus June 30, 2010 - 11:25 am

I’m confused. Doesn’t every former stop where no bus route uses it anymore have one of those pink signs you showed to indicate it is no longer a bus stop although there is nothing on the shelter to indicate this?

Al D June 29, 2010 - 9:35 am

There were 3 to 5 people waiting for the B24 this past Sunday morning at Metro and Graham. Clearly they had a long wait until Monday morning.

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