Mass transit became mass confusion on Monday, as the most severe service cuts to the city’s transit system in 30 years took hold in Brooklyn, where 26 bus lines were restructured or eliminated, a subway line vanished, and service became slower and more crowded.
Riders across the borough endured 90-degree heat as they made a sweaty trudge to new bus stops, where they deciphered new maps, grew frustrated by outdated information, and ultimately threw caution to the wind.
“I’ll take the B61, and hopefully it will work — but I’m not really sure where it goes,” admitted Richard Isaacson, a Park Slope resident who would normally hop on the B71 or B75 at Smith and Ninth streets, but can’t anymore because the two lines were eliminated in an effort by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to close an alleged $800-million budget shortfall.
In Bay Ridge, Linda Burns tried to make sense of the changes.
“They say the reason that this change occurred is because a lot of people in Bay Ridge are upper class and are able to afford cars,” she said. “I personally don’t understand why this is all happening at once. I mean why is it aimed specifically at the groups who are seniors and disabled?”
In Williamsburg, former bus-riders became neophyte straphangers.
With the elimination of the B39, riders like Danny Bruno and his 6-month-old daughter Amena are now forced to take the J train at Marcy Avenue to get to Manhattan.
“It’s terrible to have to take a baby on the subway, with all the stairs and the rude people,” he said. “It’s much easier to take the bus. Now, when I get to Delancey Street, we have to go down stairs, then back upstairs.”
Even those who weren’t taking mass transit blasted the cuts.
The B64 bus used to stop right outside Vinny Galbo’s Bath Beach bakery on Harway Avenue and Bay 50th Street. But service south of 25th Avenue was cut, leaving Galbo without customers — and with a new job.
“I have to go outside every five minutes and tell people that there is no longer a bus stopping here,” he said. It’s like another job all in itself.”
It’s also disappointing considering that all these people paid their taxes, all for what? They deserve everything back the way it was.”
Transit employees tried to help travelers make sense of the changes. “It will be hard for people to break their habits,” said a worker, who declined to give her name as she fielded questions from perplexed commuters at the Smith-Ninth Street F-train station in Carroll Gardens.
“I keep telling people about the changes [to Red Hook’s B77, which was eliminated], but then they ask about where to get on the B77 on their way back — when it’s not there any more!”
Gene Russianoff, staff attorney with the Straphanger’s Campaign, a rider’s advocacy group, said staffers scoured the streets and confirmed the confusion firsthand, with poles displaying extinct or outdated route information, and guide-a-rides stating that a bus was being replaced by another line — but giving no details about its replacement.
“It wasn’t the burning of Atlanta in ‘Gone with the Wind,’ Russianoff said. “It was more like mass confusion that people coped with.”
New York City Transit, the MTA-overseen agency that operates buses and subways, acknowledged the confusion, and admitted that it still had to update bus route information and schedules, and remove outdated bus stops.
“We have several thousand stops to get to in order to change all the guide-a-rides,” the agency said in a statement.
Elected officials said they still plan to have the cuts overturned.
State Sen. Martin Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) filed a lawsuit last week in State Supreme Court, alleging that the cuts unfairly hurt seniors and disabled residents who rely on the routes.
“They’ve essentially cut seniors and the disabled off from Manhattan, and access to Manhattan isn’t negotiable or expendable,” Gentile said.
Assemblyman William Colton (D-Bensonhurst) blamed the agency’s bookkeepers for commuter woes. “The problem is the MTA has a mountain of waste and they simply can’t control their spending,” he said.
In total, the MTA said the cuts will save it $100 million.
— with Steven Goodstein and Ben Kochman
For a detailed explanation of the changes, go to www.mta.info and click on NYC Transit and click on the “plan ahead” special service notice.