Talk about a train wreck!
The 59th Street R-train station was inundated with straphangers during Monday morning’s rush hour now that the Bay Ridge Avenue and the 53rd Street stations are shuttered for six months of construction. Commuters crammed into buses and hoofed it over to the 59th Street station where basically three stations worth of travelers converged. It was a stifling slog, said one straphanger.
“It was like being in a can of sardines,” said Bay Ridgite Julia Campbell, who was one among hundreds of travelers who hopped on the B9 to transfer for the R train at the 59th Street stop. “Everyone got on the bus because we really didn’t have any other options, so then there was a flood of people going into the station at once. I had to wait 20 minutes just to refill my MetroCard.”
Bay Ridge Avenue and 53rd Street are the first of 31 subway stops getting gussied up as part of Gov. Cuomo’s initiative to bring the city’s aging transit system into the 21st Century. The 53rd Street stop closed March 27, followed by Bay Ridge Avenue on April 30 — displacing nearly 16,000 MetroCard users who swipe into the stations on a given weekday, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority data.
But the authority’s bus division decided that shuttle buses aren’t necessary, and neither is a boost to existing bus lines, including the B9, B37, and B63, according to a transit rep at a Jan. 12 meeting of Community Board 10’s transportation committee. The result was a crush of commuters at 59th Street and sluggish bus service, said one passenger.
“A 12-minute walk to Bay Ridge Avenue turned into a 50-minute bus ride to 59th Street. I could have walked and made it to the train faster,” said Bay Ridgite Jessy Bustos. “The driver had to keep stopping, there were people waiting at every single stop for the bus. And there was a bus in front of us filled with people, too.”
Some straphangers were stuck waiting up to 30 minutes for the B9. Some gave up and started walking over to 59th Street. Others were driven in a school bus from 6–9 am by Council hopeful Liam McCabe, who is gunning for term-limited Vincent Gentile’s (D–Bay Ridge) seat.
Reverend Khader El-Yateem, another Council candidate, held a press conference at a closed Bay Ridge Avenue entrance demanding shuttle buses, ramped up B9 service, and more transparency from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Adding to the chaos were a handful of leftover signs at 59th Street declaring, “Free line closure buses,” that were posted over the weekend when R train service was suspended from 36th Street to 95th Street, but were never taken down, said another frustrated commuter.
“It’s already hectic, why would they keep these signs up?” said Sunset Parker Danny Lopez. “I mean, to be fair it says, ‘Weekends’ is on it but when you’re in a hurry and see in big letters ‘Shuttle bus,’ you’re going to get off the train thinking there is a bus.”
Making matters even more confusing, some B9 buses had makeshift signs in their windows declaring is a “Shuttle bus,” raising more questions than answers for commuters.
“Is this the B9 or a shuttle? Does this mean there’s always going to be a shuttle bus? Does it go all way up to 95th Street?” said Sunset Parker Selma Gerger. “This is just so unnecessarily stressful. I hope it’s not like this the entire time the station is closed.”