Our Brooklyn Bus Redesign
Eric Goldwyn and I spent about six months working on a Brooklyn bus redesign. I mentioned some aspects of it before here, on social media, and in blog comments, but not the overall shape. Eric and I gave a pair of presentations about our plan, one two days ago at the MTA in front of senior MTA planners and NYC DOT people and one today at TransitCenter in front of activists and mid-level MTA planners. We have a still-unreleased writeup explaining everything we’re doing with references to both public reports from various cities and peer-reviewed literature. Here I’m going to condense the 8,000-word writeup into a blog post length, going over the main points, including of course the proposed map.
The map, in brief
The depicted version is 1.1. You can see a lower-resolution version 1.0 on Streetsblog, albeit with a different color code (the map we made for the presentation, reproduced on Streetsblog, uses red for the highest-frequency routes and blue for the lowest-frequency ones whereas the Google Earth version linked above is the opposite). It has 353 route-km, down from about 550 today, not including Grand and Metropolitan Avenues, which are Queens bus routes, shown on the map for completeness’s sake, without stopping pattern.
Some tails are cut due to low ridership or duplication of rail:
- The B25 on Fulton goes.
- The B37 on Third Avenue is consolidated into the B63 on Fifth.
- The B45 and B65 are merged into one compromise route.
- The B15 is cut east of the Long-Term Parking JFK AirTrain station (where service is free); ideally it would be cut east of City Line with passengers taking the subway to the AirTrain (as was the case in version 1.0), but I do not expect Port Authority to integrate AirTrain fares with the subway.
- The B41 is cut north of Parkside Avenue, at the transfer to the B/Q.
- Instead of two routes in Bed-Stuy between Nostrand (i.e. B44) and Malcolm X (i.e. B46), today’s B15 and B43, there’s just one route.
- The B57 segment on Court and Smith Streets in South Brooklyn goes, as the subway serves the area in several directions.
- The B39 over the Williamsburg Bridge goes.
- The B32 and B62, providing north-south service through Williamsburg up to Long Island City, are merged into one compromise route.
- The East New York bus network is circuitous (buses go to Gateway Center the long way around) and is straightened here.
- In version 1.0, the B26 on Halsey was cut west of Franklin with a forced transfer to the subway, but the short distance to Downtown Brooklyn argues in favor of continuing to at least Flatbush.
Overall, this is a cut from 54 routes (including the separately-managed MTA Bus routes B100 and B103) to 37. The smaller network is far more frequent. The minimum frequency is,
- Every 6 minutes between 6 am and 10 pm every day.
- Every 10 minutes between 5 and 6 am and between 10 pm and midnight.
- Every 30 minutes between midnight and 5 am; every 20 minutes with timed transfers to the subway is aspirational, but the subway doesn’t run reliably on a timetable overnight for such a system to be viable. The 30-minute night network could potentially involve mini-pulses in Downtown Brooklyn and smaller hubs (like East New York and Bay Ridge).
Routes depicted in red on the Google Maps link, or in blue on the map in the Streetsblog link, have exactly the minimum frequency. Routes depicted in green have higher frequency at the peak; routes depicted in blue on Google Maps or red on Streetsblog have higher frequency peak and off-peak. Higher frequency than the minimum is depicted as “Utica [2/4]” (buses on Utica run every 2 minutes peak, 4 off-peak) or “Avenue U [5/6]” (buses on Avenue U run every 5 minutes peak, 6 off-peak). Peak means 7-9 am and 5-7 pm on weekdays, in both directions; the morning peak is a little earlier and the afternoon peak a little later than the subway peak, but as buses are still mostly subway feeders, an earlier morning peak and a later afternoon peak are justifiable.
Pruning the network is not the only or even most important part of bus reform. Buses have to be sped up to be useful for people except as last-resort transit. In interviews about unrelated topics, people have volunteered to me that they do not take trips they used to take due to the degradation in bus speed and reliability. New York City Transit bus ridership peaked in 2002; the fare hike in 2003 led to a small dip in ridership that the mid-2000s oil crisis didn’t quite erase, and then in the recession and subsequent recovery bus ridership crashed. In Manhattan it’s 30% below the 2007 level; in Brooklyn it’s 20% below the 2007 level, with buses extending the subway or letting people connect to a better line (like the B41 and B35) particularly hit.
