EXCLUSIVE: Express yourself! MTA wants select bus between Bushwick and Downtown

EXCLUSIVE: Express yourself! MTA wants select bus between Bushwick and Downtown
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Put me in coach!

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority hopes to create a so-called select bus service between Downtown and Bushwick in the next few years, state documents reveal — welcome news to straphangers along the route sick of zig-zagging between subway lines, who say they can already see themselves whizzing along the express route.

“I would take it — I would have no objections to a bus,” said Johanna McManus, who hits the G, A or C and F trains just to get from her home in Clinton Hill to her job in Dumbo. “It’s almost pleasant because you can look around, you have cellphone service, the whole shebang.”

The city is seeking federal funds for an estimated $9–$15-million project to create the speedy coach line from Jay and Tillary streets to Myrtle and Wyckoff avenues, according to the state Department of Transportation’s recently published list of proposed ventures through 2020 called the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

A transit authority spokesman claimed it is too early to say what streets the buses would take, but the main roads that run directly between the two nabes with enough lanes to accommodate the service are Flushing, Park, Myrtle, Lafayette, DeKalb, and Willoughby avenues.

But any of those would need to sacrifice a lane of traffic or parking and undergo other adjustments to accommodate a rapid new route.

Select bus services typically require dedicated lanes, some curb extensions at new stops, and often impose right-turn restrictions on cars at certain hours.

Removing parking spaces will be an especially tough sell to many residents along the route, according to one local leader — the city Department of Transportation recently shelved a plan to add a bike lane on Clinton Avenue after Clinton Hill residents railed against the loss of car-storage sites.

“Removing parking is the third rail of local politics, you saw that if you followed the Clinton Avenue bike lane,” said Community Board 2 district manager Rob Perris, who nevertheless thinks the service would be a boon to those living far from subway stops. “If they said they would remove parking from Franklin Avenue to Downtown for example, people would just howl.”

Business owners will probably need some convincing as well, according to one transit expert.

“They have to do retail outreach, but a lot come around to support it because they make the neighborhoods more viable, because it’s connected by transit,” said former city transportation department policy director Jon Orcutt, who now works at Transit Center, a foundation that advocates for public transit projects in the city.

The authority identified the need for a “bus rapid transit” system route between the nabes in a 2009 study, about a year after the first select bus hit the streets. At the time, people made around 56,000 bus trips between or within Bushwick and Downtown per day, of which 4,000 were “long and slow,” according to the report.

A trip from the Myrtle–Wyckoff station to Jay Street–MetroTech stop takes about a half hour on the M and F trains, which requires a trip across the East River and back again. A straight shot on Myrtle Avenue on the existing B54 bus during rush hour takes about 50 minutes, according to Google Maps.

The transit authority is also hoping to add another select service along Flatbush Avenue from Livingston Street Downtown to Avenue V in Marine Park, according to the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program documents.

There are already two of the speedy routes in Brooklyn right now — the B44 from Williamsburg to Sheepshead Bay, and the B46 from Bedford-Stuyvesant to Kings Plaza in Marine Park.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.