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Locals demand beefed up B9 service during Bay Ridge Ave closure

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority must increase bus service on the B9 route until the Bay Ridge Avenue subway station reopens in the fall, demand commuters and local pols.

Transit officials have added extra buses to a route that passes the Bay Ridge Avenue station — which closed in May for six months of repairs — but the surge of riders taking the bus to the nearest train stop has nonetheless strained the line. And even with the extra wheels, rush-hour travelers are forced to let buses crammed with commuters roll by until they can catch a ride, said one passenger.

“It’s just an obnoxious situation,” said Bay Ridgite Megan Breker, who works at a physical therapy office Downtown. “I used to leave for work around 7:30 am, and now I leave at a quarter to 7 because I kept getting into work late. I’m surprised to hear they added buses, because you’d never know it from my commutes.”

Within the first week of the shuttering of the Bay Ridge Avenue station, officials rolled out five extra B9 buses for the morning rush and another three for the evening schlep home, according to a Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokeswoman.

But the route is still a mess for commuters, according to locals.

“The biggest issue is going back home,” said Bay Ridgite Mercedes Valentin-Davila, a teacher at Sunset Park’s PS 24 who tries to catch the B9 to Bay Ridge from the 59th Street station but often ends up trekking more than a mile home. “I check the MTA’s bus app, but there are never enough buses around in the evening. Most of the time I just walk. I might see a bus when I’m a few blocks from home, but then what’s the point? It’s crummy.”

And others who do wait for the bus back to Bay Ridge feel it’s not worth it.

“I have a bad leg so I prefer to take the bus, but when it does come lately, a lot of the time it’s really crowded,” said Bay Ridgite George Diamantopoulos. “It’s painful bumping around standing up, so I get my granddaughter to pick me up if she’s around. I hate to keep doing that to her though — shouldn’t have to.”

Bay Ridge Avenue is one of 31 stops to shutter for six months of upgrades as part of Gov. Cuomo’s efforts to rejuvenate the subway. The station closed on April 30 — displacing more than 8,300 MetroCard users swiping in on a given weekday, according to transit authority data. Many of whom have flocked to nearby bus lines, including the B37, B64, but none more than the B9, which cruises past the shuttered Ridge station and on to the 59th Street station.

And to make matters worse the line is already strained. Ridership on the B9 spiked by more than 1,600 passengers on weekdays, from roughly 12,700 in 2015 to 14,400 in 2016. And it’s only gone up since the closure, said one community leader.

“We’ve heard from several residents that there has been many overcrowding incidents lately. And the B9 is an overtaxed line to begin with,” said Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of Community Board 10. “It’s a hub. It’s an important line. And I think the board was very clear that more buses are needed during the closure.”

The buses that run the B9 route typically have a capacity of 35–37 seats with room for 30–33 people standing, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. So the extra buses for the morning and evening rush hours accommodate only about 340 and 204 additional riders, respectively, to handle the thousands of commuters who normally use the Bay Ridge Avenue station.

The agency does plan to adjust service as it evaluates ridership, said a transit authority spokeswoman.

“The service will be assessed weekly for modifications, if needed,” said Amanda Kwan.

But the need for modifications should be pretty easy to assess right now, said a local pol.

“I’ve been out there in the morning and I’ve seen firsthand how crowded these buses can get,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge). “Social media doesn’t lie either, and we’ve seen plenty of pictures of folks packed in cheek by jowl on the B9. The MTA contends that more B9 buses aren’t needed. I strongly disagree.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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