The current average speed in Brooklyn is about 11 km/h. Excluding limited-stop buses, it’s 10.8. We’re proposing to increase it to 15, even though the redesign is pruning buses in faster areas more than in slower ones. This is using four speedup treatments.
Today, New York prefers to treat off-board fare collection as a special product available only on select buses (i.e. SBS). This should be changed to citywide prepayment, with all-door boarding. German-speaking cities do it; so does San Francisco. Data from San Francisco and from the TRB (PDF-p. 20) suggests a gain of about 2.5-3 seconds per passenger boarding, counting both boarding and alighting time. At Brooklyn’s bus ridership level, this suggests a saving of around 400-450 revenue-hours, or about 4% of total service-hours. This is not a big change, but it helps stabilize the schedule by slowing down the mechanism by which buses bunch.
How to get passengers to pay if not on-board remains an open question; there are several approaches. The Zurich model involves placing a ticket-vending machine (TVM) at every bus stop. While New York severely pays for TVMs on SBS (the RPA says $75,000 per stop), an ATM costs $3,000, so installing the required infrastructure need not cost a lot. But more commonly, passengers can board freely if they have transfers or unlimited monthlies and pay the driver (potentially after the bus has begun moving) otherwise.
Of note, the bus drivers are particularly interested in prepayment. Eric and I explained the issue in a CityLab article a few months back: the drivers are worried about being assaulted by riders who don’t want to pay.
About 60% of the time saving in our plan relative to current practices comes from stop consolidation. I discussed the issue here, and our forthcoming report has references to many studies in the literature optimizing stop spacing for minimum door-to-door travel time. With each deleted stop saving 20-30 seconds (say 25 seconds on average), our proposed stop consolidation, from an average of 220 meters to 490 excluding long tails (i.e. the B15’s long nonstop segment toward JFK) saves around a minute per km, cutting travel time from 5.5 minutes per km to 4.5.
Conceptually, stop spacing should be longer when trips are longer, or when relative density is less uniform. New York City Transit bus trips are short, as many are subway extenders, but relative density is extremely spiky, as a large number of people get off at a few dominant stops at the subway connection points. If the on/off density on a route is uniform, then lengthening the stop spacing means passengers have to walk longer at both ends; but if passengers are guaranteed a connection at one end (because of transfer points with the subway or other buses) then they only have to walk longer at the other end. Based on this principle, Utica and Nostrand get particularly long stop spacing. Conversely, routes with extremely short trips, like the Mermaid route inherited from the B74, have shorter stop spacing.
To improve network legibility, we have tried as far as possible to have buses stop on consistent streets. For example, south of Fulton Street (where it’s awkwardly between Nostrand and Franklin), Bedford Avenue gets a stop on every intersecting bus, including east-west routes but also the diagonal B41.
Every bus stop should have shelter. In Central Florida, North Florida, and London, this costs $10,000 per stop, give or take. Our 707-stop plan (700 in version 1.0) would cost $14 million at this cost. Even at Santa Ana’s higher cost of $35,000, it’s $50 million. NIMBYs who oppose stop consolidation argue that having many stops is necessary for people with disabilities, but people with disabilities would benefit from benches and shelter, without needing to stand for 15 minutes waiting for bunched buses.
Every bus in an area with congestion should get dedicated lanes. SBS implementations so far, imperfect as they are, have saved around 30 seconds per km in traffic. Physically-separated median lanes should do better; the MTA and NYCDOT have so far avoided them on the theory that local and limited bus routes should coexist on the same route and limiteds should pass locals, but in reality, a single stopping pattern is better, and then there are no drawbacks to physical separation.
On wide streets, this is not a problem. On narrow ones, it is. The real headache is Nostrand, about 25 meters wide building to building, enough for just four lanes. The correct thing to do is a moving lane and a bus lane in each direction, with merchants told to park on side streets. If parking is unavoidable, then a contraflow bus lane, with parking on one side, is also feasible, but less safe for pedestrians (Boulevard Saint-Michel has this configuration and has to remind pedestrians crossing the street to look left).
Two-way buses are essential whenever streets are widely separated, as on avenues, in Brooklyn as well as Manhattan. Nostrand is just more important than Rogers and New York Avenue, where northbound B44s go today; today’s configuration forces east-west buses to make too many stops (the B35 limited makes 4 stops in a kilometer).
