Home Brooklyn Balancing parking, driving and bus lanes along the B44

Balancing parking, driving and bus lanes along the B44

by Benjamin Kabak

Plans for the B44 SBS include bus bulbs.

Over the past few years, the battle for street space has become a headline-grabber in New York City. On the one hand are folks who support vibrant street life. These folks argue for dedicated bus lanes, bike lanes and policies that promote pedestrian safety and mass transit over parking. On the other are those who believe that taking away a lane for driving or parked cars is an affront to liberty and freedom and that bike lanes are a part of the tenth circle of hell. Clearly, you know which side I’m on.

While the bike lane battles have been brewing in Park Slope and Williamsburg, the MTA and New York City DOT have been S-L-O-W-L-Y laying out plans for Brooklyn’s first Select Bus Service route. The new service will follow the path of the B44 along Nostrand and Rogers Avenues from Williamsburg to Sheepshead Bay, and throughout the planning process, 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 cars.

The MTA and DOT have been listening though, and now they’re making a case for their plan. Last week, they unveiled the latest iteration of the B44 SBS service, and while it still takes away some space for parking and auto lanes, businesses are rallying behind it because DOT has preserved capacity. In other words, by reallocating space from parked cars to vehicles in motion, the street will be more active. The latest presentation is available here as a PDF, and Streetsblog’s Noah Kazis offers up a thorough summary of the plans. He writes:

Nostrand Avenue SBS will, as in the Bronx and Manhattan, create dedicated bus lanes enforced by automated cameras and use high-capacity buses and off-board fare payment. With fewer stops, the bus will also spend more time in motion and less time starting and stopping. The Nostrand project will add another new feature: bus bulbs. By extending the sidewalk out to the street, bus bulbs mean that drivers don’t have to pull to the curb and back into the lane, resulting in a smoother and speedier ride. A raised curb means more level boarding onto the bus, advantageous for the elderly and the mobility-impaired. The extra space also means that the bus stop won’t crowd the sidewalk…

In order to preserve the same number of motor vehicle lanes during rush hour, where a bus lane is being installed DOT proposes turning the left parking lane into a through lane during the morning and evening peaks. This shouldn’t have too much of an impact on local merchants. At Nostrand and Empire Boulevard, only 14 percent of shoppers had driven to the area (and not all had parked on Nostrand). Further south, at Glenwood Road, only 13 percent of shoppers had arrived in a car.

Moreover, there’s a lot of room to add parking in other ways. On much of Nostrand and its cross streets, parking is currently free. The installation of meters will encourage drivers to move on once done shopping, freeing up space for others. The use of Muni-Meters will also allow more vehicles to park in the same area. Finally, loading zones and delivery windows will ensure that trucks have space at the curb rather than being forced to resort to double-parking.

This is transportation planning as it should be. In total, the amount of space constantly available for parked cars will dwindle, but what good are parked cars? They may provide transportation, but once idle, they sit lifeless in vibrant urban shopping areas. Muni meters will encourage turnover of parking spaces while buses, a major mode of transportation, will move more freely up and down the avenues. Cars won’t lose lanes, and businesses will gain loading zones. It’s a close to a win-win-win as one will find on the city streets these days.

Ultimately, though, this Select Bus Service suffers from the same problems that most of the MTA’s bus offerings do: While the route ends at the edge of the borough, most riders want to continue beyond that arbitrary border. The B44 SBS service would be far more useful if it crossed the Williamsburg Bridge and provided a direct connection with the M15 SBS as well as the F train at Delancey St. That’s a dream for another day though. Next fall, Brooklyn will finally get its first faster bus route.

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Andrew October 12, 2011 - 12:36 am

It’s not an arbitrary border at all – it’s a major bridge that is often mired in traffic jams. Those traffic jams would seriously hurt reliability on the entire line, even for people waiting for the bus nowhere near the bridge. And that’s on top of the substantial increase in running time (and, therefore, in operating cost).

Who would stay on a bus across the bridge to transfer to the F when the M is already available at Marcy? And do you really think there’s much of a market for B44-to-M15 transfers?

Borough lines have nothing to do with it. The Bx12 has two stops (very busy ones, I might add) in Manhattan.

Where on earth do you come up with notion that “most riders” want the bus to continue to Manhattan?

Bolwerk October 12, 2011 - 12:27 pm

I can’t really answer most of those questions, but two thoughts:

1) I don’t see a thing wrong with going over the Williamsburg Bridge if the bus can get dedicated lanes across the bridge. That’s pretty unlikely right now, of course, and I don’t see much point if it doesn’t hit the major subway lines across town. That would mean dedicated lanes in Manhattan. 😐

2) M service is pretty infrequent, so there some logic to wanting to connect to the F too. More frequent M service doesn’t seem very practical in the near-term.

