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Another year, another Schleppie Award for Brooklyn’s B44 bus, the least reliable line in the five boroughs, according to a recent report.
The inglorious recognition bestowed by the Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives is the second consecutive ‘honor’ for the line, which rumbles between Sheepshead Bay and Williamsburg. According to the Nov. 5 report, more than one in five B44s, or 21.7 percent, arrived bunched together or came with large gaps in service during the first half of 2009, when the data was collected.
The B44 transports 41,840 riders on an average weekday and has the fifth highest bus ridership in the city, according to Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives.“That’s a river of humanity that deserves efficient passage,” he said.
But the line could be in for improvements soon, as the city’s Department of Transportation and New York City Transit are considering implementing Bus Rapid Transit along Nostrand Avenue, an initiative that gives buses a dedicated travel lane. But the initiative is not without controversy, as area merchants fear it will mean less parking — and fewer customers.
City Councilmember Letitia James, among the lawmakers whose district the bus travels, said she is waiting to speak to the city directly “to balance the interests on both sides.” She said she was aware of the Straphangers’ report, but that better service should benefit everyone. “I know about the report, but I also know that merchants on Nostrand Avenue are barely holding on.”
Steely White said that despite the Schleppie, the B44 is in a “good place.” “We don’t know if the DOT and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority [parent agency of NYC Transit] will have the courage to implement a strong BRT corridor.”To do that, you have to take out some parking and reorder the street. That’s a tough sell.” Still he said, better bus service could potentially mean more riders, and more customers in local shops. “Let’s wait and see what the real impact is on local businesses” he suggested.
In a statement, NYC Transit, said it is “important for the city’s 2.3 million bus customers to know that we are working to achieve improvements in bus speeds and reliability.” Buses, the agency points out,“were introduced to New York City more than 100 years ago and despite being, by far, the most efficient vehicles on rubber tires as far as the numbers of people they carry, they are still forced to vie for the same street space as a single-occupant automobile.”
The agency pointed to the eventual expansion of select bus service routes, which includes off-board fare payment and a dedicated bus lane. Also planned are new methods of fare payment, stricter bus lane enforcement, the use of cameras to nab offenders and the development of a reliable system offering next bus information to waiting bus customers, the agency said. Asked about the B44 specifically, theagency did not provide any additional information.
Brooklyn’s next most unreliable bus was the B41, which travels between Kings Plaza and Downtown Brooklyn. It was found to be unreliable 20.4 percent of the time, according to the report.
The group’s also handed out their eighth annual Pokey Award — a golden snail on a pedestal — which awards the city’s slowest bus. This year, Manhattan’s crosstown M42 took home the trophy, with a speed of 3.7 miles per hour at noon on a weekday — not much faster than the average person’s walking speed of 3 mph. Brooklyn’s slowest line is the B63, which leisurely travels between Bay Ridge and Cobble Hill. The bus was clocked at 5.1 mph, an improvement of its performance last year of 4.9 mph.
A new category this year, the Trekkie Award, went to routes with the longest transit time from end to end. Manhattan’s M4, which runs between Penn Station and Fort Tryon Park, takes an average of one hour and 50 minutes from the first stop to the last — longer than an Amtrak trip between New York and Philadelphia. Brooklyn longest trek is aboard the B8, which runs between Bay Ridge and Brownsville. The trip takes 98 minutes — just a shade under the time it would take a viewer to watch the 102 minute film, “Last Exit to Brooklyn.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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