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Up-route: Slopers want to bring the B71 bus back to life

Back the bus up: Park Slope Civic Council trustee Michael Cairl is leading the charge to bring back the B71 bus route, which he says will give strapehangers access to the great swathes of nightlife booming off near Union Street and Eastern Parkway.
Photo by Jason Speakman

Call it a zom-bus!

A confederation of civic-minded Park Slopers is plotting to resurrect a cross-town bus service between the Columbia Street Waterfront District and Crown Heights that the transit authority axed five years ago amidst budget cuts.

The group says business along the old B71 bus line has boomed in the intervening years, but straphangers now are stranded from visiting many of the new hot spots.

“There’s much more commercial and residential activity along the route,” said Michael Cairl, trustee of the Park Slope Civic Council, which unveiled a road map for bringing the service back to life last Wednesday. “You look at the new restaurants on Columbia Street, you look at how hot Franklin Avenue is, and you see the lack of service to those areas.”

The Metropolitan Transit Authority put the brakes on the B71 bus in 2010 when it slashed several services along subway and bus lines to plug its then-$400 million budget gap.

But riders and borough pols successfully petitioned the transit body last year to reawaken the B37 Bay Ridge-to-Barclays bus — another casualty of the cuts — and now the Slope civic is hoping to perform some necromancy of its own.

The old B71 service was notoriously unreliable, say the Slopers, and the authority ultimately sacrificed it due to low ridership. But the would-be resurrectionists claim they can fix both problems by redrawing and extending the route to avoid traffic jams and hit more local attractions

The original bus, which mainly ran along Union Street and Eastern Parkway between Columbia Street in the titular Waterfront District and Sterling Place in Crown Heights, hit major traffic on Union Street below Seventh Avenue and on Eastern Parkway, say the Slopers.

But the reanimated service would detour around both traffic-clogged arteries and also travel farther on both ends of the line under the civic’s plan — Carroll-Gardens-bound buses would hang a right at Columbia Street and keep going to the Pier 6 entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Crown-Heights-bound fares would continue to Kingston Avenue then loop around to pass the Brooklyn Children’s Museum on Brooklyn Avenue.

The Slope society also believes the B71’s service hours, which ended at 9 pm, left the dinner crowd out in the cold, and want the resuscitated line to run until 11:30 pm.

But much like the old B71, the group is in no rush to roll out. The members will first attempt to get other like-minded civic associations on board with their proposal, then seek endorsements from local community boards and elected officials, before finally delivering their demands to the Metropolitan Transit Authority, said Cairl.

“The strategy for this is very carefully devised,” he said. “We don’t want a half-baked proposal ending up before the elects. We want this to be thought out and have considerable support before they see it.”

But not everyone is thrilled at the prospect of the B71’s return from the grave — one business owner along the defunct route said a new bike lane on Eastern Parkway is already backing-up traffic and a bus would make things even worse.

“I think that a bus on this route would be terrible,” said restaurateur Cilan Toturkul, owner of El Barrio Burritos on Franklin Avenue between Eastern Parkway and Lincoln Place. “I do want to see more people coming through, but a bus is more negative than positive.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Get in line: The proposed new B71 bus route is shown in black, with new additions in green, and discarded elements of the old route in red.
Community News Group / John Napoli

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