Buses should get priority at intersections and not just on the street. The studies we’ve seen find a 4-7% gain, bus only on individual bus routes, not gridded networks. In our proposed trip times we are not assuming any speedup from signal priority, just better timekeeping as more delayed buses get priority to stabilize the schedule. This is a counter-bunching mechanism more than a straight speedup.
A process, not an immutable product
Jarrett Walker’s bus network redesigns tend to come as complete products, changed rapidly from radial low-frequency networks. What we’re proposing is a longer process. Nova Xarxa began implementation in 2012 and is wrapping up now, installing a few routes at a time by cannibalizing parallel routes. The map we’re showing is what we estimate would be a good fit for 2022-3. Beyond that, more subway stops are going to be wheelchair-accessible, making it easier to prune more subway-parallel buses (like the B63).
Gradual implementation means starting from the easier parts of the network. East New York’s current network is so circuitous that straightening it should not be too controversial. Our proposed redesign there is also better at connecting to the 2, 3, 4, and 5 trains and not just the L, which should prove valuable during the L shutdown. In Southern Brooklyn, we are proposing more service, but this could be paired with stop consolidation. Central Brooklyn and Bed-Stuy require the most street redesigns and the most robust frequency network-wide (as they are already transfer-based grids, and nobody transfers at 12-15 minute off-peak frequency) and could be done later; the B25 itself should probably not be eliminated until Broadway Junction is made accessible on the A and C lines.
We are not even wedded to the map as a proposal for 2022. Some variations are always possible, as already seen in the differences between versions 1.0 and 1.1. The biggest addition we can think of is adding a second north-south route through Bed-Stuy: the existing one would be moved from Marcus Garvey to Throop (hitting the subway better), while the B17 could be extended up Troy and Lewis.
Overall, Brooklyn has 10,800 service-hours today. Our redesign uses just 10,000, with a 1% gain in efficiency from location relative to bus depots on top of that. There is room for service increases, or restoration of marginal routes required for political reasons, or slowdowns imposed by political unwillingness to install bus lanes.
In a modern developed country, it’s rare to find win-win situations. The US is blessed with these in transit (i.e. it’s so inefficient at construction it might as well be third-world), but not in urban bus networks. Stop consolidation is a net benefit to the average user of the route, but a few people would still see longer trips, e.g. those living at the exact midpoint between two widely-spaced stops. Route consolidation (as in Ocean Hill) is the same thing.
There are sociopolitical groups that would win out: labor would see higher ridership, reducing the pressure to cut jobs; regular commuters (who generally have low transfer penalties) would see faster trips; people with disabilities that make it difficult for them to stand (as is true of some people with chronic pain) would be able to sit at bus stops and wouldn’t need to sit for long. In contrast, small business owners would sometimes lose the ability to park in front of their stores, and occasional users who usually drive would see longer perceived trips because of stiff transfer penalties.
This is equally true on the level of neighborhoods. Southern Brooklyn generally gains, and Borough Park in general gains an extra north-south route (though this is canceled out by high transfer and access penalty among Haredis: in Israel they just won’t walk longer to better service). East New York sees much more direct routes. Flatbush and East Flatbush don’t see much change in network structure but do gain off-peak frequency. Red Hook gains a direct connection to Manhattan. But then Bed-Stuy loses north-south routes, South Brooklyn’s buses are completely gutted, and Williamsburg loses north-south routes.
A political system based on citywide (or nationwide) ideological groups could find the will to build the network we’re proposing or something like it. Could a system based on local representation, treating retirees and small business owners as a vanguard class, deliver the same? We will see in the next year or two.
While I definitely support a bus redesign for BK that includes some stop elimination, this is not it. Some of this betrays little thinking about:
-places in the city that have completely lost transit service in this map (e.g. Metropolitan and Morgan, McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, almost everywhere in Hassidic Williamsburg except one stop, Brooklyn Bridge Park),
-how the bus is seamlessly integrated into some commercial corridors (Fulton)
-how the bus fills in for non subway accessibility (e.g. B39 connects people who need accessibility from Williamsburg to the LES – less needed than when it was cut before the Fulton elevators opened and there were no Manhattan J elevators, but still needed)
-how requiring a bus to subway transfer imposes a time penalty of at least 3 minutes
The Houston bus plan offered a framework for folks to make choices about how to redistribute resources. Curious about how you would offer Brooklyn transit users an equivalent framework rather than making the decisions for them.
