Home Brooklyn Celebrating five years of planning with an actual SBS route

Celebrating five years of planning with an actual SBS route

by Benjamin Kabak

All of this took only five years of planning.

The MTA and New York City Department of Transportation are just thrilled with their latest initiative. For the first time, Brooklyn is getting a Select Bus Service route. The dedicated lane will provide faster service along the B44 corridor, and it will debut on November 17 after five years of planning. That’s right; it’s taken five years to paint some lanes, add some bus bulbs and eliminate some parking spaces. At this rate, city residents can expect to enjoy ones of new Select Bus Service routes before the decade is out.

In a release today, the MTA announced the start of this service along with the details. It was billed as a passing of the torch as agency contractors had to remove trolley tracks that had been buried for decades to pave them over with special SBS bus lanes. Before that, though, as the release proudly (?) proclaims, “New York City Transit and the New York City Department of Transportation have been working with bus customers, neighborhood residents, local merchants and elected officials for five years to bring SBS service to Brooklyn.”

We’ll come back to that five-year time frame in a few paragraphs. First, the operational details:

The B44 SBS will operate southbound from the Williamsburg Bridge on Lee Avenue and Nostrand Avenue all the way to Sheepshead Bay. Northbound SBS will operate on Nostrand Avenue and then via Flatbush, Rogers and Bedford Avenues to Williamsburg. The B44 local bus will continue to operate northbound on New York Avenue between Farragut Road and Fulton Street.

The B44 SBS will connect to nine different subway lines along its route: the J, M and Z at Marcy Avenue; the G at Bedford-Nostrand; the 3 at Nostrand Avenue; the A and C at Nostrand Avenue; and the 2 and 5 at Brooklyn College. The B44 SBS will introduce new three-door, articulated buses to Brooklyn. These high-capacity buses are all-low floor for easier and faster boarding. For customers who are mobility impaired, the buses feature quick-deploying ramps, rather than lifts.

The B44 SBS will feature bus lanes—in both directions—between Flushing Avenue and Flatbush Avenue, a total of nine miles. Generally, the bus lanes are one lane away from the curb, which allow deliveries and neighborhood parking to be retained at the curb. In this segment, every bus station will feature a bus bulb, which extends the sidewalk creating more space for pedestrians and bus customers…While bus bulbs are in use along SBS routes in Manhattan and the Bronx, this will be their first deployment in Brooklyn. As is the case with other SBS routes in the Bronx and Manhattan, B44 SBS will also feature off-board fare collection, which means that customers will pay at the bus station prior to boarding the bus. Every station will include machines to accept MetroCards and a machine to accept coin payment.

People who pay closer attention to the ins and outs of bus planning aren’t too excited by this route. The complaints range from the NIMBY (lost parking spaces) to the operational as there may be less frequent local service along a busy bus corridor. You can read Allan Rosen’s three-part series on the B44 SBS (1, 2, 3) and assess the technical details for yourself. I’m more concerned with this five-year timeframe.

It’s mind-boggling that it took five years for a low-rent version of bus rapid transit to move from concept to reality, and it’s crazy that the MTA is highlighting this timeframe in their press materials. Five years is longer than a presidential term; the amount of time that’s passed since the start of the Great Recession; half a decade. The results are a dedicated bus lane with pre-board fare payment options and some multi-hued pavement. Imagine if the end result were actually transformative.

This process has taken so long because DOT and the MTA have been forced to hold meetings with virtually every single person who lives along the B44. Time and time again, business owners, residents and Community Boards have to offer input every time the plans change. This is no way to build a transit network, and it’s something that needs to be addressed. The mayoral candidates all believe buses are our future, but buses aren’t anyone’s future if it takes five years to get one line’s worth of improvements rolled out.

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Dan October 11, 2013 - 2:35 am

So is the B44 going to keep having a local and a limited, or is the SBS replacing the limited? It would be stupid if they kept the limited too. I’m excited for this though, because currently my commute from avenue R and Nostrand to the Bedford-Nostrand G train station takes about 45 minutes on a good day. Hopefully it’ll be a lot shorter soon!

MH October 11, 2013 - 9:48 am

I think like the other SBS routes, the limited service will disappear. Which is disappointing because MTA is burying the New York ave portion of the route. It is discussed in Rosen’s three-part series. I think the limited buses should run on at least the NY portion (from Flatbush Junction to Nostrand [A,C] station) of the route. The 44 bus now has 2 northbound throughways (Rogers for limited and New York for local). Rogers now have 2 different bus routes for that whole length of the street (B49 and B44 SBS, nee limited). No wonder their was meeting with everyone on that lived on the route. I will not be taking the 2 block walk from NY to Rogers to catch a “faster” bus. Only time I’ll be on that bus is when I’m going down Nostrand towards junction.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 9:52 am

The original SBS plan when it was still called BRT in 2003, was to keep,the Limiteds. I agree that that sounded a bit wasteful. A few years later the plan became to replace the Limiteds with SBS which seems like a better idea.

