Controversial service changes coming to Brooklyn’s busiest bus route

Controversial service changes coming to Brooklyn’s busiest bus route
Photo by Elissa Esher

Transit honchos are applying a similar suite of controversial service cuts that drew protests from B38 straphangers to the busiest bus route in Brooklyn.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will run less buses along the B46 route’s Select Bus Service from Williamsburg to Mill Basin starting January 2020, which will lead to $2.4 million in savings for the agency, while forcing commuters to wait an extra one to three minutes between buses, according to a release by the agency.

The sting of reducing the overall amount of buses from the line will be tempered by the addition of new longer buses that will increase capacity from 85 to 115 riders, which an agency spokeswoman claims will result in a net positive for straphangers.

“When we’re running longer buses, buses with more people on it per bus, then you’re increasing capacity,” said Amanda Kwan.

The agency announced the cuts the same day that advocates rallied in Downtown Brooklyn against service reductions to the B38 and B54, of which, the former was also affected by a nearly identical cost-saving scheme, with less, but longer buses.

Transit officials claimed the new less-is-more strategy would enhance reliability along the route, ensuring drivers hit their marks and made stops on time, but riders claimed that delays and issues such as bunching continued to plagued the B38 following service changes.

“I’ve waited for more than 40 minutes for the buses to arrive, just to have three of them come together at the same bus stop,” said Pedro Valdez-Rivera, a B38 rider, who joined Thursday’s protest.

The B46 and its express bus line represent the busiest bus route in the borough and the third-busiest citywide, carrying more than 38,000 riders a day from Williamsburg to Kings Plaza in Mill Basin, through Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, and Flatlands along the transit-starved Utica Avenue corridor.

The B46 SBS currently has a mix of both shorter and longer buses, and Transit Authority figures show that buses routinely arrive at stops over capacity, with buses being 108-percent full during morning rush hours on weekdays and 121-percent full on Saturday midday.

Meanwhile, the agency plans to spend $5 million under its recently announced capital plan to study an extension of the subway along Utica Avenue, either from Fulton Street’s A and C stop or the Eastern Parkway 3 and 4 stops, according to The City.

But commuters are having a hard time accepting the good with the bad, with one Crown Heights woman saying transit officials went over the community’s head.

“I’m past frustrated, I’m angry,” said Mary Gibbs. “They never asked the community about this. Nobody at the MTA asked us what we wanted to do with our own line.”

Another rider said that local residents already suffered from living in the transit-starved area and that the cuts will lengthen his commute.

“We already have so little public transportation here,” said Freddy Williams, also from Crown Heights. “It’s just messed up. I take the line every single day. If there are less buses I’ll have to leave earlier in the morning.”

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Crown Heights straphanger Mary Gibbs was not impressed by the transit agency’s move, saying the Authority went over the community’s heads.
Photo by Elissa Esher