With Select Bus Service speeding trips and boosting ridership on Fordham Road and First and Second Avenue, the next route slated for an upgrade is Brooklyn’s Nostrand Avenue. The B44 bus runs over nine miles from the Williamsburg Bridge to Sheepshead Bay. It attracts 41,000 riders a day, making it the seventh busiest route in the city, despite running at an average speed or seven or eight miles per hour and having the least reliable service in the borough. Last night, the Department of Transportation and MTA held an open house to present an updated design for the corridor [PDF], one of the final revisions before construction begins next year.
Nostrand Avenue SBS will, as in the Bronx and Manhattan, create dedicated bus lanes enforced by automated cameras and use high-capacity buses and off-board fare payment. With fewer stops, the bus will also spend more time in motion and less time starting and stopping.
The Nostrand project will add another new feature: bus bulbs. By extending the sidewalk out to the street, bus bulbs mean that drivers don’t have to pull to the curb and back into the lane, resulting in a smoother and speedier ride. A raised curb means more level boarding onto the bus, advantageous for the elderly and the mobility-impaired. The extra space also means that the bus stop won’t crowd the sidewalk.
DOT and the MTA made a few revisions to the plan under the new design. A station was added at Avenue D/Newkirk Avenue in response to community requests. Bus lanes were removed on Bedford Avenue between Fulton and DeKalb — the agencies said bus speeds were already high there but the bus lane would have interfered with the bike lane — but lanes were added to a congested section of Nostrand between Farragut Road and Avenue I.
In order to preserve the same number of motor vehicle lanes during rush hour, where a bus lane is being installed DOT proposes turning the left parking lane into a through lane during the morning and evening peaks. This shouldn’t have too much of an impact on local merchants. At Nostrand and Empire Boulevard, only 14 percent of shoppers had driven to the area (and not all had parked on Nostrand). Further south, at Glenwood Road, only 13 percent of shoppers had arrived in a car.
Moreover, there’s a lot of room to add parking in other ways. On much of Nostrand and its cross streets, parking is currently free. The installation of meters will encourage drivers to move on once done shopping, freeing up space for others. The use of Muni-Meters will also allow more vehicles to park in the same area. Finally, loading zones and delivery windows will ensure that trucks have space at the curb rather than being forced to resort to double-parking. DOT’s presentation didn’t do the math, but it’s possible the neighborhood could actually gain parking capacity despite the rush hour restrictions.
Community boards will continue to weigh in through next week. If the plan goes forward, Select Bus Service will be up and operating on Nostrand Avenue next fall.