The problem with replacing the B44 Limited is that this route is unique for SBS routes since the SBS will not operate on the same street as the Limited and it is too far to walk from one to the other since they are separated by two avenue blocks between Fulton Street and Flstbush Avenue. That translates into waits of about 10 to 20 minutes without delays for the local when those at current Limited stops have been used to much shorter waits. If standard sized buses are used on the local, the crowding will also be excessive with plenty of room on the SBSs.

Brandon October 11, 2013 - 10:20 am

Was there any consideration to converting Nostrand to two-way along its full length and running SBS in both directions?

Is there any BRT elsewhere in the world that operates in a one way pair like this?

MH October 11, 2013 - 11:01 am

Have you seen traffic and how narrow Utica Ave is from Fulton to Empire. That’s how two-way would look on the entire Nostrand (specifically the Fulton to Empire maybe even further down.) It would be a mess. That’s why the 46 (on Utica) is not in the SBS running at this time, even though in theory it is good candidate.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 11:29 am

Can’t answer your second question.

There wasn’t any consideration to converting Nostrand to two way operation. That could have only worked if it were a residential street and you could ban curbside parking. As a commercial street, deliveries would have been impossible if the curb lane were used for buses.

A more logical question was why they couldn’t have used the existing route for SBS without involving Rogers Avenue since NY Ave is residential where the curb lane could have been used. The MTA’s response to that question to CB 15 was that the articulated buses coud not make the right turn from Nostrand to Farragut, which was an obvious lie since they are now using artics on the existing B44.

When you lie and don’t tell the truth, you lose trust which is another reason why the community is suspicious and perhaps helped delay the process.

MH October 11, 2013 - 11:58 am

And they can also make the right turn from Fulton to Bedford as well…so definite bull on Mta part

Stu Sutcliffe October 11, 2013 - 3:31 pm

Nostrand Avenue (and Franklin, Rogers and Kingston Avenues) were all two-way streets until the early 1960s, when they were converted into one-way streets and the B44, the (then) B47, B48 and B49 were shifted onto the adjoining streets for opposite direction trips. They were all too narrow and busy to sustain two-way traffic.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 3:41 pm

And that change greatly improved travel times. By far the best move DOT has ever done.

Bolwerk October 11, 2013 - 12:07 pm

1st/2nd Avenue in Manhattan?

It may not be ideal, but it’s quick and it’s cheap. If you want more, you may as well dispense with buses entirely.

llqbtt October 11, 2013 - 2:51 pm

I have mixed experiences with the quick part. Sometimes, the ride is fast, but seems dependent on traffic. The morning AM up 1st is relatively painless, almost ‘surface subway’ like, short dwell times, direct trips between ‘stations’, but the midday and afternoon trips are mixed and seem to be driven by traffic because the buses use the mixed traffic lanes primarily as well as scheduling. The buses still bunch, and that M15 local that left a minute before? Well that will keep up with SBS for at least 30-40 blocks as much as not.

Henry October 11, 2013 - 3:54 pm

The big problem with M15 SBS is that any traffic delays that happen on the Queensboro affect the bus route. When the QB was closed off after the truck fire, First and Second Avenues went to hell.

Bolwerk October 11, 2013 - 4:21 pm

Oh, yeah, I meant the construction is quick and cheap.

I wouldn’t praise the operation’s speed either, but it’s really about as well as you can do while NYC won’t enforce bus lanes or segregate bus traffic in center lanes.

Kai B October 11, 2013 - 1:55 pm

The M15 SBS runs in a one-way pair, or?

ajedrez October 11, 2013 - 3:57 pm

You guys are missing the point. The point isn’t that Bedford Avenue is a block away from Nostrand. The point is that it’s two blocks away from NY Avenue, which is where the current limited runs. (And on top of that, the next bus route is almost a mile away on Utica).

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 5:23 pm

You meant to say Rogers, not Bedford.

Stu Sutcliffe October 11, 2013 - 6:47 pm

1) Rogers merges with Bedford north of Bergen Street.

2) ajdrrez – The B43 (the former B47) runs on Kingston and Brooklyn Avenues between Fulton Street and Empire Boulevard. North of Fulton, it runs on Tompkins and Throop Avenues. The B15 is also there north of Fulton Street. There’s no real service gap between the B44 and the B46.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 7:04 pm

1. He was referring to NY Avenue which means he was talking south of Fulton Street, so it is irrelevant that that Rogers merges with Bedford north of Fulton. So he would have to be referring to Rogers not Bedford.