Gradual implementation? Sounds like a recipe for procrastination or half-assed implementation or both.
Nova Xarxa is gradual, and the implementation is not half-assed at all. The only half-assed aspect of it is that not all routes got bus lanes, but that was known in advance and the network incorporated a “no more than 11 routes get bus lanes” political constraint.
I’m completely unfamiliar with the details of buses in Brooklyn. The technical execution of this plan may be excellent, but through your messaging and by addressing the technical side first, you may have inadvertently squashed any chance that this could ever happen.
Jarrett Walker’s greatest innovation (IMO) is not the technical aspects of his process for redesigning networks nor even the overall philosophy (the “Ridership Recipe” etc). It is the framework for public engagement that he uses: bringing the “ridership vs. coverage” tradeoff to the forefront, letting officials and the public hash it out, and coming to a conclusion FIRST, and only after that’s been made, starting to talk about specific routes.
This engagement process is likely the only reason that he has been able to spearhead these ground-up restructurings in major transit agencies. (Well, the fact that his reputation precedes him helps too, I suppose.) Previously these decades-old legacy routes were such a third rail that nobody was willing to touch them. His engagement framework paves the way for more radical restructuring than has been generally possible up until now. It steels public officials against the inevitable backlash. It makes it easier to make the tough decisions to cut things. It helps the consultant and indeed the transit agency itself to be seen as an instrument of the public’s will, rather than “the enemy” who is forcing unpopular medicine down the public’s throat. It de-energizes the third rail.
But for how important it is to put the engagement process first, the outcome is all but guaranteed anyway. In every single instance that I am aware of, it has always resulted in a realignment of resources away from coverage and toward ridership, because the public and officials are presented, in stark relief, how much money they’re spending (wasting?) on unproductive transit. Generally the outcomes I’ve seen have fallen between 70/30 and 80/20 ridership/coverage.
Even with the engagement process, it is still difficult enough (witness what is happening now in Dublin) but skipping straight to the technical implementation side is like touching the third rail while it is still hot. Danger, danger!
I think there are a couple significant differences here.
1. The coverage vs. frequency debate simply does not exist in Brooklyn. 91.5% of service-hours today are on routes with at worst 20-minute off-peak frequency, and even many of the 30-minute off-peak routes are ridership-oriented routes that have undergone decline for various reasons (e.g. the B2 was one of the top routes in ridership per km in the 1970s but suffered a frequency-ridership spiral with the decline of Kings Plaza). True coverage routes, like the B32, B39, and B84, are ~0.5% of service-hours (which also means that if people pressure me to restore the B39 at its current frequency, or for that matters at 10-minute frequency, that’s not hard). Instead, the tradeoffs are about stop spacing, directness of routes, and route consolidation.
2. Dail Eireann just voted to pause Jarrett’s redesign of Dublin and do another consultation, so I’m not 100% sure that it’s a good example of how to do things. I was mildly annoyed by how it took months into the process, in which Jarrett (who I follow on Twitter and read just about every tweet of) talked about the benefits of the plan all the time, before I learned the proposed off-peak frequency was 4-8 minutes and not 10-15 minutes. There’s a reason I’m leading with “6-minute off-peak frequency everywhere.”
To me route consolidation is just another example of reducing coverage to increase frequency, even if the cancelled route would have been “frequent” by Mr. Walker’s definition and even if the routes being consolidated are close together.
What a joke.
Why should duplication of rail be a reason that a route should be eliminated. The B25 carries plenty of passengers per bus, especially in Bedford Stuyvesant. People cannot walk up and down the stairs. The beancounters at the MTA planning also considered eliminating this route back in 2010 during the budget cuts, for the same reason. If I didn’t know better, I would have though those behind this work for the MTA.The B57 sees good usage between Red Hook Houses and Downtown Brooklyn too.
Those merges are nothing short of compromise. Huge portions of neighborhoods would be left without bus service, especially in Sunset Park and Williamsburg. Transfers do not entice people to take buses, even if service is frequent. If people have to transfer to get to a place which currently requires one bus, they’ll like choose another method. Also, these routes serve multiple train stations which go to different areas in Manhattan and the rest of the outerboroughs. If everyone is being dumped at one train station, then those stations can and will get overcrowded. Furthermore, if service is unreliable as it is now, how do we expect more frequent service to solve that. They’ll still be late.
