Eyes on the Street: Ikea Shuttles Tearing Through Brooklyn ‘Hoods

A pair of Ikea buses clog Clinton St. in Cobble Hill.

A tipster sends along a disturbing Red Hook Ikea traffic update.

The residents of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens are going nuts about the Ikea buses that have decided against Hicks and gone with Clinton as a route. The buses, every hour on the hour, seem to be trying to beat out Bonneville Salt Flats-type speed records, and [Tuesday] morning, due to construction, there was even an Ikea bus jam.

Streetsblog followed up with Ikea, but the rep we spoke with could only say that the shuttle buses are free, and that they originate from Fourth Avenue at 9th Street and the Court St.-Borough Hall station. Ridership numbers were not available.

Considering the impact on Red Hook and surrounding neighborhoods from its shuttle buses and ocean of on-site parking, it seems the flat-pack retailer could use some assistance in the public relations department. Our tipster wonders if the shuttles might be available for general use, which could be a start.

  • steve

    Anyone can take the shuttles; you don’t have to prove that you are going to shop at IKEA and you don’t have to show a receipt to get back on the bus. So, if you wanted to you could use these buses to get to Red Hook to go to the waterfront park, Fairway, etc.

    Yeah, the buses should slow down if they are speeding, but having these buses eliminates a lot of car trips that people might make to the store. (Zipcar, rentals, etc.) I’m sure it’s not great to have a bus come down your street all the time, but it sure beats dozens and dozens of extra cars.

  • I should point out that the gist of our tipster’s e-mail was not to object to the buses per se, but how they were making their presence felt — speeding, jamming up the street (as in the photo), etc.

  • steve

    Oh exactly, but imagine how much the cars that people would be driving would be jamming up the streets. They shouldn’t speed, but given that anyone can take them and that they eliminate car trips, I think it’s a net positive over the alternative.

  • Steve, and Ikea, eliminating car trips does not offset the safety threat posed by speeding buses.

    Eliminating car trips is good.

    But speeding buses is an entirely different subject, and if the Ikea buses really are speeding, I hope Ikea catches some real hell to pay for it before some neighborhood family does.

  • v

    i second steve. the ikea buses end up providing much-needed transportation to/from red hook, as kind of sad as that may be. ppl in elizabeth nj routinely use the ikea buses there to get into the city.

    yeah, they’re big, but buses are big and stuff. i only wish mta buses were so numerous in my hood.

  • I live in cobble hill, a few houses in from Clinton St where that photo looks like it’s from. I haven’t really noticed anything different than normal. Mostly people are double parked and cabs pull over into the bike line, especially during the morning commute. That’s a pain, but this Ikea launch seems like it’s way overblown from where I’m living. If there’s a traffic impact I haven’t seen it yet.

  • gecko

    #6 Will Schenk, Agree that the Ikea thing seems overblown but:

    A bunch of pedicabs might be a nice experiment.

    The buses are huge vehicles and are they really required?

    There are a lot of delivery people in the area and some type of innovative ad hoc collablorative arrangement (possibly even with Fairway) using cells might keep costs low and provide a good “quaint” service and extra local income with minimum environmental impact on the neighborhoods.

    The increased business activity might even provide enough business incentive for a number of private pedicabs to service the area rather than Manhattan perhaps, with partial local sponsorship to take the edge off.

  • i too live in cobble hill, live on clinton street in the picture, and haven’t noticed a difference, though i’m not usually there during daytime hours when buses would be busiest. as for everyone above, i agree buses are a much better form of transportation than cars but the issue really is that if there is heavy bus traffic, it should be directed to the wider, more sparsely populated hicks street two block parallel to clinton. for some reason clinton is still designated a truck route but it is most definitely a residential street, with two sides of car parking, a bike lane, and baby strollers everywhere. i welcome buses, but think they belong on the wider streets that can easily accommodate them.

  • I love the idea of free pedicabs!

  • David

    I’m noticing a lot of these buses rolling down 5th Ave in Park Slope during the weekends.

    They mostly appear to be empty.

    They are far too big for their stated purpose.

    They are clogging up traffic and reducing visibility on the street.

    Most of all: It is intimidating to walk and bike with buses this big on the street. I essentially had to pull off the bike lane to let one of these pass. I didn’t want to be anywhere near it.