2. Te service gap is south of Empire Blvd since there is no north south route on Albany.

David Brown October 11, 2013 - 7:45 am

Here is the reality of the matter, most people do not like busses, and no matter what Politicians say, it is not going to change. My appraisal of the bus is this: I try and avoid them, because they are too slow. Sometimes, I take the M-15 SBS when I am going to lower Manhattan. But if it is good weather, I will walk it ( in bad it’s the ( J) to Chambers or Broad). But if the choice is A: The Subway. B: SBS. C: Local busses ( such as the 14-A). The Subway wins, then SBS. The reality is people do not like taking busses and that makes things very easy for NIMBY’s at local Community Boards to delay and in some cases stop SBS in its tracks ( see 125th Street). Is there a use for SBS? Yes there is, Woodhaven Blvd/ Cross Bay Blvd comes to mind. But if even Mike Bloomberg was reluctant to push SBS ( and he feared very little ( good or bad)), then I do not see any more than 2 or 3 being rolled out during the next 8 years.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 9:56 am

You are speaking with a Msnhattan-centric attitude where people have a choice. In many cases in the other boroughs ( especially Queens) , there is no choice, so it is irrelevant if you like buses or not, you have to take them. Woodhaven SBS would be a horrible choice as long as you have the abandoned right of way nearby. It makes no sense to reduce roadway capacity for many drivers whose only other choice is the overcrowded BQE and Van Wyck.

VLM October 11, 2013 - 10:08 am

Are you still going on about Woodhaven because heaven forbid someone remove a lane of traffic? There’s nothing Manhattan-centric about the idea that people have a choice. They definitely do, and they choose to clog up Woodhaven with traffic because the road is designed to encourage that. It is ripe for SBS whatever your quasi “I live in the faux-exclusive area in Brooklyn that, boo hoo, is just too far away and wish it were the actual suburbs” mentality is.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 11:47 am

Perhaps I might support Woodhaven SBS because I do subscribe to the theory as you do, that it is better to help mass transit vs cars consisting of primarily one person, if there were not an abandoned parallel right of way a half mile away.

The assumption that Woodhaven drivers woud use the bus instead of driving is also faulty. Virtually all users of Woodhaven do not have an origin or destination in the area and the SBS would not help them. I would also say that less than half even have one origin or destination in the area. Has anyone even done a study to see if I am right? No. The way we plan in this City is to first make a decision then gather data to support that decision ignoring any data that might hinder you plan. That is ass backwards.

It is ridiculous to study the feasibility of a greenway without considering all alternatives.

No one chooses to clog up Woodhaven. Drivers choose it because it is a far better choice than the BQE or the Van Wyck. If you compare it to Ocean Parkway which is similar in layout, Ocean Parkway is far more congested and it doesn’t even have commercial traffic. During non- rush hours it takes only 15 minutes to go the Belt to Queens Center. During rush hours depending on traffic, it can take up to 30 or 45 minutes on rare occasions. At the beginning or tail end of the rush hour, you can make the trip in the peak direction without hitting any red lights or only one or two, reducing the trip to only ten minutes.

Buses also travel quickly on Woodhaven so an exclusive lane wouldn’t even save that much time, only maybe five minutes most of the time, while trucks and cars would be extensively delayed or be diverted to residential streets when traffic is moving very slowly. Trips other than by bus would take ten to twenty minutes longer, in some cases doubling the travel time while bus lanes would remain largely empty most of the time.

If there were to be special lanes, they should allow HOV vehicles also. Then it might work.

I expect problems with the B44, but those would be minimal compared to the havoc that would be caused by a Woodhaven SBS with exclusive bus lanes. Anyone supporting the idea is speaking from a distance without the experience of using Woodhaven which I used daily for nine years.

Brandon October 11, 2013 - 10:17 am

The Q53 has very high ridership and tends to be quite crowded at any time of the day. The buses are also so frequent that they frequently run in tandem (I have no idea why they dont use articulated buses rather than running 2 regular buses with 2 drivers).

Woodhaven isnt even that crowded most of the time, but the buses still sit at traffic lights far too often. Just having signal priority would help quite a bit id think, especially along the length of the route.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 11:52 am

If the buses run so frequently, how come whenever I drive the length of Woodhaven, the most number of buses I pass on all the routes running there is six? Sometimes, I see even fewer buses, like only two or three that are in service in each direction. One time there wasn’t a single bus in either direction north of Metropolitan.

Henry October 11, 2013 - 3:39 pm

The Q53 is one of the Limiteds with the farthest stop spacing – with its high average speed, this means that for most of its journey, it’s traveling as fast as the traffic around it (or slightly slower). Woodhaven isn’t very long, so it makes sense that you’re not passing that many.

As for the Q11/21, they’re not that frequent, so I wouldn’t assume that you would pass by those on a regular basis even though they stopped every 2 blocks.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 3:43 pm

And that’s the exact reason why we don’t need SBS on Woodhaven.

Henry October 11, 2013 - 4:03 pm

The current route achieves 12MPH. The R local achieves 18MPH.

The goal of SBS is to speed up the route such that it achieves closer to subway speeds and non-peak travel times, during the rush hour.

