Brooklyn’s oldest bus models will be replaced by year’s end, says MTA

March 19, 2019 Paul Stremple
Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas

MTA chief says hearings would be a “witch hunt”

The MTA will send new bus models to communities currently served by a disproportionate number of older, higher polluting buses by the end of the year following reports of service disparities, the agency told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The agency faced criticism yesterday from Brooklyn lawmakers, including Borough President Eric Adams. The borough president called for hearings following a Daily News report that said Brooklyn neighborhoods with lower incomes are served by a higher percentage of old buses compared to routes that run through wealthier communities.

“There is zero truth to any accusations that the deployment of buses is influenced by any consideration of income, race, or any other demographic measure, and the facts clearly show that,” said MTA Chief External Affairs Officer Max Young. “We are in the midst of an aggressive plan to roll out new buses to all corners of the city.”

One hundred and sixty-eight of the decades-old diesel RTS-06 buses are currently in service, a spokesperson for the MTA said. However, three of the five depots where those buses operate are located in Brooklyn: Flatbush, East New York and Bensonhurst’s Ulmer Park.

At the Flatbush and East New York depots, where RTS-06 buses make up nine percent and 24 percent of the fleets respectively, the old models will be replaced with new buses by the end of the year, the MTA said.

Adams praised the news that modern buses would come to underserved communities, but still believes in the necessity of a “forensic analysis” into how the disparity occurred in the first place.

“It’s a good thing that the oldest buses will be replaced by the end of the year,” he told the Eagle. “However, correcting the wrong should not move us away from examining the past.”

NYCT President Andy Byford weighed in yesterday at a press conference focused on subway performance. He called any accusations of prejudicial deployment of buses “ludicrous and absurd.”

“The deployment of buses is in no way linked to demographics, that is simply not the case, and if people want to have some sort of audit to establish that, then that’s fine,” Byford said. He cautioned that any hearings would take the MTA’s focus away from “getting on with the job” to deal with “witch hunts” instead.

Adams expressed skepticism that oversight would inhibit the MTA’s ability to do its job.

“It’s absurd to dismiss the concerns of poorer communities with disproportionate health disparities resulting from the lack of clean bus technology, and it’s ludicrous to think that oversight of an agency takes away from that agency’s ability to deliver high-quality transit service to everyone in all corners of New York City,” Adams said.

The borough president acknowledged the bus inequity issues started long before Byford’s tenure as NYCT President and welcomed Byford to Brooklyn to discuss the matter.

Both sides do agree on one thing: the issue suggests the necessity of congestion pricing and the need to fund the MTA’s capital plan to modernize the New York City transit system. Adams said he would like to see the Fast Forward plan funded in order to fully electrify the bus fleet sooner than the proposed 2040 deadline.