First bus network workshop reveals divide between young and old riders
At Brooklyn’s first public Brooklyn bus route redesign workshop in Fort Greene Wednesday night, a divide emerged between the needs of older and younger riders.
MTA says it’s taking a “clean-slate” look at Brooklyn bus routes to speed up commute times, modify low-performing routes, reduce redundancy and improve off-peak service. But some of the seniors attending Wednesday said they were afraid that speeding up service meant longer distances between bus stops, posing difficulties for older and handicapped riders. Officials present said the buses have to serve commuters who need to get to work on time as well as retired folks.
Representatives from the Department of Transportation and the MTA laid out a number of options for a redesigned Brooklyn bus network at the public workshop, which several dozen bus riders attended.
Standing next to posters showing alternate bus route configurations, MTA representatives asked riders if, for example, they wanted “a whole bunch of routes spread out across a neighborhood” resulting in longer waits, or routes concentrated on fewer streets, resulting in longer walks to the stops but shorter waits between buses.
Near the Navy Yard, for example, “You have a bus on Myrtle, a bus on Park, two buses on Flushing, a bus going through the middle of the Navy Yard. It provides a short walk for everybody, but each one of those routes cannot be super frequent,” one official explained. “Let’s say you put the Park Avenue bus on Myrtle, or combine the Park and Flushing on the same street. Suddenly, it would be more rewarding for you to walk to a particular bus stop because there would be more buses there.”
Another option would be to straighten out the routes, the representative said. “Sometimes they do all this kind of spaghetti. Maybe the bus used to go straight, but someone built a school so they moved it here … Maybe it’s better to aim more for straight lines.”
MTA officials asked customers to use post-it stickers to vote for their priorities from a list of six. At Wednesday’s workshop, the winner appeared to be “Decreased waiting time/increased service frequency.”
The number two priority was “Bus stop improvements — shelters, benches, real-time arrival information. “Improved reliability” came in third, followed closely by “Decreased travel times — dedicated bus lanes, transit signal priority.” The fifth priority was “Reduced crowding,” and the lowest priority was “Improved reliability.”
Queens resident Jaime, who didn’t want to give her last name, said the workshop was a “very informative way for people to learn about what type of methods there are when it comes to transportation planning an design. I feel casual conversation can increase understanding sometimes.” Jaime is a grad student studying transportation at the Hunter College planning program.
Her fellow student Andrew W. agreed. “I like how open and conversational it seems,” he said. “They’re open to hearing feedback.”
But Brooklyn resident Lady Victoria Amoo, who works at the Fort Greene Family Support and Resources Center, said she didn’t like the options she saw on the posters.
“It’s a good idea to try to get input, but skipping the bus stops is not going to be helpful for many residents,” she said. “If they skip the bus stops, what happens to the seniors, or the handicapped or people who cannot walk long blocks? Or in the night when you come by yourself, and you have to walk five or six blocks … What happens in the nighttime, or when it’s raining?”
“It is sort of a divide between older and younger people,” an MTA official said. “The bus serves both purposes, especially in neighborhoods where the subway is not nearby, so a person who’s trying to get to a job quickly wants a fast and frequent bus and might be willing to walk 10 minutes to get there. But once that person is retired they might not want to walk so far, so it’s a little bit of a [balance].”
Alexis Sfikas, representing Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, said, “I think they lay out relatively clearly that there are a lot of tradeoffs, and we have to find the balance between those. I know people have different opinions about that, which is why it’s really important for us to be taking the survey.”
Sfikas said that more service is needed in areas with attractions like the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and Grand Army Plaza.
“Our office has been advocating for the return of the B71 or something that is an east-west connection between Red Hook/Gowanus and Crown Heights,” she said.
Sfikas added, “We should be getting additional information about operating costs, because obviously that’s what needs to happen. We need more operations funding to get more service.”
Readers suggested other ideas on Post-It notes:
- More stops in some areas, like the B54 Downtown
- Stops where there are connections to other bus routes nearby
- Stops near major destinations
- More bus service to the new Wegmans
- Distanced bus stops for the B63
- More availability on the B69
- Improve the scheduling for the B54, especially in the winter.
- Increase the reliability of the B17.
- Make a bus terminal just like Jackson Heights, so the buses can have connections to the four boroughs.
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