Many airport workers rely on the B15, and most of them go to Terminal 5. This is a disservice.
Also, what happened to the B24?
A grid system will not work in Brooklyn.
Yes, the merged routes are compromises. Many of these involve really weak routes, especially the B37 (which comes every 22 minutes peak, 30 off-peak) and B32 (20 peak, 30 off-peak), but also the B45 and B65 (which are densely spaced but have weak ridership). The B24 is another really weak route. The only route we’re killing with even remotely reasonable ridership is the B25, and that’s on top of a subway line that’s being made more accessible in the next few years; the B25 should probably not be removed until Broadway Junction gets an elevator. This process does leave South Williamsburg with skeletal service, but that’s because it’s not on the way to anything else – the only good through route is Kent, which skips the subway transfer at Marcy.
You say that people won’t transfer, but I’m staring at a Barcelona network that went from 13% of trips involving a bus-bus transfers before implementation to 26% mid-implementation, with overall 30% growth, so linked trips rose as well. As I understand it, transfers have subsequently risen to 40-something% of trips. The frequency went from Brooklyn’s current level (which is a median of 12 minutes off-peak) to about the level we’re proposing (every 6 minutes).
More frequent service can be made more reliable by changing the way buses are dispatched. When frequency is high enough, buses can run on pure headway management: the bus arrives every 6 minutes, without a fixed schedule, and bus drivers have programmed breaks every roundtrip (or every one-way trip on long routes). This means that a 20-minute bathroom break (“personal”) doesn’t wreck the entire schedule the way it does on a bus with 15-minute frequency without scheduled breaks. On top of this, the other treatments we propose all aim at reducing bunching: the signal priority we propose explicitly aims at getting late buses back on track, bus lanes make random delays less likely, prepayment makes delays less likely to propagate. We aim at reliability and not just at dumping 4 bunched buses on a route every 24 minutes.
There’s other places to go in Brooklyn besides Manhattan.
What works in Barcelona May not necessarily work in New York. Especially here, where people are in a rush to get places, making so many transfers is not ideal. You can’t give everyone a one-seat ride, but you can’t also just take straighten routes out without taking account to travel patterns.
“Weak” routes exist in every transit system, in order to provide coverage, because otherwise, those trips would be much longer. Sure, the routes don’t carry as much as others, but that doesn’t mean it should be eliminated. Also, low frequency routes do not automatically mean low ridership. They might be low ridership in comparison to others, but the real statistic that should be looked at are the passengers per bus. The B37 is not a weak route, ridership does pretty good within Bay Ridge, and between Barclays Center and Sunset Park. Other routes May have low ridership due to low frequency, but a boost in frequency could help entice those riders. The MTA will try that out on the B65 soon.
Lastly, I don’t support any plan which entails having more people use the subway. Some of these changes entail having people transfer to the subway, often unecessarily. There’s absolutely no consideration for those who need the bus due to accessibility issues, or for those who simply just don’t want to take the subway (which do exist). The subway is crowded and at capacity in many places. We don’t need to be feeding even more people onto subways in such areas. Duplication is not always bad.
What works in Barcelona didn’t appear to work in Barcelona until the network was redesigned. It’s not about a cultural difference (New Yorkers are definitely much less likely to be in a rush than Northern Europeans); it’s about network shape.
There’s a great deal of consideration of people with disabilities on this plan, including:
1. Shelter at every bus stop.
2. Deliberate attempts to feed accessible subway stations when possible rather than inaccessible ones.
3. Retention of bus routes that duplicate inaccessible subway lines, i.e. the B63; the deletion of the B25 depends on making Broadway Junction accessible.
Some people don’t want to take the subway, sure. But a far greater number of people don’t want to take a bus that comes every 15 minutes off-peak and meanders, leading to motion sickness; the people with disabilities I’ve talked to who are capable of walking and climbing stairs but have chronic pain tell me that having to travel by bus (especially when standing but sometimes even when sitting) is painful. Thankfully, Brooklyn is blessed with many underfull subway lines; only the L is really at capacity, and there we actually try to steer the feeders toward alternatives (i.e. the 2/3/4/5 in East New York) due to the impending shutdown.
2. Deliberate attempts to feed accessible subway stations when possible rather than inaccessible ones.
Screw the people who are using the bus for something other than getting to the subway to get to Manhattan? Why do you have trouble wrapping your head around the concept that one vehicle can serve many different trips? And that there people who lead long contented lives in places like Brooklyn or Queens or …. New Jersey or even.. Nebraska… without going to Manhattan or even downtown Brooklyn?
