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Stringer: New jobs in Brooklyn, but buses don’t go there

You can walk faster, according to report

November 27, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
According to a report released by Comptroller Scott Stringer, city buses are glacially slow and are failing to transport Brooklynites to new jobs. Above, a bus near Brooklyn Borough Hall. Photo by Mary Frost

New Yorkers have frequently suspected that they could walk to their destination faster than taking a city bus. A report issued on Monday by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer not only confirms this suspicion, but also points out that many Brooklynites can no longer even commute to their jobs by bus.

According to “The Other Transit Crisis: How to Improve the NYC Bus System,” the city’s bus system is glacially slow, inefficient and is increasingly failing to transport workers to where their jobs are. Ridership has dropped drastically, with MTA buses losing 100 million passenger trips in the last eight years.

Brooklyn is arguably the borough most impacted by MTA’s inability to keep up, with more than five rapidly changing neighborhoods among the city’s 13 most underserved: Williamsburg, Greenpoint, the Carroll Gardens-Columbia Street-Red Hook area, the Sheepshead Bay-Gerritsen Beach-Manhattan Beach area and Homecrest.

“For 40 years, our subway system deteriorated, and it has led to the frustration that New Yorkers now feel daily,” Stringer said in a statement. “Today, we’re sounding the alarm on our bus crisis. Falling ridership, major slowdowns and a bus infrastructure in decline is having an effect across the five boroughs.”

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A growing number of city residents now work at jobs located within their home borough or in an adjacent non-Manhattan borough, Stringer says. But according to the study, bus routes aren’t connecting to these new jobs centers.

From 2006 to 2016, the number of jobs located in Brooklyn jumped by 49 percent, in the Bronx by 35 percent, in Queens by 34 percent and in Staten Island by 27 percent, but only 5 percent in Manhattan. As a result of this change, the share of jobs located outside of Manhattan rose from 35 percent to 42 percent over this period.

But the bus map never changed to accommodate these new commuting patterns, Stringer says.

 “A route’s timetable may be modified to accommodate ridership changes, its path may be tweaked and, in rare instances of budgetary shortfalls or windfalls, a route may be added or eliminated altogether. But these changes are atypical and executed in isolation, with little consideration for the performance and connectivity of the system as a whole,” he said in a statement.


You can walk faster

It doesn’t help that the city’s buses are now the slowest in the nation among large cities, with bus service frequently slower than walking speed. The average New York City Transit bus travels at just 7.4 miles per hour, according to the report. Average speed in Brooklyn is even slower, at 6.3 miles per hour. This indicates speeds often drop below the nation’s average walking speed of 3.1 miles per hour. (The New York Times reports that New Yorkers walk an average of 3.4 miles per hour during lunch hour — sloths compared to the speed of residents of Singapore, who average 3.9 miles per hour.)

The comptroller also reports that innovations like Select Bus Service, Bus Lanes and Transit Signal Priority have been implemented “slowly and halfheartedly.”

The study found that the decline in New York City’s bus service over the last decade disproportionately impacts immigrant and lower-income New Yorkers, since they make up the highest share of city bus riders.

What to do?

Stringer’s report calls for a series of reforms. These include a review of the bus network to better align with new job centers and commuting patterns, increasing the number of dedicated bus lanes and the frequency of buses in off-peak hours and stretching out the spacing of bus stops.

The city should also introduce all-door boarding and tap-and-go fare payment, and expedite Transit Signal Priority along bus routes. Transit Signal Priority is a technology that allows MTA buses to communicate with DOT traffic lights in order to extend a green light or shorten a red light at an approaching intersection.

The bus system operates under two agencies — MTA Bus Company and New York Transit Bus. They need to better coordinate their operations, Stringer says. MTA also needs to coordinate better with NYC Department of Transportation.

The New York City bus system includes 5,700 buses, 330 routes and more than 15,000 stops serving well over 2 million passengers each day.

The Brooklyn Eagle has reached out to MTA for a response. Check back for updates. To read the comptroller’s entire report, visit https://comptroller.nyc.gov.


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