    IKEA should use smaller shuttle buses. There is no need for these massive tour bus things on local streets.

  • Geck

    For what it is worth, I rode my bike into Red Hook on Sunday along with my wife and son to go to Circus Sundays on the barge near Fairway. Traffic was definitely backed up on some of the street (presumably the advertised route to Ikea) but not bad on others in the Western end (the “Back” as the locals used to call it).

  • The buses are a bit silly and HUGE. I was in the area yesterday doing work on the Red Hook Bike Master Plan comp. Pedicabs and cargo bikes are going to be worked into the bike garage as well as the entire bike network for sure in my plan. The buses are def a bit overkill but proove the point that MTA really needs to address the lack of transit in this area.

  • David Y

    The buses could easily use Atlantic – Columbia – Van Brunt route. This is much more suited to the size of the buses.

  • Stacy

    The real problem in this photo is that truck blocking the bike lane.

  • Curious

    I was there on Sunday and the traffic went from IKEA all the way down Bay Street passed the Red Hook pool, past the soccer fields and up Court Street almost meeting the BQE.

  • I’m with Stacy – is the white bus on the left also an Ikea bus?

  • Jen

    I saw several busses on 4th Ave this weekend too. While I think the shuttles are certainly a good idea, especially if you plan on shopping for smaller items like kitchen knicknacks or towels, I still don’t understand how I’ll get a couch home without borrowing a van.

  • d

    They have a delivery service. $79 for something like a couch anywhere in Brooklyn. You can also rent a van on site through a thrid party company. Not sure how much that costs.

  • Albert Ahronheim

    Has there been an actual count of how many people (Ikea customers or others) actually ride these hourly buses, as evidence that these particular buses are or are not a practical transportation solution?

    It all reminds me of the Huge-But-Usually-Totally-Empty faux “trolley” bus that lumbers its noisy way around the east side of the Central Park loop, even during ostensibly “car-free” hours, shuttling the occasional diner to the Boathouse Restaurant (or usually just its driver). The seemingly-well-meaning owner of that establishment once made a decent case to me for the need of some kind of transportation to the restaurant, but he failed to explain why an aircraft carrier was needed where a small sailboat might suffice.

    With pedicab owners longing for the right to make their non-polluting living, there’s every reason for Ikea, Fairway and the Boathouse Restaurant to provide their customers free pedicabs in these commercial uses of public areas, instead of the overkill of buses. If I wanted to shop at Ikea or Fairway I’d certainly rather get there “now” in a pedicab than have to wait an hour for a bus.

  • I too, saw what Curious saw, that street where the Carts used to be was clogged and stopped. I had just come home from a trip to Amsterdam, Dusseldorf and Copenhagen, seeing such an avoidable back up, on a gorgeous day, was culture shock enough. And by avoidable I mean, don’t put Ikea out on a back road peninsula. When Fairway opened, traffic def increased, Sunday Red Hook looked like the approaches to the Lincoln Tunnel, except through baseball fields and picnicking families. I have my own solution, I live 15 blocks away- I won’t shop there.

  • d

    The buses were full – packed even – on the weekend. My guess is that IKEA has the big buses to accommodate its weekend riders but that the buses operate at less than capacity during the slower weekdays.

    It’s no different than the giant buses that the MTA operates across major cross streets (23rd Street, 14th, etc.). At off hours, its not unusual to have fewer than 10 people on them, but at peak times they are crowded. Same thing with the subways.

    If it made more economical and environmental sense to operate different types of buses at different times to accommodate different ridership levels, I’m sure a business such as IKEA would do it.

  • Stacy

    IKea only offers free shuttle busses between Port Authority an their Elizabeth store on weekends. Once the newness of Ikea Brooklyn has worn off, and they realize they’re paying to run empty busses, they’ll probably cut back on the shuttle service.

  • squeakywheel

    Yes, and then they will be pilloried for going back on their commitment to provide improved transportation to the area. The IKEA buses should not be speeding or blocking bike lanes, and it’s certainly annoying to live along a bus route (I say this from experience), but surely these buses represent a big gain in public transportation to Red Hook.

    (d: excellent point about half-empty MTA buses and subway cars. i don’t see any difference here.)

  • ClintonSt

    There appear to be several different carriers, esp for the Borough Hall route. Some drive nice black buses, these travel Hicks St > Atlantic Ave, which makes sense. Then there are also the older white and black buses that spew tons of smog – they travel up Clinton.

