Bunch of bull: MTA scheme to prevent ‘bunching’ along B54 by eliminating buses fails

Business advocates stand up to MTA over Bed-Stuy transit cuts
Photo by Kevin Duggan

A scheme hatched by transit officials to improve service along the B54 bus route by removing buses has not resulted in any tangible benefits, according to straphangers, who say they’re still enduring long waits and that buses continue to stumble into the route’s Jay Street terminus all bunched together.

“At Jay Street-MetroTech, there will be like three B54 buses and all the bus drivers… will take a break,” said one attendee of a Sept. 4 town hall hosted by Assemblyman Walter Mosley (D–Clinton Hill) regarding cuts to the B54 and B38 bus routes. “Someone said they waited 40 minutes the other day!”

Transit officials eliminated buses that formerly serviced the B54’s Myrtle Avenue route earlier this week, saying that, while riders may experience slightly longer waits, they could expect more reliable service, as buses would be more likely to arrive at stops on time and that issues such as bunching — a phenomenon where long delays are followed by several buses arriving one after the other — would be less likely to occur.

Of course, the real reason for the cuts to the B54 and 22 other bus routes throughout the city was to shave $7 million off the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s operating budget, and when locals complained that the silver lining officials had promised didn’t materialize, a rep for the Authority simply blamed Kings County traffic.

“The fact is that our buses run on busy city streets — our buses are subject to traffic that everybody else is subject to,” said Andrew Inglesby, Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations at MTA.

Commuters were invited to fill out question cards ahead of the meeting, and one disgruntled straphanger claimed that the MTA provides so-called “on-site dispatchers” to manage bus traffic along the Queens side of the route, but that the B54’s bustling Downtown side doesn’t benefit from the extra help, and locals weren’t thrilled by the revelation.

“Why would you have to call someone to Jay Street if there’s an issue — there’s always an issue at Jay Street,” said Clinton Hill resident Cheryl Edmead.

Another Transit Authority rep admitted to the snafu, and blamed the uneven distribution of dispatchers on ongoing union negotiations.

“That has to do with unions, to have dispatchers at both ends” said Patrick Pitts. “That has to do with a union issue and also availability.”

A spokesman for the union representing the agency’s dispatchers, the Subway Surface Supervisors Association, did not return a request for comment by press time.

Inglesby said the agency would consider providing additional staff to the Downtown area to get the buses rolling faster.

“We will can see what we can do to at least have more crews there,” he said.

He added that any issues with the B54 or any other Kings County route will be addressed by the agency’s upcoming year-long overhaul of the borough’s bus system, which is slated to kick off this fall.

And all borough bus routes are set to benefit from a new command center opening soon near the agency’s East New York bus depot, according to one Authority honcho.

“We are in the process of finalizing plans to open our new command center located in East New York, which will bring to us all kinds of tools that we can have at our disposal to help manage service and help reduce bunching,” said Mark Holmes, chief officer of the MTA’s Department of Buses. “Our road operations team right now has some of these tools at their disposal and we are doing our best to manage bunching.”

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kdugg[email protected]glocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Dozens of transit riders slammed the cuts to the B54 and B38 routes, with one saying that the agency needed to send more dispatchers to help buses navigate the busy streets in America's Downtown.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

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