Why would most airport workers be going to terminal 5 versus the other terminals reachable by the airtrain?
They are going places that aren’t either but that do have a bus stop?
So Coney Island Hospital loses the route that actually connects it to Coney Island, and the Emmons Avenue route loses the connection to the nearest subway station?
Yeah :-/. The former is fixable (switch some routes at the cost of longer trips), the latter requires a really circuitous route (the B4 does that and is pretty weak). When I asked I was told that Coney Island Hospital is not thaaaaaaat important, which is why I didn’t do the crossing that the B1 and B36 do today, but again, that’s changeable.
Hospitals are always important. Rationalisation of networks is important where needed but ‘purity’ needs to be tempered with knowledge and respect for traffic objectives. A big city will need both the direct fast routes and some of the more circuitous type. A large part of the improvement of the London bus network from 2000 onwards as well as the lengthening of the operating day, lots more 24 hour routes and higher frequency on established direct routes was the introduction of a number of meandering routes often served with smaller vehicles at lower frequency. I was sceptical at first but I think they really work to compliment the overall network. I’m a pretty regular user of one myself in north London. It takes me to places I would not have been able to get to by public transport.
You are essentially declaring war on the Port Authority with your B15 plan. The reason AirTrain is free except at the ends is that passengers are already buying another Port Authority service, such as parking or rental cars. Cutting the B15 so it doesn’t serve the terminals but allows passengers to freeride the Airtrain is unfair and will never go over.
That’s one way to view it. Another is, the operating costs of keeping the bus from Long-Term Parking to T5 (with my proposed frequency, not the current low frequency) are on the order of $5 million a year. The AirTrain is underfull and essentially free to operate, judging by SkyTrain operating costs in Vancouver.
Josh, I don’t buy that logic. If Port Authority wanted to force everyone arriving at JFK by transit to pay the AirTrain fare, they wouldn’t permit the B15, Q3 and Q10 to serve Terminal 5 today, since those riders can ride enter the AirTrain in the free fare area without “buying another Port Authority service.” Additionally, the Port Authority wouldn’t advertise the Lefferts Blvd Long-Term Parking station as a kiss-and-fly alternative. The Port Authority’s goal with AirTrain is connect the terminals together and reduce the occurrence of severe traffic in the terminal area while permitting the airport to serve more and more passengers annually. If anything, relocating all NYCT buses to the Long-Term Parking might be a net benefit to Port Authority, as it relocates buses terminating and having layovers in the busy terminal area to a relatively quiet parking lot, freeing up space for other vehicles to operate in the terminal area.
Airtrain fares are not about what the PANY wants, but about federal rules on how you can spend fees generated at the airport. Because of car-first planning at the federal level, a rental car center is considered to be directly related to airport operations, while a train station is not.
Alon, the Port Authority recently announced intentions to buy more trains for the Airtrain which it implies it is at capacity sometimes, and would need more cars for the load you are adding.
Joe, the terminals have their own AirTrain service on a loop, the Long-Term Parking is on a separate branch which needs its own service.
This plan is stupid
Im a Brooklyn Commuter i know most of the bus routes this plan is terrible 1) combining the B37&63 is a super bad idea 5th ave needs service taking it off wont work its already packed enough b37 is a good route currently it has 20min headway half a bus full its fine
b35 should not be touched at all church ave is super packed ridership is high extending it to JFK will make the route unreliable 3 hr one way route is already over 1hr b16 route can not be touched it has a good headway and people go to school there so many problems with this plan we need a brooklyn bus specialiest to make the plan this plam MUST go
So 6 minute headway not 20 minute headway wouldn’t help?
Stray thoughts from a North Brooklyn bus rider:
– The B24 and B48 buses are deleted without any mention. The B24 is continually packed and provides a huge service by connecting transit poor areas to the subway (and connecting East Williamsburg to Sunnyside). The B48 is essential for many riders in eastern Greenpoint, who already are far from the crosstown G and lack any direct route into Manhattan.
– Does the B62 now run down Nostrand (and because of one-ways, I’m assuming up Bedford) instead of heading through Fort Greene/Navy Yard en route to Borough Hall, and it now terminates at Manhattan Ave?
