Eyes On The Street: Great B82 SBS Service Hurt by Cars, Golden, Felder

The start of the line.
The start of the line.

Southern Brooklyn politicians who favor private parking to public transit have succeeded — they’ve made the B82 SBS run far worse for tens of thousands of constituents.

The MTA and city Department of Transportation launched the limited-stop select bus route earlier this month, and it has resulted in shorter bus trips for riders — but those trips could have been even shorter had State Sen. Marty Golden, State Sen. Simcha Felder, Council Member Chaim Deutsch and others not intervened to deprive the route of more dedicated bus lanes.

As a result, the bus is constantly delayed by double- and illegally-parked cars and trucks along the commercial strip in the heart of its route: Kings Highway between Avenue P and Ocean Parkway.

But Felder — hailed as a hero in the pro-parking Jewish press — only sees the buses causing all the problems. In an Oct. 11 letter to New York City Transit President Andy Byford, he claimed his office has “been inundated with complaints about unmanageable gridlock” along the segment of the route near Nostrand Avenue (for the record, Streetsblog didn’t witness any “gridlock” during several round-trips this month on the B82 SBS. Reminder: Gridlock is entirely caused by drivers who enter intersections before there is room for them to get through said intersection).

B82 route
The route of the B82 SBS.

Rather, the only consistent problem along the route from Gravesend to Starrett City is that illegally parked cars and trucks — which the politicians enabled by refusing to create more dedicated bus lanes — ruin what could otherwise be efficient, speedy, comfortable bus service.

The Department of Transportation wanted to create 6.5 miles of dedicated bus lane, but capitulated to the pols and create just five miles. Agency spokeswoman Alana Morales said DOT thinks that “this give and take process over the course of two-plus years has overall led to a stronger plan.”

It has not.

The good news? The B82 SBS is a delight. Off-bus ticketing and all-door boarding, plus more dedicated lanes trim roughly 18 minutes off the full journey from Seaview Avenue to 24th Avenue. That’s 21 percent faster than Google Maps estimated for the journey on the standard B82.

The improvement is impressive, but it would be so much better if so many drivers didn’t illegally park on the commercial stretch of Kings Highway in the neighborhood many call Madison (but I consider Midwood).

Here are just some of the drivers who selfishly slowed down hundreds of bus riders:

double park best
More people would take the bus and abandon their cars if drivers were less selfish about blocking buses in the public right of way, as they do here on Kings Highway. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Here’s another:

This one was unbelievable. The driver of the black SUV actually stopped directly across from the Frito-Lay truck, leaving literally no room for anyone to pass.
This one was unbelievable. The driver of the black SUV actually stopped directly across from the Frito-Lay truck, leaving literally no room for anyone to pass.

All of this “gridlock” could have been avoided with bus lanes and proper parking enforcement. But politicians deferred to the tiny portion of the electorate that gets around in private cars (or, more likely, the shipowners who want to have a spot in front of their stores so they can feed the meter all day). For some reasons, voters don’t hold them accountable when they simply lie; indeed, the MTA/DOT proposal for the SBS revealed that 75 percent of weekday shoppers on Kings Highway arrive either by transit or on foot. Only 23 percent drove to the commercial area. So why defer to the needs of that car-owning minority?

This bus even smiles at you. Photo: Ben Jay
This bus even smiles at you. Photo: Ben Jay

Why not, instead, help people like Juvenal Gonzalez, a 22-year-old security guard who uses the new SBS to get from E. 1o5th Street to the B/Q station at Kings Highway.

“It gets me [to the subway] a lot faster because it skips so many stops,” he said, estimating that the SBS saves him 10 or 15 minutes.

 

If Felder wanted to help people like Gonzalez, he could refocus his attention on transit users, not the drivers who are getting in the way.

He hinted as much in that Oct. 11 letter to Byford, writing, “We ask you to take any, and all necessary steps to ease traffic flow.”

My guess, however, is that Felder meant “all necessary steps except for removing on-street car storage in favor of more dedicated bus lanes.” (Felder, as always, did not respond to a request for comment.)

With Ben Jay

  • Martin Samoylov

    It’s not just Felder though. In fact, the entire opposition started from Councilman Deutsch’s press release and then all the conservative Southern Brooklyn NIMBYs like Councilpeople Treyger, Yeger and Assemblypeople Hikind, Weinstein, Cymbrwitz and Colton jumped on it.

    Either way, B82 SBS is up and running thanks to the DOT and MTA. With articulated buses after the East New York bus depot redesign it’ll be even better. DOT and MTA shouldn’t be shied away by NIMBY politicians that represent the fringe misrepresentations of conservative and suburban car owners.

  • WhatWhat

    Imagine if Streetsblog had dedicated this much column inches to detailing the pain of the actual bus riders years ago when this route was first studied? Maybe that would have gone further than casting stones at local pols after the fact.

  • sbauman

    Gridlock is entirely caused by drivers who enter intersections before there is room for them to get through said intersection

    It’s possible to create gridlock without blocking intersections. If the roadways between intersections are completely occupied, no car can enter the intersection because there is no available room beyond the intersection.

  • John Brantson

    The DOT did actually do some work to streamline Kings Highway, by banning most left turns between Coney Island Avenue and Ocean Avenue. This means that people can no longer block the single traffic lane (in each direction) by waiting for an opportunity to turn left. I use the B82 several times a week in the area, and I will say, that even with the bus lane diet, bus speeds have definitely improved.

    In a caption, you assert that “More people would take the bus and abandon their cars if drivers were less selfish about blocking buses in the public right of way, as they do here on Kings Highway.”

