Brooklynites demand return of long-shuttered Crown Heights-Red Hook bus route
As MTA employees in the basement of the Park Slope Library prepared for an open house on the Brooklyn bus network redesign Tuesday night, local residents rallied outside to continue a demand they’ve been shouting for years: Bring back the B71.
Budget cuts for the MTA slashed the bus route that connected Red Hook to Crown Heights in 2010. With the transportation agency in the midst of outreach to devise a plan to redesign the Brooklyn bus network, advocates are taking the opportunity to continue a fight they’ve been at for roughly nine years.
“When the B71 was eliminated, about 10 years ago now, a vital connection was cut for people in Brooklyn,” said Councilmember Brad Lander, who represents a district covered by the former route. “So when we found that the MTA was organizing these Brooklyn bus network redesign workshops, we thought, what a great opportunity to make clear a top priority for that redesign … restore the B71.
The B71 served nine schools, three senior centers, multiple public housing complexes and several cultural institutions like the Brooklyn Museum, but it was in the 10 percent of buses with the lowest ridership throughout the city, according to the MTA.
Since 2010, commercial and residential development has boomed in the areas along the route and a potential Gowanus rezoning could increase the population even more, advocates said, making the MTA’s original rationale mute.
“The ridership was the rationale that they used once upon a time and we know that ridership has grown tremendously,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, who has been fighting to get the B71 back since 2010. “It’s really odd, I think, in a city like New York, where we have generally good mass transportation for people, 10 years after the fact to be crying for the restoration of a bus route.”
The group also delivered a petition to bring back the route with 1,300 signatures to MTA employees at the Park Slope workshop.
The open house was the sixth of 10 in the agency’s first step in redesigning the borough’s 650,000-rider bus network. Low ridership and slower speeds are a couple of the issues MTA has cited in striving for a redesigned network.
Ridership in Brooklyn has declined 14 percent between 2016 and 2019 and bus speeds are three percent slower since 2016, at 7.7 mph, according to the MTA.
A draft plan will come in the second quarter of 2020 and the final plan is expected to be released near the end of 2020.
Members of the group outside Park Slope Library individually brought up more general issues at the workshop, but they were clear the B71 was at the top of their list.
“Take a look at a current bus map of Brooklyn and there is a gaping hole where the B71 … ran,” said Kathy Park Price, a Park Slope parent who runs Citizen Squirrel, an initiative to encourage civic engagement among families. “Brooklyn’s families deserve and need the B71 back.”
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