The Silencer October 20, 2011 - 3:56 pm

If the bus just runs via Delancey and makes a left on Allen to terminate at Pike Street & Cherry Street (near the FDR Drive), it doesn’t need bus lanes in Manhattan. It could just make two stops: Allen & Grand to transfer to the M15 SBS and the (B) and (D) trains at Grand & Chrystie, which is just a two-minute walk from Allen & Grand; and then the last stop Pike & Cherry where there are many housing projects, co-ops, and condos making for a very densely populated area, which should provide a solid ridership base for this route extension.

Chicken Underwear October 12, 2011 - 5:40 am

“At Nostrand and Empire Boulevard, only 14 percent of shoppers had driven to the area….” But a greater percent of the merchants drive there. So they think more of their shoppers driver too.

Andrew October 12, 2011 - 6:49 am

Bingo. (Or even if not, the merchants who do drive make enough noise that we all assume that all of the merchants are complaining.)

And they illegally feed the meter all day, and then turn around and complain that (a) meter rates are too high and are chasing away customers (when they really mean that they themselves would rather pay less to park) and (b) there isn’t enough parking for their customers (because they’re hogging one of the spaces intended for their customers).

Well, maybe a few of them will try the bus.

Stephen Smith October 12, 2011 - 6:38 am

This’ll be the most interesting SBS route, IMO, because it’ll be competing with the Jamaican/Haitian dollar vans.

Alon Levy October 12, 2011 - 7:45 pm

Do you know if the dollar vans will be allowed to use the bus lanes?

BrooklynBus October 12, 2011 - 8:13 pm

Why should they be?

noah October 12, 2011 - 6:55 am

so the big picture is, a new dedicated bus lane will be replacing a parking lane. and then to make the argument for more parking you recommend meters and loading zones?? what about all the people who live there and own cars. this isn’t manhattan, there is still a much larger contingent of people who own cars out there. and if they can’t find parking, they might actually have to start driving and will add to the traffic congestion. Loading zones??? really? since when have delivery trucks followed rules?

Jeff October 12, 2011 - 9:48 am

Ditto – some of the biggest obstacle to smooth traffic are double-parked cars, and cars driving slowly while looking for parking space, both of these issues will creep up in this case.

Matthias October 13, 2011 - 1:07 pm

Tickets need to be issued for double-parking and pricing should be tied to demand so that there is always parking available. Parking is WAAAAAAAAY too cheap in this city.

Benjamin Kabak October 12, 2011 - 9:48 am

All of the people who live there and own cars shouldn’t be parking on the busy commercial strips anyway if you want to promote a vibrant local economy. There’s plenty of cut-rate curbside parking available on the side streets.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure what “this isn’t Manhattan” has to do with it. Instead, it’s the second most densely populated area in the country instead of the first? It’s not like we’re talking about Iowa here.

Bolwerk October 12, 2011 - 12:50 pm

What about them? They chose to purchase cars and to store them on public property despite the risk that the space could be re-appropriated. The most the city owes them is enough of a notice period to find other accommodations or sell their vehicles.

Of the parties that can make use of that space – buses, pedestrians, driving shoppers willing to pay for it, delivery vehicles, all the people who live there and don’t own cars, etc. – “all the people who live there and own cars” is about the smallest, most expensive to serve, and least vital demographic.

Al D October 12, 2011 - 9:44 am

SBS south of Ave U makes little sense. Ridership is quite low, and if the carbon emitters there want to continue to triple park south of Ave X, then let’ em. (Yes, the lanes there are wide enough to support triple parking!)

The problem with a bus lane not physically separated is that you rely on enforcement. Drivers, especially in urban areas will use any road space available to them.

So, for example, if the loading space directly in front of a store where a truck wishes to unload is not available, it will assuredly try and double park in the only lane of travel. This will force drivers to encroach on the remaining lane of travel, the bus lane. Line up 3, 5, 8 trucks in a row, at an SBS bus stop, at or near a busy interesection (Fulton, Eastern Pkwy, The Junction) and you’ll have gridlock.

Look anywhere there is traffic, and you’ll see this basic premise in action.

Al D October 12, 2011 - 9:45 am

What happens to the B49? Is it discontinued or its route shortened? I read elsewhere that the B44 local will continue on NY Ave and the SBS will operate on Rogers? If true, what’s the sense of this set up?