  • Philip

    Aren’t there other less corporate intensive furniture stores in Brooklyn? I know of a Mom & Pop store on Columbia Street around Union or President. . . Most people I’ve read on this and other local blogs make IKEA sound better than the second coming. . . “what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

    Heh heh heh

  • Dave

    Please – this is just such nonsense I feel stupid for even commenting. I have taken the bus 4x now – as you can use it even if your not an Ikea shopper. 1st of all the busses are crowded EVERYday and are therefore surely replacing car trips. Second these busses arent speeding – seriously how could they – look at the size of them and think of the streets we are talking about – it not only isnt happening (from 1st hand experience) – it is also impossible. And lastly the busses are every 15mins – not every hour. People complain about everything

  • DK

    The traffic in Red Hook will come to a standstill this weekend. School is out and the Pool is open. The vendors return to the ballfields. And the DOT has decided to close the Hamilton bridge this summer for repairs from 6/28 to 8/30 — STAY AWAY FROM RED HOOK ON SUMMER WEEKENDS! Let’s hope some pedestrian doesn’t get run over by a lost driver trying to find a short cut to the BQE

  • Stacy

    Maybe Ikea should provide hybrid busses that are more in keeping with the Green image they like to project.

  • Matt

    As a retailer on Court St. I did notice the Ikea shuttles zooming down the avenue and could only wonder will any of those people ever venture down Court Street to shop truely locally. Sitting in my store on a Sat (one of the busier days of the week) watching the parade go by.

  • paulb

    I agree with d–these over-the-road buses are the wrong rolling stock for the job. But I suppose that’s what’s available for charter.

  • Some of the Ikeas are now offering shared danish cargo bicycles with trailers to take goods home in – why not pressure the NYC location to follow in their footsteps?


    Update – “The first IKEA in Copenhagen to loan out the bikes is in Gentofte, north of the city. Since the programme started, IKEA reps from Sweden, Germany and China have flown in to visit the Gentofte store and to see the Velorbis bikes and trailers in action.”


  • combustiblegirl

    I live in Red Hook and when were leaving the neighborhood last Saturday to go to Prospect Park we were nearly run off the road by one of the shuttle buses going to Smith and 9th. (I’m not exaggerating, either.) The bus (and others we saw later) were traveling way to fast for those roads and were driving recklessly and aggressively. All I kept thinking is, this is a bike route! I would not want to ride my bike along this part of the proposed greenway path. Also for those who suggest the buses take Van Brunt, that’s the route for the MTA, and they’re trying to divvy up the traffic onslaught. Van Brunt would also grind to a halt if all traffic were directed down there as well. The reality is that these buses are too big and the drivers at the moment are driving irresponsibly and dangerously. And where is the police department to keep this in check. (Ha!) I called IKEA to let them know what happened. They of course transfered my call to a central office and kept me on hold for 20 minutes before taking down the details and the bus number. Something has to be done to mitigate the threat here. Keeping more cars off the road is good, but not if what replaces them is a hazard.

  • susponyc

    I live on Columbia Street. We have had the B61 for years and that causes havoc, but at least most drivers are respectful of the residential neighborhood. We have IKEA shuttles TEARING down Columbia Street too. It is terrible., Why don’t they use VAN BRUNT, north of the tunnel which is a proper truck route, COlumbia Street, aside from MTA is for local traffic only. I think that we need to get a neighborhood group to meet with the 76th. Does another person have to die before something is done about Red Hook traffic?

  • According to Ikea, the shuttle buses that serve the location are outsourced. The company they use is called Corporate Express.

  • arv

    I was on Clinton the other day and it wasn’t hard to notice these huge buses hauling ass down a pretty narrow street.

  • J. Mork

    dd: yeah, and the guys who broke into the Watergate Hotel were outsourced too….

  • jooltman

    These buses are WAY too big. And didn’t IKEA promise to use hybrid buses? That’s what Bill deBlasio’s office told me. Well, these charter buses are not hybrid and they stink. I’ve also seen mostly empty buses. IKEA talks a good game about “striving to prevent the negative environmental impact of business” when they are trying to sell “green” products to people. What about their own business practices in our neighborhood? Yuck.

  • gecko

    These huge buses are hysterical.