If traffic is too bad on certain segments of the route and the route is not wide enough, then the route can run in mixed traffic on those segments (like 207th on the Bx12, the Downtown streets on the M15, etc.)

12MPH is good. Whether it’s good enough is a completely different story. In any case, bus lanes and TSP should also help reduce the bunching that seems to be endemic on the route.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 5:36 pm

When you say 12mph, I assume you mean average travel speed. Since the bus has to make stops anyway,, how much faster could you possibly make it. A car averages 20 mph on wide streets. On Woodhaven it probably a little higher like 25. So if SBS speeded buses from say 12 to 20 mph, how much of a time savings does that translate into assuming the current stops become the SBS stops. It’s about five miles from the Belt to Queens Boulevard, so that puts the current trip about 25 minutes. At 20 mph, the trip would take 15 minutes, a savings of 10 minutes. From Rockaway, the savings would be a little greater, but I don’t know by how much. It depends on how fast traffic currently moves over the bridge.

But to do a fair study, you have to consider how much time other traffic would lose. It would be 20 minutes or more. Much more time than the buses would save. So far DOT and the MTA have only considered what bus passengers save, not what others lose.

Henry October 12, 2013 - 7:53 pm

Here’s the thing – buses on the Woodhaven corridor are reported to be extremely crowded during rush hours. This makes them much more space-efficient than cars, which have an average occupancy between 1 to 2. So even if drivers are negatively impacted, it’s very likely that the bus riders will gain much more (especially when the combined routes carry at least 26000 riders a day).

BrooklynBus October 13, 2013 - 3:07 pm

But why inconvenience anyone when a better alternative exists?

David Brown October 11, 2013 - 10:42 am

Brooklyn Bus, the reason why you do not have Woodhaven Blvd/Cross Bay Blvd SBS is just like the reasoning behind the “Queens High Line” instead of more Train Service…The NIMBY’s at CB #9 and CB #10 (aka The Mobbed up Howard Beach), like things just the way they are (If you grew up on 88th Ave in WOODHAVEN you might understand). They will use traffic, the environment, and even the “Race Card” to protect businesses on Jamaica Avenue (and points south such as Richmond Hill and of course, Howard Beach).

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 11:55 am

No. That’s the reason why the Rockaway line has not been reactivated. I don’t believe that SBS has even been formally presented to them. Did you ever think they might have legitimate reasons to oppose SBS there?

Bolwerk October 11, 2013 - 12:15 pm

The only reason to oppose SBS there is the presence of a sexcellent rail ROW. <g>

In fairness, SBS and the Rockaway reactivation could both make sense. I don’t know about SBS being formally proposed, but it was mentioned on a planning document.

Bolwerk October 11, 2013 - 10:53 am

There should be some options besides buses and nothing, because subways sometimes are too much and buses are often too little. Would it really kill the city/MTA to start planning some LRT for those medium-distance, medium-traffic routes that call for it?

Pretty low densities can support transit well, even rail transit and even heavy rail (what does MNRR do?). Nothing about transit calls for Manhattanization, or even Brownstonebrooklynization.

David Brown October 11, 2013 - 11:13 am

Bolwerk, I agree with you. But there are areas like you guessed it…. WOODHAVEN that do not want it (Richmond Hill is worse (they do not even like the A-Train Terminus at Lefferts Blvd identified as Richmond Hill (they like it identified as South Ozone Park)). There are certain MAJOR streets that suck and have sucked for Decades (see Liberty Avenue (particularly in Richmond Hill and South Jamaica)), that really could use Redevelopment, but that will not happen. Liberty Avenue (South Jamaica part) ranks as Number 3 of the worst areas in Queens only trailing Edgemere (Far Rockaway), and of course, Willets Point. I have more confidence in Edgemere getting Redeveloped than Liberty Ave.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 11:56 am

The community needs to be educated about the advantages of LRT and te development and revitalization it causes which does not happen with SBS.

Bolwerk October 11, 2013 - 12:29 pm

Why? Just build appropriately, and people will use it and like it. Nobody needs to be propagandized.

David Brown October 11, 2013 - 12:44 pm

The idea of the “Community” being educated is a joke . For many years, it was extremely
difficult to build or buy in Richmond Hill or South Ozone Park unless you went through Ed Ahmad (a convicted felon Real Estate Broker). Check out some of the Willets Point Style auto repair shops as well. I would not be shocked to see the people in Willets Point sell to the City and move to Richmond Hill? Did I mention the Crypts and Bloods if you go south of York College? The last thing these people want is Redevelopment, and transportation alternatives. Even Willets Point, the South Bronx, and need I say, Woodhaven is easier to Redevelop then Richmond Hill. South Jamaica is worse. In fact, it such a lawless, cowboy area, it basically would need Wyatt Earp to clean it up.

VLM October 11, 2013 - 12:58 pm

Agreed. What does the “community” know about this type of street planning anyway? Their reaction is generally just “OMG THEY TOOK ARE PARKING.”