Jerrold October 12, 2011 - 1:36 pm

When I first read this article, I was also wondering “What is this business about Rogers Ave.?”
Even though I moved out of Brooklyn many years ago, I can still remember when Nostrand Ave. was a two-way street, with the B44 running on it. Then (circa 1964), it was made one-way southbound, and the B44 started running north on New York Ave. and south on Nostrand Ave.

ajedrez October 12, 2011 - 7:13 pm

Supposedly, the B49 will remain the same. I think the issue has something to do with the southern part of NY Avenue being two-way and harder for the +SBS+ buses to use.

BrooklynBus October 12, 2011 - 8:24 pm

There are many opportunities for the B49. Also, New York Avenue bus service needs to be replaced either with a bus route on NY Av or Brooklyn / Albany Avenue. The proposal calls for a 50% cut on NY Avenue northbound service which will passengers destined for Kings County Hospital. They will have to shift from the Limited to the Local because it is doubtful they will want to walk from Rogers Avenue to Brooklyn Avenue to reach Kings County/Downstate and they will not want to transfer to the B12. Also if they already make a transfer, transferring to the B12 will cost them an additional fare.

That is only one of the problems with this route, excess service on Rogers Avenue. Another major flaw is doubling of service south of Avenue U where it is not warranted and buses run with very few passengers since Sheepshead Bay residents use the B36 to the Brighton Line not the B44. By providing 3 or 4 B44s to every B4, when it runs, the MTA is hoping to divert those passengers to the B44 so they can eliminate the B4 entirely east of Coney Island Hospital. Saving four minutes is not enough of an encouragement to get people to shift their travel patterns.

... October 20, 2011 - 3:30 pm


AlexB October 12, 2011 - 11:06 am

For most areas along this route, particularly those north of Flatbush/Nostrand, the vast majority of people who live in this area don’t own cars, at rates that rival Manhattan for a lack of car ownership and transit dependence. The necessity of this transit improvement, and the overblown importance put on car access for successful retail, are obvious for anyone who’s lived in this area. Some other thoughts/questions:
– Why do we have to wait til Fall of 2012? This was to be in “phase 1” and was proposed years ago. If this is supposedly one of the first, what’s the timeline for a citywide network? 2030?
– Although Ben suggested a trip over the Williamsburg Bridge, I think a more useful connection would be an extension to Court Square and Queens Plaza in Long Island City with a connection to the L at Bedford. The B62 in this area is well used but unreliable and slow. North of the J, it can be very difficult to go “crosstown” in North Brooklyn and Queens and another reliable option besides the G would be very useful. Dedicated lanes on Bedford/Driggs, Manhattan Ave (or McGuinness), and Jackson Ave would really speed things up. This is partly selfish as I live in Astoria and would love a more direct route from Queens to the Crown Hts/BedStuy area of Brooklyn without 18 transfers or a circuitous trip through Manhattan.
– At the G train Bedford/Nostrand stop, the Nostrand SBS stop is at DeKalb, not Lafayette. Is the purpose of this to frustrate and annoy everyone who needs to transfer to/from the G? This is a very busy stop (for the G) and there is an exit right there at Nostrand.

Max S. (WilletsPoint-SheaStadium) October 12, 2011 - 2:25 pm

Agreed – it would be fantastic to have a direct link between Long Island City, Greenpoint, North and South Williamsburg, Bed Stuy, Crown heights and down to Sheepshead Bay. Both Bed Stuy and Crown Heights are emerging neighborhoods (I HATE it when people say that about Park Slope, Willy B, DUMBO etc… those neighborhoods came and went) that could always use better transit options.

Extend the SBS 44 North! Speaking of which, we need to get these ‘SBS’ buses better designations (M14 SBS sounds silly).

The Silencer October 20, 2011 - 4:10 pm

About that (G) line transfer on Nostrand…

The SBS stop is still labeled as DeKalb Avenue, but the thing is, the stop will actually extend from Kosciusko Street up to DeKalb, with the SBS stop being at the front (off Kosciusko) and the local stop being behind the SBS stop (closer to DeKalb). Currently the local and limited stop for Nostrand/DeKalb Avenues is on the north side of DeKalb Avenue and does not cover the entire block like many of the SBS/local stops will, so it takes 2 minutes to walk to the (G) train station entrance from the closest limited stop. After they implement the SBS it will only take 1 minute or less to walk to the station entrance from the SBS stop. Most of the combined SBS/local stops on the Bx12 and M15 cover entire blocks as well.

Matt October 12, 2011 - 12:44 pm

SBS is a good idea in principle, but the implementation so far has major flaws.

1) Paper-receipt based ticketing. Who’s brilliant idea was that? Problems encountered when machines run out of paper have been well-publicized. But even aside from that, in a city overflowing with discarded MetroCards, do we really need to generate a new kind of waste? It’s the 21st century now, we should be moving towards paper-less ticketing, especially for new transit initiatives.