    Ikea should be embarrassed enough to do a lot better.

  • gecko

    UPS (United Parcel Service) started as Macy’s freight and delivery service so, would it be too much of a stretch for UPCS (United PediCab Service) originate from Ikea’s flagship store; other HPVs (human-powered vehicles) as well?

  • Jonathan

    If you look at the Ikea web site, you will see that the shuttle bus route goes down Columbia, not Clinton Street. The point is not only the speed and the congestion on a residential street, but they are not following their own proper route down a street where buses already run.

  • Attendee

    For the record, UPS started out delivering (opiate) drugs from pharmacies to customers in Seattle.

  • gecko

    #41 Attendee, Thanks for the correction. Was probably told this years ago by someone working at Macy’s and believed it ever since. The history describing the possible connection:


    “1930 – 1952
    In 1930 UPS extended its reach to the East Coast when it began consolidating the deliveries of several large department stores in New York City and Newark, New Jersey. However, trends during the 1940s and 1950s prompted UPS to redefine itself. During World War II, fuel and rubber shortages influenced retail stores to curtail delivery services and to encourage customers to carry their packages home. Nonetheless, UPS still continued to grow.”

  • gecko

    Follow-up on UPS: “During World War II, fuel and rubber shortages influenced retail stores to curtail delivery services and to encourage customers to carry their packages home.”

    “Millions depend on UPS. Step inside the largest package delivery company on the planet, delivering 4 billion packages a year.”

    Further removing cars and trucks from the streets, major package sorting facilities situated along the East River and much broader use of the city’s extensive waterfront might serve as the genesis of one vision for reinventing freight delivery in New York City based UPS’ Worldport (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worldport) and profiled in National Georgraphic’s series “Ultimate Factories” series in the episode on UPS.


  • At least the Elizabeth IKEA uses one designated company, Academy, for its shuttles. What the NYCDOT (and IKEA) need to do is establish specific routes for motorcoaches to get to IKEA, specifically involving the Gowanus and Court Street (alternately via Van Brunt), and designate one operator for its services following a specific route that is best for all parties involved, and close the streets, especially Clinton, Henry, and Hicks, which were never designed to handle 45′ buses, to all buses except school buses and franchised buses. (a No Vehicles over 33′ except Local Deliveries and Authorized Buses sign would do). This is one case where buses are NOT desirable.

  • To Jooltman…IKEA should have thought about what they said…as I’m not sure of a private operator around NYC that owns hybrid buses, and they knew (or should have known) that they could not keep this promise.

    Oh, and those buses are not on their designated route, which requires the use of Van Brunt Street.

  • Ed

    Even if they just did it for the P.R. value, these buses should be compact electric hybrids, and we all know they should have bike racks on the front:

    Portland: http://outdoors.mainetoday.com/trailhead/Bike%20n%20Bus%2007.JPG
    Kansas City: http://transit.metrokc.gov/up/archives/2003/032003-hybrid.jpeg
    San Francisco: http://i160.photobucket.com/albums/t175/jcwinni/304649_465041_381_470_MUNI__large_I.jpg

  • gecko

    For whatever it is worth in Red Hook, there are many lots filled with buses (perhaps in the hundreds) that go out every day that have nothing to do with Ikea.

    Luckily, in recent years the idling law has been enforced and the bus companies seem to be in compliance.

  • Lee

    I was thinking the same thing. Why not pedicabs? In other countries Ikea provides cargo bicycles as rentals (made by Velorbis) for hauling flat-packs home and back. I know they do an e-trike and various other solutions. Perhaps they could lend Ikea a hand here in NYC.


    “We want to work closely with corporations to encourage cycling initiatives and healthy lifestyles for employers and employees – stress free travel for city professionals. As we all know; a healthy body equals a healthy, motivated mind.

    Your company can purchase a fleet of bicycles for your employees to use on a first come, first served basis. This option could allow your company to provide unique and convenient transportation options for your employees – bicycles could be used to travel from the station to work and from the station to home, effectively reducing stressful journey times. Corporate bicycles could also be used as innovative promotional gifts for Company customers and suppliers.

    An available bicycle fleet can be viewed as a goodwill gesture with the cost fully tax deductible for your company. “

  • Mel

    Just a silly little response to Ed’s comment on bus racks. The bus labeled as Kansas City is actually a Seattle bus (KC= King County)


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