Bolwerk October 11, 2013 - 1:18 pm

Nitpick: that’s not the community. That’s the community board.

David Brown October 11, 2013 - 3:07 pm

Bolwerk, Queens is really strange ( and not just the Community Boards). There is a hostility to Development and Redevelopment anywhere except part of Jamaica ( and that means Sutphin Blvd between Hillside and Archer Avenues), Flushing ( and you better be Asian), Queens Blvd ( specifically Rego Park), and Western Queens ( Long Island City, and Sunnyside plus Astoria can now be added to the list). Wiillets Point was a perfect example of this. If the choice was sewers or being left alone businesses took the latter. Geographically speaking, Willets Point is actually very easy to Redevelop because it’s proximity to Transit and Roads, and the level of hostility towards Bloomberg made it personal from his end, and he finally won out. Basically unless Aqueduct becomes available, the rest of Queens except perhaps Queensbridge, Ridgewood and Maspeth will not be Developed or Redeveloped for Decades to come. Why? If I am the City and (or) a Developer, I can accomplish the same thing in The Bronx or Brooklyn with a lot less headaches.

Henry October 11, 2013 - 3:46 pm

Actually, the argument about Willets Point is that the business owners were arguing that the city would only pave the roads and add sewers AFTER they were bought out.

It’s sort of like how landlords will do everything in their power to force people on rent control to leave, and then fix up apartments at market-rate prices.

Henry October 11, 2013 - 3:48 pm

I’d also like to add that Willets Point is easy to get to by car. On foot, Willets Point is an absolute disaster – transit access is far, the neighborhood is cut off by the major highways (the Northern Blvd flyover counts), and walking from Willets Point to Flushing is unpleasant, if not downright impossible.

Bolwerk October 11, 2013 - 10:15 am

I don’t think it’s a question of not liking buses. The city/MTA just won’t recognize there are practical limits to buses, certainly over this distance.

Nostrand Avenue should have be a subway, and that should have taken five years to plan and execute.

MH October 11, 2013 - 11:50 am

“Nostrand Avenue should have be a subway, and that should have taken five years to plan and execute.”

Ask the people near 2nd Ave in Manhattan how the subway idea is working out.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 11:58 am

You can’t compare cut and cover to deep tunneling which is responsible for the high costs and long time to build.

pete October 12, 2013 - 12:36 am

The MTA has always claimed deep tunnel is always cheaper than C&C. Deep tunnel also is a “I will retire here” project for the mob and union worked. The MTA would do deep tunnel under a corn field to “support jobs in NY state”.

Alon Levy October 12, 2013 - 1:27 am

Deep tunnel is cheaper for the parts that can be built inside of the deep tunnel, i.e. the tracks. It’s the access points, i.e. the cut-and-cover stations, that become much more expensive.

Bolwerk October 11, 2013 - 12:05 pm

It’s taking a bit long and costing several times what it should, but for Second Avenue it’s working out great. It will have a fully operational, modern subway in a few years.

MH October 11, 2013 - 12:16 pm

But look how long it took to even get to this point, that’s what I was stating.

Bolwerk October 11, 2013 - 12:39 pm

I know it took too long, but it shouldn’t have to. An SBS repainting shouldn’t take too long either!

Henry October 11, 2013 - 3:50 pm

To be fairly honest, a lot of it was because of lawsuits at 86th St and the fact that the stations are giant caverns.

In the outer boroughs, hopefully they don’t repeat the mistakes of Archer Avenue and QBL, and avoid building giant caverns as stations.

Jonathan R October 11, 2013 - 8:12 am

Whether folks like or don’t like busses is a great question, but delaying the implementation for five years means that the people never really get the opportunity to demonstrate their preferences. Why not paint over the street and do a pilot project for six months, then hold meetings to determine whether people like it or not?

David Brown October 11, 2013 - 9:30 am

The reasons they do not paint them is: 1: It is an expense of time and $$$ to paint, then more time and $$$ to remove (if the various Communities reject it). 2: Certain areas do not even want painted lines or anything new, saying it is “Out of touch with the Community.” Remember Staten Island with the purple lights? Personally speaking, I happen to despise the Color Purple (and do not like seeing it on a woman), let alone would purchase anything of that color, and the lights did not bother me. But obviously some people were angered, so they are gone. So why fight an unnecessary battle?

pete October 12, 2013 - 12:37 am

The “fag bus” egh?

tacony October 11, 2013 - 9:34 am

Even after five years of planning and meetings, I’m sure lots of people will complain “we were never consulted!” There will be front page complaining in a local paper from a little old lady who has to wait an extra 7 minutes for her local bus. You can’t please everybody.