– No more bus service to upper Greenpoint (B43)? The B43 now looks like it picks up the B62’s route upnto Queens Plaza.
– South Williamsburg becomes a transit desert, with only one stop in the roughly square mile area within Broadway/Flushing/East River.
It’s funny, with every bus line i ride you’ve either deleted the service, or altered it in a way that makes it less useful!
South Williamsburg is tough, because the only through-route there, Kent, crosses under the Williamsburg Bridge without a transfer to the J/M/Z. This is why today’s network has so many buses going to Marcy Avenue. But then a lot of these buses have very weak ridership, including the B24, which sets records Brooklyn-wide for low frequency and low ridership. Same is true of the B32, the B48, and the Navy Yard tail of the B67. This is the reasoning behind consolidating these to one north-south trunk line to LIC.
I think that parts of these lines have high ridership for short portions of their run, and that the total numbers don’t tell the full story. The B24, for instance, is pretty full during typical commuting hours between the Lorimer or Graham stops in Williamsburg and the 46th Street 7 Train stop, generally in both directions. The rest of the run, not so much. (I have taken this bus on and off for about 8 years, and it is packed in the afternoon/early evening, probably because it runs so infrequently. One big problem with this line is that the Kosciuszko Bridge is often at a standstill, which will get ameliorated once the new bridge construction is completed.) This might be much more useful for Queens passengers than Brooklyn passengers, as it connects lower Sunnyside with the 7 and L/G trains.
As for the B48, it somewhat mirrors the trunk lines you have here, but you are completely missing the essential service that it provides once it turns east iand it travels a mile into the eastern Greenpoint transit desert. It’s a ~15 minute ride from its terminus at Newtown Creek to the Lorimer L, and about 7 minutes to the Nassau G. You might want to argue that you can replace the southern section in favor of your rational grid, but this section is very important to a large population (with a large elderly population as well). Perhaps instead of dead-ending the B62 at Manhattan Ave, just continue the route east along Nassau to Meeker.
(Better still: keep the B62 as it is today, going up Manhattan Ave and move the B43 to McGuinness Blvd so it doesn’t move under 5mph up crowded Manhattan Ave with double-parked trucks and people making 7-point U-turns, and can provide a faster and direct connection from East Williamsburg to LIC, which also provides two separate outlets to people traveling from LIC into Brooklyn.)
Wow, I don’t know why my computer decided to use a WordPress account I haven’t used in a few years! But the reply above is mine.
A lot of these “weak” lines in North Brooklyn are last-mile solutions for many people. One problem is that they sometimes run so infrequently or move so slowly that waiting 20 minutes for a bus to take you a mile, mile-and-a-half just isn’t worth the time. Would shorter run bus lines with greater frequency help this situation? And maybe not throw the system into disarray when drivers need breaks? Thoughts on shorter run bus lines, in addition to long trunk lines?
Re shorter lines: for most of the project, the B1 was cut to its rush hour overlay of just connection Kingsborough Community College to Brighton Beach, while the B74 was unchanged. In v1.0 we changed this to the currently proposed layout of the two southernmost east-west routes in Brooklyn specifically to avoid lines that are too short. Driver breaks (“personals”) take 20 minutes, so you want to ensure the roundtrip time of every bus is a large multiple of 20 minutes (say, at least an hour), or else have such high frequency that a break-every-two-roundtrips rule doesn’t wreck schedule regularity.
That said, not all short lines are the same. The ones around Coney Island, i.e. B1, B36, B74, are the three busiest in the borough per service hour, and rank 8th, 12th, and 11th respectively in ridership per route-km. In contrast, the ones in Williamsburg and Greenpoint are at the other end, near the bottom in ridership per hour and per km. This is where the plan to kill the B24, consolidate the B48 and B69 into a short route on Washington, and consolidate the various north-south routes through Williamsburg into one trunk into LIC comes from.
Moving the north-south route from Manhattan to McGuinness is definitely possible and may well happen in v1.3. McGuinness is wider and doesn’t require two awkward turns. The flip side is that it makes the connections with the G worse – but then there are stronger connections from that route to Downtown Brooklyn, so maybe the G isn’t so important.
