Downtown

Booming Brooklyn suffers busted bus system, wasting money

February 8, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, center, with Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, left, and transit advocates from Bus Turnaround Coalition, right. Photos by Mary Frost

‘It’s faster to walk … MTA asleep at the wheel’

Officials and transit advocates on Thursday issued a stinging indictment of the city’s outdated and failing bus service, calling it a system in crisis. And booming Brooklyn has some of the worst bus service in the city, they said, with riders opting out in droves.

Most of New York City’s bus routes were designed when TV shows like “I Love Lucy” were smash hits, city Comptroller Scott Stringer told reporters and transit advocates at a press conference on Court Street near Brooklyn Borough Hall.

“They’re decades old. It’s no wonder we have the slowest bus service nationwide,” he said.

As buses inched noisily on the congested street behind them, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, state Sen. Brian Kavanagh (Brooklyn waterfront, Downtown Manhattan), Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights) and Councilmember Mark Levine (Manhattan) joined with advocates working as the Bus Turnaround Coalition to urge the MTA and NYC Department of Transportation to save the system.

Two months ago, Stringer’s office released a report that showed bus ridership dropped nearly 18 percent between 2002 and 2016.

“The slowest bus system in America is right here at home,” Stringer told reporters Thursday. “Some lines move at 3 or 4 mph, with an average speed of 7.4 mph. In many cases, it’s quicker to walk.”

He added, “In a world that is moving in the future faster than ever before, our bus system is in reverse, it’s in decline … The MTA has been asleep at the wheel.”

Brooklyn Bus Service the Pits

James said that bus service in Brooklyn was even worse than the city’s dismal average.

Bus Turnaround Coalition provides figures on its website (busturnaround.nyc) grading all of the city’s bus routes based on average speed, reliability (“bunching”) and on-time performance.

Brooklyn’s lines perform disastrously. Out of 56 Brooklyn routes, 16 received an overall grade of F and 32 received D. Of the rest, 5 were scored C and just 2 got a respectable B. No Brooklyn bus routes scored an A. (One route’s score was unavailable.)

The B41, a busy route which runs from Downtown Brooklyn to Kings Plaza via Flatbush Avenue, received a grade of F. More than 27,000 people ride the B41 every day— and that’s down 25 percent since 2010. The buses on this route average 5.9 mph (compared to 10.4 mph for an average bus in Boston, and 3.1 mph for the average human walking speed). One in five of the B41 buses arrive in bunches. Only 49 percent arrived on time — slightly less than half.

In another example, the B61, from Park Slope to Downtown Brooklyn, received an overall grade of D, with an average speed of 6.6 mph and 63 percent on time performance.

The problem in Brooklyn predates “I Love Lucy.” Bus Turnaround Coalition says that of the 55 local Brooklyn routes operated by the New York City Transit Authority, roughly 35 are the direct descendants of one or more streetcar lines, which haven’t been updated to meet the needs of New York today.

Possible Solutions

The coalition studied methods used for improving bus service in other big cities and has come up with some suggested fixes. These include:

⚫ Redesigning the bus network and routes for more frequent and efficient service (for example, by breaking up routes that are too long and introducing new routes)

⚫ Transforming how people get on and off the bus (by using “tap and go” fare collection and all-door boarding)

⚫ Adopting better methods to keep buses on schedule (by intervening early when buses get off track, for example, or special controls for frequent buses)

⚫ Designing streets to prioritize buses (dedicated lanes enforced by cameras, boarding islands and other innovations)

⚫ Making using the bus easy and intuitive (real time information and open performance reports)

See http://busturnaround.nyc for the full report.