I’d like to hear more about these “quick-deploying ramps, rather than lifts.” Are these different from the setup on the M15 buses and others? It’s not PC to talk about it, but a large volume of mobility impaired customers can slow down the buses significantly. When a bunch of people in wheelchairs are queued up for the bus I often get off and start walking to my destination, sometimes looking back to see the bus far behind me. Can we implement faster handicap ramps on other routes without going through a 5 year SBS planning process?

David Brown October 11, 2013 - 10:58 am

I will not be PC, there are reasons why I avoid the 14-A like the plague (I live across the street from it), and those people in wheelchairs, and the constant stoppages are it (I would imagine it would be FAR worse on SBS (to be fair, I have never seen a wheelchair on the M-15 SBS)). I gladly walk to the Subway at Delancey or East Broadway to avoid them (if the M-22 is there, I will pick it up but no waiting, and no wheelchairs on board), and if I must use the 14 Line, I will walk to Columbia & Delancey and take the 14-D (I save anywhere from 5-10 Minutes).

Henry October 11, 2013 - 3:52 pm

None of the low floor buses have lifts – they have floor panels that flip outwards to create a small ramp with the sidewalk.

JMB October 11, 2013 - 9:35 am

“…agency contractors had to remove trolley tracks”


Boris October 11, 2013 - 11:06 pm

I had that reaction as well. The trolley tracks should’ve been the centerpiece of the marketing effort for this project, as a historical relic getting its due recognition. Washington DC’s new trolleys advertise the fact that they are a resurrection of the old system. New Yorkers have no sense of history.

pete October 12, 2013 - 12:40 am

DC’s trolleys are a rabbit hole of wasted money. They still aren’t running. They built tracks years ago without agreeing on a power system (so no catenary exists). The mfg of the LRVs threatened to melt them because DC wouldn’t take delivery of them for years after they were built.

Henry October 12, 2013 - 10:10 am

DC’s tracks were put in long ago because it was decided that they would go in with street reconstruction – they didn’t want to rip up the street and move utilities twice.

In any case, DDOT now plans to open a 23-mile streetcar system in 5 years, so it’s not that much of an issue. (With the crowding on the buses and the absolute lack of capacity on Metro’s central sections, this is sorely needed.)

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 10:05 am

I agree that the five year time frame for onevroute is ridiculous, Especially when you attended NYMTCs Southwest Brooklyn Investment Study meetings between 2003 and 2006 where the MTA first outlined their BRT plans. It went a little like this:

Since there is no funding to extend subway lines, we have a plan to greatly improve bus service that is almost as good as building a subway. It is called BRT and can be constructed much quicker than subways. We plan to build five SBS routes within five years, one per borough. After we go through a learning curve is that if they are successful, the plan is to build them twice as fast after that. Ten more within the following five years. So within ten years, by 2013, we will have 15 BRT lines in place. That is the same timeframe it woud take just to extend the Nostrand Avenue subway.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 10:27 am

Also, I think the reason the process has taken so long is that the MTA would not provide timely answers to legitimate questions so they were summoned down over and over again by community boards. For example, after three years, they still could not provide Community Board 15, an answer as to how many parking spaces would be lost which was their major concern, and were evasive with other answers too. All they would say is that the loss of parking spaces woud not be significant. After three years of planning they should have been able to show a map with every parking space that was removed.

As any driver knows, there are many spaces that are banned for outdated reasons. It was recently shown that parking spaces were banned on Ocean Parkway due to a sewer project in 1975 and were never returned when it was completed. If the MTA came forward with the requested information, I’m sure residents woud have been willing to survey the neighborhood to find spaces that could be returned with DOT’s approval, thereby reducing or eliminating the Community Board’s objections.

The presentation also was not honest. At no time did the MTA or DOT mention that a traffic lane would be eliminated. All they woud say was that a bus lane would be implemented in Sheepshead Bay. You had to look at the maps to see that it the SBS lane not in the parking lane. They also never made it clear when the bus lane would be in effect. It was either only in the peak direction, in both directions, only rush hours, or from 7 AM to 7 PM, all depending on which report, map, or website page you visited. That is not the way you convey clarity. They obviously kept changing their minds, and never bothered to update the various materials to be consistent.

When you cause needless confusion, you automatically raise more questions, thereby delaying the process. So I wouldn’t place the entire blame on the communities and NIMBYs.

The MTA is highlighting the five-year process to show they were responsive to community needs which is still better than ramming a poor plan down a communitiy’s throat without listening.

Boris October 11, 2013 - 11:09 pm

DOT is in charge of deciding the exact configuration of lanes and parking spaces. The MTA simply doesn’t have this information. it doesn’t control the street, it just runs the buses.

BrooklynBus October 13, 2013 - 3:14 pm

Didn’t mean to place the entire blame on the MTA. Since it is a joint project, both agencies share the responsibility.

Henry October 12, 2013 - 10:15 am

I believe the current process at MTA is as follows, right now.

The SAS is and will be consuming a lion’s share of capital funding from the Feds.

