The new bus service that the MTA promised would speed up commutes along Nostrand Avenue knocked 25 minutes off a trip down the route versus the local bus — and the service isn’t even fully operational yet.
In our completely unscientific experiment, this reporter clocked a trip heading south on the new B44 Select Bus Serviceduring evening rush hour, starting out on Broadway in Williamsburg, and ending up in Sheepshead Bay at Shore Parkway after a 1-hour-and-15-minute ride. And the new service was indeed faster than the local, which this reporter also rode south during rush hour, taking an hour and 40 minutes to reach the end of the line.
Granted, the southerly route along Nostrand Avenue is the most complete, with more of its dedicated bus lanes already painted than the unfinished northern route. But the select service should get even faster with the full roll-out of painted bus lanes, signage, and a traffic-signal-control system that will allow drivers to avoid red lights.
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 service 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 commuters grumbling. The sidewalk kiosks where commuters must purchase tickets before getting on the bus are supposed to speed up boarding, but in addition to causing long queues at peak times, many riders doubt the new procedure really shortens delays at stops.
“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 at the stops along a bus route meant to be fast can lead to dangerous over-compensation in between.
“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.”