New dedicated-lane bus lowers commute times, raises commuter hackles

New dedicated-lane bus lowers commute times, raises commuter hackles

The new bus service that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority promised would speed up commutes along Nostrand Avenue knocked 25 minutes off a trip down the route — and the service is not even fully operational yet.

In our extremely scientific experiment, this reporter clocked a trip heading south on the new B44 Select Bus Service route during evening rush hour, starting out on Broadway in Williamsburg, and ending up in Sheepshead Bay at Shore Parkway. The trip took just a one hour and 15 minutes.

And the new express bus that rolled out to great fanfare in late November was indeed faster than the local bus, which this reporter also rode south during rush hour the week before the new express buses took to the road. The old bus’s time: one hour and 40 minutes to reach the end of the line.

And the new express could get even faster. The southerly route along Nostrand Avenue is the most complete, with much of its length bearing freshly painted dedicated-bus lanes, but much of the Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant section remain unadorned. The full roll-out of painted bus lanes, signage, and a traffic-signal-control system that will allow drivers to avoid red lights all stand to shave precious commuter minutes off the route’s average roll-time.

All that speed, however, comes at a cost.

Riders who used to take the old B44 limited-service route, which the new select service replaces, report frustrating waits at certain stops that the new route skips.

At the Avenue L stop once served by limited bus, for instance, righteous commuter anger boils over as the city’s fleet of articulated select buses roll past half-empty.

“Every morning there are people waiting for over 20-minutes at the Avenue L stop for the local, and we watch four or five mostly empty select buses pass by, one after the next,” said Jack Bojman, who used to catch the limited bus at Avenue L. “When the local finally arrives, it is usually too packed for anyone to get on.”

Another change meant to speed the select service has straphangers grumbling. The sidewalk kiosks where commuters must purchase tickets before getting on the bus are supposed to speed up boarding, but they cause long lines that make many riders doubt the new procedure really shortens the total trip time.

“You have to wait on line to buy a ticket, with about 50 other people, at rush hour,” said Midwood resident Barry Lapidus. “When the bus finally arrives, passengers are permitted to get on and off through three doors, leading to a potentially dangerous situation because people are trying to get off while others are trying to get on. All of this chaos means that drivers end up staying at each stop for up to 15 minutes sometimes.”

And such long waits can lead bus drivers to race to try making up the time in between stops, he said.

“To compensate for being so behind schedule, they speed to the next stop,” said Lapidus. “One day, a driver ran a red light, nearly hitting a boy crossing the street.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.