    It’s cute optimism, I’ll give you that, but it is out of touch with reality. People in the neighborhood don’t necessarily drive to work (and if they work in Manhattan, it would be miserable). Maybe you don’t know the area very well, but I propose an exercise for you: go on Google Maps’ satellite view, and look for parking lots in southern Brooklyn. If a business has a parking lot, it’s more than likely that a portion of its patrons drive to it. The simple fact is that in many cases, transit is significantly less convenient than driving. Either transit doesn’t go where people want to go, or it takes much more time. And then there’s people who don’t work in Manhattan. Imagine living in southern Brooklyn and working in central New Jersey. Taking public transit for that commute would be an endless boondoggle of connections, and it would all take much longer than just driving.

    I expected more substance from this article, but it was your usual show of combining anecdotal evidence with old news and a bit of misinterpretation of politicians’ words. Disappointing, but unsurprising based on the vast majority of your posts here.

    Final note: I don’t own a car, but if I did, I would avoid driving on Kings Highway between Ocean Parkway and Ocean Avenue. It’s congested by trucks (you know that regular drivers also hate those double parked trucks as well, right?) as well as car service/Uber drivers who tend to make unsafe maneuvers. Save the headache and use Avenues P or R.

  • Jacob
  • sbauman

    75 percent of weekday shoppers on Kings Highway arrive either by transit or on foot. Only 23 percent drove to the commercial area. So why defer to the needs of that car-owning minority?

    Those who arrive by transit or on foot will buy only what they can carry. Shoppers arriving by car will load up the car and spend a lot more money.

  • sbauman

    Why not, instead, help people like Juvenal Gonzalez, a 22-year-old security guard who uses the new SBS to get from E. 1o5th Street to the B/Q station at Kings Highway.

    “It gets me [to the subway] a lot faster because it skips so many stops,” he said, estimating that the SBS saves him 10 or 15 minutes.

    According to Google Maps, the travel time for a bike ride between E 105th St and the B/Q Kings Highway Station takes between 28 and 33 minutes. It’s between 4.9 and 5.8 miles. It would take a few minutes less with a pedal assist bike.

    On an average weekday, B82 buses cover a total of 3430 miles. The per mile operating cost is $32.39 for an SBS bus. This comes to an average daily expense of $111K per day. The fare recovery rate is 31%. This means an operating subsidy of $76.6K per day. Compare that to what would be required for a ubiquitous bike share system.

  • Martin Samoylov

    I don’t think anyone who shops at those small shops on Kings Highway fills up their car with products. I’ve never seen anyone do that and it would be close to impossible as many if not most of those shops don’t even have shopping carts available. For someone to fill up a car from a store there needs to be a parking lot for that store and on Kings Highway that’s obviously non-existent. So no, I’d say people arriving by foot and transit spend around the same.

  • Martin Samoylov

    Bike lanes on Kings Highway, as nice as they’d be, might literally mean World War 3. Also a lot of people who use the B82 can’t just ride bikes, such as senior citizens.

  • Gersh Kuntzman

    Cute optimism and out of touch with reality is all I got! But seriously, there was a lot of substance in that story. It argues, successfully, that fewer cars would mean better bus service, which could mean more people using buses, which would be better for our city. Of course, that’s just my cute optimism talking!

  • kevd

    Seems like a lack of dedicated (or enforced) commercial loading zones is a big problem.

  • kevd

    No argument against expanded bike share and lanes from me – but with better bus lanes we’d have shorter travel times and increased ridership so that fare recovery rate would climb. Decent lock up areas with camera monitoring could also help Juvenal ride to the B/Q and feel confident his bike would be there when he returned.

  • John Brantson

    Your problem, Gersh, is that you don’t see anything beyond “cars are bad and make buses slower”. In the top picture you showed of “selfish cars blocking buses”, the cars aren’t even the problem. It is quite clearly visible that the real issue is the trucks double parking in the travel lane to make their deliveries. Trucks double park on the street much more than cars, although all double parking is bad for traffic flow.

    You argued nearly nothing successfully. If you intend to write more articles on the subject, I suggest you stop embarrassing yourself and the blog, and actually look into what could be done to improve bus service, without implementing bus lanes that aren’t coming back from their rejection. As a starting point, I’d suggest an exploration of the legality of truck double parking, and maybe what could be done to curtail it.

  • Gersh Kuntzman

    I am exploring all of those things, but journalism isn’t always fast. I’m happy that my “problem” is that I object to cars and trucks getting in the way of buses. Remember that song, “If Loving You is Wrong I Don’t Want to Be Right?” Well, if hating cars and trucks that block bus lanes is wrong, I don’t want to be right!

  • Gersh Kuntzman

    Thank you, Jacob.

  • neroden

    Well, we won’t have to worry about Golden any more! He lost the election!

    Felder, unfortunately… yeesh. Hopefully he will be ignored now that Democrats have an 8-seat majority.

  • neroden

    There’s always someone heading for a parking lot or driveway or New Jersey; eventually the traffic jam resolves if the intersections aren’t blocked.

  • neroden

    Yeah, the other opposition is what you have to look at now. Golden’s out and Felder’s in the doghouse… the others are still around.

  • sbauman

    eventually the traffic jam resolves if the intersections aren’t blocked.

    The question is how long that will take.

    I escaped the traffic jam the enveloped Boston back in December 1963. I was lucky because I took the trolley home. It had its own private right of way. I did not realize anything was amiss until I listened to the 11 pm news. If human nature has not changed in the intervening years, the traffic jam won’t dissipate until the next morning.

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