City Receives Federal Funding for Full Nostrand Avenue Select Bus Route

The SBS stop coming to the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Empire Boulevard. Image: NYC DOT

The first Select Bus Service route in Brooklyn is on track to start speeding bus trips next year, after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced yesterday afternoon that the project has secured a $28 million federal grant.

The B44 route on Nostrand, Rogers, and Bedford Avenues, which runs between Sheepshead Bay and Williamsburg, is one of NYC’s most used but least reliable bus lines. Plagued by bus bunching, the B44 took home the Straphangers Campaign’s “Schleppie Award” in 2009 and consistently ranks as Brooklyn’s most unreliable route. After it’s converted to Select Bus Service, the B44 will feature off-board fare collection, dedicated bus lanes along most of the corridor, and 12 bus bulbs to improve speeds and cut down on the amount of time buses spend standing still.

The B44 links Brooklyn residents to Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn College, Kings County Hospital, and SUNY Downstate Hospital, as well as several subway lines. Weekday ridership currently stands at about 44,000 passengers. Not only will they see faster, more reliable service, but the improvements should attract more riders. Following SBS upgrades in Manhattan and the Bronx, more passengers started riding those routes, cutting against a citywide trend of declining bus ridership.

“I think everyone who saw Sandy from near or afar recognized the critical role buses played once the subway system went down, underscoring the value of these types of investments in our transportation infrastructure,” Sadik-Khan said in a press statement. “SBS continues to bring enhanced service to densely populated areas in need of transportation enhancements.”

NYC DOT and the MTA have worked a long time to bring Nostrand SBS to fruition, having held the first public meeting about the project three years ago. Support from elected officials has come very far since then. While Democratic politicians were aligning themselves with merchants who opposed the project back in 2009, yesterday’s announcement was heralded by a big roster of local electeds, including City Council members Letitia James and Steve Levin.

The Nostrand corridor will be the final route in NYC’s first round of SBS projects. Previous SBS upgrades have cut travel times and attracted new bus riders on Fordham Road in the Bronx, 34th Street and First and Second Avenues in Manhattan, and Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island. NYC DOT and the MTA have a second batch in the pipeline, including bus routes to LaGuardia Airport, on Webster Avenue in the Bronx, and on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, which are in various phases of development.

Nostrand SBS was initially selected for funding in the Federal Transit Administration’s 2011 budget. Yesterday’s agreement actually puts the money in the city’s hands. The FTA grant covers 71 percent of the cost to build the entire 9.3-mile Nostrand SBS upgrade, with the remainder coming from state, city, and MTA funds. According to DOT’s announcement, construction will start this year and SBS service will launch in fall 2013.

  • Anonymous

    Great news! The B44 as it currently runs is the bunchiest of bus lines.  It’s like the drivers are afraid to drive separately through those *scary* neighborhoods.

    This could go a long way toward making north-south trips in Brooklyn genuinely convenient. Right now, without a bike, you’re screwed.

  • AlexB

    Great news, but it never ceases to amaze me how long this process can take.  Shouldn’t we be able to roll these routes out in a matter of months instead of years?  

  • Anonymous

    Where are you supposed to ride your bike on a street like this? I can imagine one cop giving you a ticket for riding on the bus-only lane, and another (or even the same!) cop giving you a ticket for not riding in it because they think you should ride on the far right… 🙂

    The car lane is not wide enough for a bike to ride side-by-side with the cars, which means that the only option that is legal and safe is to ride in the center of the car lane (“take the lane”).

  • Joe R.

    @qrt145:disqus I would personally avoid a street like that altogether in favor of a parallel street. If I absolutely had to ride there, I would probably ride on the far left, more or less along the line demarcating the traffic lane and parking lane. Or I would take the lane if traffic wasn’t moving that fast (it likely wouldn’t be on a narrow street like this).

  • kevd

    Shouldn’t someone on here be calling this a “commuter bus” and saying that if it isn’t LRT it’s useless?

    Nostrand is HORRIBLE to ride on as it is.
    I can’t imagine this (or anything else) making it any worse.Bedford Ave with its north-south bike lane is 2 (long) blocks away.
    The East ## Streets are much better to ride on a bit south of there, too.

    Avoid Nostrand on a bike at all costs. 

  • Tolani Adeboye

    As someone who lives right off Nostrand Ave and buses and bikes, I think this is great news. It’ll be tough for cyclists though as it affects both Nostrand Ave (southbound) and Bedford Ave (northbound). 

  • kevd

    It will only affect Bedford north of Dean. South of Dean SBS will run on Rogers all the way south to the Junction. The two-way Bedford bike lanes from Sheepshead bay to Dean St. will be unaffected.

    North of Dean St. on Bedford, the bike lane will not be affected because Bedford is so darn wide and buses will run in mixed traffic until Fulton (or there abouts)

  • Anonymous

    Much of the northbound part of this route is on Rogers, not Bedford.

    Rogers is irredeemably awful for bikes–a speedway, not a road. But the parts of Bedford that will have SBS can only be helped by further constricting the traffic. And I imagine that putting in this lane will require a significant reduction in the 20:1 ratio of potholes to pavement that is Nostrand.

    So I actually think this will make biking these routes somewhat better. Nothing like the improvement I expect the 44,000 people who ride that bus every day will enjoy, but still. 

  • Ian Turner

    @qrt145:disqus : There is an exception carved out in the bus lane rules for “devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks”. So there you go.

  • Anonymous

    @7c177865bd107a919938355fe93de93a:disqus : thank you–I wasn’t aware of this exception.

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