LRT will destroy political will for a subway (we just built an LRT X years ago for a lot of money, do we really need a subway?)

BRT is a super-cheap stopgap solution until whenever the SAS is finished.

It’s not ideal, but federal programs are slanted against giving New York money. I guess MTACC could start work on other projects now that ESA is wrapping up work, but Amtrak is also looking to fund Gateway, so all the money that could be heading to New York is gone right now.

Brandon October 11, 2013 - 10:13 am

I can only imagine that the cost and amount of agency resources used for each line is also off the charts if it is taking so long. Are there any other Brooklyn SBS lines in the pipeline?

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 10:29 am

Yes, they have already determined that Utica Avenue is next. I think it only makes sense south of Eastern Parkway, not for the entire route.

MH October 11, 2013 - 11:23 am

The only way that can work (North of E Pkwy) is to make Utica a one-way street northbound and use Schenectady as the southbound route. That will take money out the hands of the dollar van drivers though because Utica is no longer two ways at certain points.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 12:09 pm

I don’t know if DOT would go along with that because Schenectady is paired with Troy. If Utica were made one-way, Rochester would have to be converted to southbound. What about north of Fution? Malcolm X is no wider than Utica north or Carroll, I believe. Broadway is also narrow. What would you do there? Convert Broadway and Bushwick to one-way? Bushwick is a major truck route.

I think since half the B46 ridership gets off at Eastern Parkway,an SBS route just south of there is all tat is needed.

MH October 11, 2013 - 12:32 pm

I thought Troy was paired with Albany (see northern part of b15 bus). You also know someone (probably in Bed-Stuy) will complain and say why can’t the route go to bridge plaza like the 44 bus.

MH October 11, 2013 - 12:36 pm

Also remember the Bx12 SBS, Fordham is pretty narrow from Webster to at least Jerome (I’m not that Bronx-savvy to know how it is after)

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 3:46 pm

But don’t they utilize the curb lane for SBS? I don’t believe that is proposed for the B44.

ajedrez October 11, 2013 - 4:06 pm

But doesn’t the B46 end at WBP?

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 5:41 pm

Lets see. It’s Nostrand with Rogers. NY with Brooklyn. Kingston with Albany. Troy with Schenectady. So they woud have to pair Utica with Rochester. I was correct. But that doesn’t mean they coudn’t run buses southbound on Schectady and northbound on Utica. The only problem is that riders want Utica not Schenectady which is all residential, causing most passengers an extra five minute walk, which would wipe out the savings from SBS for many.

llqbtt October 11, 2013 - 3:01 pm

You know buses much better than me, but I would note that anecdotally, the B46 seems pretty heavily ulitilized along the Broadway segment, and that’s with the J (& M) overhead. The buses are frequent, and while they are not generally overcrowded, the B46 seems to be one of the more utlized routes in that area. And the Woodhull/Flushing/Graham Ave area is there in the mix.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 3:45 pm

Just because buses are heavily used, does not make a case for SBS. It makes a case for artics.

Alon Levy October 12, 2013 - 1:23 am

Why not? Off-board fare collection is more useful on busier routes as measured by passenger boardings (and not other metrics like crowding or passenger-km), because it reduces the time cost of each passenger boarding.

BrooklynBus October 17, 2013 - 3:47 pm

You can have off-board fare collection without the full SBS treatment. With SBS there are other factors to consider, namely street width, traffic, alternative parallel routes for displaced traffic, frequency of bus service, usability of curbside lane for buses, delivery issue, etc. Not every street lends itself to SBS.

Alon Levy October 12, 2013 - 1:25 am

Why does the city need to inflict another one-way pair to have SBS? Buses don’t need one-way traffic to run faster – that’s what signal priority is for. One-way pairs are useful for cars, not for transit.

ADN October 11, 2013 - 10:44 am

Five years? It’s taken longer than that. The MTA was planning and discussing this BRT route back in the Iris Weinshall era of NYC DOT. This has been in the works since 2005, at least. This didn’t take five years. It took eight years. At least.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 12:11 pm

Let’s be fair. I believe it was in 2008 when the SBS was decided to be done. From around 2003 to 2008, it was one of five candidates.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 1:51 pm

This is why a small group of people should not be allowed to stop a project that would benefit many. Unfortunately, most people show up to protest something and just stay home if it is something tey like.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2013 - 1:53 pm

This should have been in reply to David Brown’s 4:44 PM comment on Oct 11.

Anthony October 11, 2013 - 10:14 pm

What has London done in five years? Established true high-speed rail (finally, within England, already existing in France) to Paris, maintained and added to it’s outstanding network of 24/7 buses with headways better than some NYC subway lines, made tremendous progress on ‘CrossRail’ which will create a high-speed subway across the entire metropolitan area and make its already excellent Heathrow Express service unnecessary, provided headways of about 90 seconds on some of its most heavily-used underground lines (weekend headways of 3 minutes are still better than many weekday headways in NYC), and grown a bike-share system (hardwired into the infrastructure, not just haphazardly placed on sidewalks) that spreads across a vast swath of London and still offers an affordable daily rate of about $USD 3.20.