There is a lot of value in having a bus line run up Manhattan Avenue. During the day the b43 and b62 buses are full of older people who are taking advantage of a bus service up and down a busy commercial corridor (Manhattan Ave, Graham Ave), stopping at every block. Or younger people who don’t want to carry their groceries/etc up and down the street. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as a major north/south commuter trunk, which would make more sense on McGuinness Blvd. It’s the same rationale as to why there is redundant bus service along subway lines, since so very few stations are accessible, especially in the outer boroughs. Local lines still have great benefit for day-to-day activities around one’s neighborhood.
Also, I don’t know if low ridership in-itself ought to be the determining factor to abandon a route. There is, clearly, some value in some of these lesser-traveled routes. Perhaps 2 or 3 trips per hour is enough for some of these, that they’re already (pardon the horrible corporate jargon) “right-sized.” And for other routes, perhaps some parts of the line have latent demand that is not being met by infrequent service. (For instance, where one faces the choice of either waiting 20 minutes for a bus or walking a mile or so. As one who often advocates bus ridership to my fellow young-ish Brooklynites, I hear “I’m better off just walking!” quite often.) Other low-ridership lines are important for accessibility, such as the B39 which helps shuttle mobility-challenged individuals over the Williamsburg Bridge, connecting the bus networks of Brooklyn and Manhattan. (Here we are talking about 2 round trips an hour from 7am-9pm, not exactly a major expense.) Then there are lines that you remove which were put into service for the exact purpose of adding redundancy (the B32 is barely 5 years old, and was introduced to add some accessibility to the North Brooklyn Waterfront, though I feel that it has been doomed by low frequency).
I applaud your project of proposing a better bus system for my borough, especially as Byford has committed to re-envisioning our bus system and work like yours can be invaluable to this effort. However, I don’t know if this is best completed by simply taking into account the ridership numbers of the routes and trying to apply this to a rational grid. Bus ridership is falling because it is not serving the needs of the communities it serves; a better bus system ought to be built from the ground up, in learning what can be done better, what needs are not being met — and yes, where service can be cut — by consulting with bus riders in each area.
Some of the bus cuts can be restored, like the B39 (which is very few service-hours, it’s so short and infrequent), at least until the Manhattan end is made accessible on the subway. But the B24, B48, separate B32/B62 system, separate B67/B69, etc., are a hefty number of service-hours, around a hundred each, they’re just very poorly ridden relative to the amount of service offered. These routes have 30-something boardings per revenue-hour; the Brooklyn-wide average is 55, and most of the main routes are around 60 (and the strong short routes, i.e. B1, B36, B74, are 70+).
20-minute frequency is not right for a city bus at all, especially when it’s so short. The vast majority of potential riders don’t have time to wait so long for a bus, and a hefty share of people with disabilities can’t stand at a shelter-free bus stop for that long.
Redundancy is neither here nor there. It’s generally overrated in the US; I’ve heard it used as an excuse not to provide physically separated bus lanes, because what if something blocks the lane? In basically every circumstance, one route with a bus every 6 minutes is superior to two closely parallel routes with a bus every 12.
Alon, I agree with most of what you say here. Especially “20-minute frequency is not right for a city bus at all.” There will be some exceptions, where an infrequent short-run bus like the B39 would be useful, but this could be fixed with greater accessibility at more subway stations. I would, however, ask you to consider restoring service to Nassau Ave in Greenpoint, perhaps as an extension of the B62 that you now have ending at Manhattan Avenue. I am sure that with greater frequency of service that this tail could have much higher ridership than currently.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to head to Sunnyside, and the B24 only runs twice an hour so I must head out 🙂
I have a suggestion for the bus stop placement under Nostrand and other places where service duplicates. The bus stops shouldn’t be at every subway stop, as it duplicated stop coverage that already exists. Except at diverging points and accessible stations (Church and Flatbush), the stop spacing should prefer locations further from the subway where a crossing bus route is absent. Thus, bus stops at Beverly road or Empire Blvd could be shifted north one or two blocks. There’s not too many other places for this adjustment in Brooklyn, but Manhattan is full of examples.
Yeah, you’re right about this, and on Nostrand we split the difference. Empire Boulevard gets a stop specifically because it’s an important cross-street, roughly same reason why I call for putting Manhattan bus stops at the two-way streets (as opposed to whatever the M15 does). Instead of trying to either interpolate between subway stops or serve subway stops, I ignored the locations of subway stops on Nostrand between Flatbush and Eastern Parkway – people transfer at the ends, and instead it’s better to serve streets that riders can remember.