2) Needs better enforcement of lanes. I walk past 1st and 2nd avenues every day. I always see things in the “bus only” lane. Bicyclists, delivery trucks, ConEd trucks, etc. Every one of those forces the bus to merge back out into the bumper-to-bumper regular traffic. Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of the SBS?

Bolwerk October 12, 2011 - 1:22 pm

(1) it’s probably a good idea. The downside is the machines have to be maintained, and the MTA probably is lazy about it. And an unlimited should be sufficient in lieu of paper receipts.

(2) probably, but there is some legitimate use of the lane. Maybe there are utilities underneath the lane. Drivers are allowed to make right turns in the lane.

A simple way to clean up the metrocard problem would be a redeemable 25¢ deposit on metocards. You don’t see cans and bottles all over the place like you do paper/plastic/metrocards, and the deposit on those are 5¢, right?

Alon Levy October 12, 2011 - 7:51 pm

A medium-sized bookstore has far more paper than all paper receipts, combined. Paper tickets are actually a remarkably efficient way of doing things, when done right, which is not the case in New York but is in a large swath of Europe.

ant6n October 13, 2011 - 12:25 pm

Well, I think there’s a difference between having a paper ticket valid for a whole month, compared to getting a paper ticket every time you board your bus – i.e a ratio of like 50:1

The Silencer October 20, 2011 - 3:39 pm

Well I’ll tell you the 1st/2nd Avenue bus lane is actually in effect only from 7:00 to 10:00 and 14:00 to 19:00 Monday-Friday. So anybody can use it in the middle of the day.

Turn the image in the google maps streetview so that you’re looking south on 2nd Avenue, and you’ll see the sign which indicates the hours:


Jerrold October 12, 2011 - 1:50 pm

This article ALSO reminds me of how one of the biggest mistakes in transit planning in New York City history was made:
The IRT Nostrand Ave. line was allowed to end at the Flatbush Ave. station.

It is possible to argue that the area south of that point was not very much built up at that time.
But when the IRT Flushing Line was built, some parts of its route ran through what was then mostly farmland.

Bolwerk October 12, 2011 - 2:08 pm

For whatever reason, people these days seem to object to the idea of transit-stimulated development…even if they like transit-oriented development. 😐

Alon Levy October 12, 2011 - 8:05 pm

Could be it was too close to the Brighton Line to be of much importance? The Flushing Line was the first line in Queens that connected directly to Manhattan and went farther east than Astoria; the Nostrand Avenue Line might’ve been the tenth or twelfth line in Brooklyn.

BrooklynBus October 12, 2011 - 8:12 pm

But it wasn’t feasible to expect the Brighton Line to serve the entire eastern part of Brooklyn since the next north south linw is the Canarsie Line. There definitely should have been either a Nostrand, Flatbush, or Utica Avenue Line and all three were considered.

Alon Levy October 13, 2011 - 1:45 am

Sure, but at the time, that wasn’t the fastest-growing part of the city with the most capacity need (try Queens), and Brooklyn was already replete with lines.

Many lines were considered for the Dual Contracts but didn’t make it. Many more were considered in the subsequent years, even before the IND. A few would on hindsight have just competed with the rest of the system, but others would have been very useful today, for example the Staten Island connection.

BrooklynBus October 13, 2011 - 8:51 am

I was talking primarily after World War 2 when the area was pretty much fully developed except for Canarsie and Mill Basin. And why couldn’t a line be built before in anticipation of development. Roosevelt Avenue was nothing but farmland when the Flushing Line was built.

In fact the area was so developed that one of the reasons the Utica Avenue Line was cancelled in the 1960s was because it was felt additional riders would overburden the Eastern Parkway portion making it not possible for everyone to board the first train during rush hours. So now many rely on express buses. Is that beter?

BrooklynBus October 12, 2011 - 9:04 pm

Your article misstates the facts. CB 15 did not vote down the proposal because it eliminated parking spaces. They voted it down because the MTA and DOT refused to provide information when requested as to how many spaces will be lost. I was at that meeting so I should know. Even today, DOT is providing conflicting information. At the last Open House one DOT rep said 100 spaces would be lost north of the Junction while another stated 150.

The communities deserve honest and complete information which they are not getting. Nowhere does DOT mention or show that through traffic south of Avenue X during the peak hour will have to share the same lane with cars making left turns. The MTA is using a computer model to make their predictions and has revealed zero information about it. It is not enough for DOT and the MTA to say that they know what is best and we should just trust them. They need to explain their methodology and how they reached their conclusions that more people will be helped than will be hurt.

You are only telling one side of the story. For the other side go to:



... October 20, 2011 - 3:31 pm


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