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.