What has NYC done? No new subway lines, a subway system debilitated by Sandy, reduction of an entire subway line during 2010 cuts and numerous bus routes…oh, and some paint on the ground for ‘SBS’ that is inferior to a regular bus in London. Meanwhile, sidewalks are still filthy, rubbish bins overflowing, and commuter trains still have people going around with hole punches like something out of the 1920s.

In the modern world, cities directly compete against one another for talent and economic growth — NYC is, without fear of hyperbole, the third-world of the rich world’s great cities. Yes, London has the congestion charge (which NYC should have as well), but that’s no excuse for the appalling lack of progress in America’s richest and most influential city.

Boris October 11, 2013 - 11:18 pm

I once called NYC “third world” for this exact reason, on Facebook, and was roundly booed. But it’s true. “Third world” means the existence of an elite that exists to collect rents from the status quo, and tries to prevent change at all costs. This could be seen everywhere today, from US Congress down to NYC outer borough community boards and civic organizations. I think the only thing we can do is to be activists and fight for change, but also to keep expectations low and have an exit strategy.

Bolwerk October 12, 2013 - 11:21 am

That’s the definition of “feudalism.” Oh, wait, no, feudalism includes obligations for those on top to defend/assist those lower down the hierarchy when there is a crisis.

The word you’re looking for is “capitalism.” :-O

pete October 12, 2013 - 12:42 am

Its not the 1920s. The 1920s are when there was a bus driver and a bus conductor who sold tickets and collected cash. No fareboxes, mag cards, or tokens. The bus conductor system is still used in Russia to this day.

Alon Levy October 12, 2013 - 1:22 am

What has London done in five years? Established true high-speed rail (finally, within England, already existing in France) to Paris

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link was authorized by Parliament in 1996 and opened between 2003 and 2007 (link) – so it’s not 5 years but 11 years. In today’s money, it cost $100 million per kilometer, with only about 23% of the route in tunnel; Germany and Taiwan both built lines (Cologne-Frankfurt and THSR) with comparable tunnel percentage for less than half as much money, and in both cases the lines had cost overruns and in Taiwan there was corruption in the bidding process, and Japan built two recent lines (the Kyushu Shinkansen and the Shin-Aomori Extension) with at least half the route in tunnel for a little more than half as much money.

made tremendous progress on ‘CrossRail’ which will create a high-speed subway across the entire metropolitan area…

…at a cost of about a billion dollars per kilometer of the tunnel, the highest in the world outside New York.

The Germans and the Dutch try hard with their boondoggles, but nobody in Europe beats Britain at high costs. Hell, nobody in the world beats Britain except the US.

Anthony October 12, 2013 - 7:42 pm

Alon, what’s your point? Ok, the UK is doing mega-projects at a very high price, but it’s still LESS expensive than the USA, and at least they’re actually happening! Also, yes, the channel tunnel is from some years ago, but my point was that within the past five years, the UK finally established its high-speed rail tracks from London to the tunnel, which did not exist after the opening of Eurostar. Crossrail is an amazing project, which will transform the city — and let’s not forget about the recent completion of a circular Overground train around the whole of outer London. In NYC, we’re still debating whether we can afford new bus lines to travel from Queens to Brooklyn. LaGuardia still has NO rail access, and JFK only has a substandard rail connection that requires at least an hour (maybe a bit less by LIRR) to travel to the city.

Robert LaMarca October 13, 2013 - 10:33 am

Something not mentioned in the article is the fact that for the last 2 years at least, Nostrand avenue has been torn up and repaired and torn up again and again and again while they repaired infrastructure underneath.

Only now is evidence of the bus stop areas showing, while a bike ride an the street will shake out your fillings.

So: perhaps 5 years of planning was really 3 years of planning and 2 waiting for the street to be finished with its repairs…

However: What on earth took so long with Nostrand avenue? Why could they not repair all the underground infrastructure as they opened the street one time instead of back-filling and then digging up the same sections all over again?

THAT is the real question. Solve that kind of problem and we could have all the subways, bus lanes, and schools we could possibly want.

Frustrated regular commuter from Ave R stop November 19, 2013 - 3:49 pm

The change is not working right now and more local and long buses will have to be added to accommodate stops that got eliminated. If you are from one of the local stops then good luck to you, the fact is that you will see 5 or 6 or even 7 empty long selected bus passes your stop while you try to squeeze into an old, short and super packed local bus after waiting for 20-25 minutes during rush hour. They need to at least to double its schedule to run long local buses…

Frustrated regular commuter from Ave R stop!

BrooklynBus November 19, 2013 - 10:06 pm

This is exactly what I predicted if you go reread my old articles on Sheepsheadbites.


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