The Official Brooklyn Bus Redesign is Out

The MTA just released a draft of the Brooklyn bus redesign it and its consultant had been working on. It is not good. I’m not completely sure why this is – the Queens redesign was a good deal better, and our take on it at the Effective Transit Alliance was decidedly positive. But in the case of Brooklyn, the things that worked in Queens are absent. Overall, the theme of this is stasis – the changes to the network are minor, and the frequencies are to remain insufficiently low for good service. The only good thing about this is stop consolidation, which does not require spending any money on consultants and is a straightforward fix.

This is especially frustrating to me because my first project for Marron, before the Transit Costs Project, was a redesign proposal. The proposal can be read here, with discussion in blog posts here, here, and here. The official reaction we got was chilly, but the redesign doesn’t look anything like a more politic version, just one produced at much higher consultant cost while doing very little.

The four-color scheme

The Brooklyn project retains the Queens redesign’s four-color scheme of buses, to be divided into local (green), limited (red), Select Bus Service (blue), and rush (purple). The local buses are supposed to stop every 300-400 meters, which is not the best (the optimum for Brooklyn is about 400-500) but is a good deal better than the current spacing of about 200-250. The other three kinds of buses are more express, some running on the same routes as local buses as express overlays and some running on streets without local service.

In Queens, this four-way distinction emerges from the pattern in which in neighborhoods beyond the subway’s reach, bus usage is extremely peaky toward the subway. The purpose of the rush route is to get people to the subway terminal, such as Flushing or Jamaica, with not just longer stop spacing but also long nonstop sections close to the terminal where local service exists as an overlay, imitating the local and express patterns of peaky commuter rail operations in New York. I still think it’s not a good idea and buses should run at a more uniform interstation at higher frequency. But over the long stretches of Eastern Queens, the decision is fairly close and while rush routes are not optimal, they’re not much worse than the optimum. In contrast, Brooklyn is nothing like Queens: people travel shorter distances, and long routes are often used as circumferential subway connectors with ample turnover.

Ironically, this is something the MTA and its consultants understood: the Brooklyn map is largely green, whereas that in Queens has a more even mix of all four colors. Nonetheless, some rush routes are retained and so are some limited-only routes, in a way that subtracts value: if nearly all buses in Brooklyn offer me something, I should expect it on the other buses as well, whereas the rush-only B26 on Halsey Street is different in a way that isn’t clear.

In general, the notable feature of our redesign, unlike the more common American ones, is that there is no distinction among the different routes. Some are more frequent than others, but all have very high base frequency. This is because Brooklyn has unusually isotropic travel: density decreases from the East River south- and eastward, but the subway network also thins out and these effects mostly cancel out, especially with the high density of some housing projects in Coney Island; the busiest buses include some running only within Southern Brooklyn, like the B6 and B82 circumferentials.

In contrast, small-city redesigns tend to occur in a context with a strong core network and a weak peripheral network (“coverage routes,” which exist to reassure loud communities with no transit ridership that they can get buses too), and the redesign process tends to center this distinction and invest in the stronger core network. Queens has elements that look like this, if you squint your eyes sufficiently. Brooklyn has none: the isotropic density of most of the borough ensures that splitting buses into separate classes is counterproductive.

Frequency

The frequency in the proposed system is, frankly, bad. The MTA seems to believe that the appropriate frequency for urban mass transit is a train or bus every 10 minutes. This is acceptable in the suburban neighborhoods of Berlin or the outermost parts of New York, like the Rockaways and the eastern margin of Queens. In denser areas, including all of Brooklyn, it is not acceptable. People travel short distances: citywide, the average trip distance before corona was 3.4 km, which works out to 18 minutes at average New York bus speed (source: NTD 2019). In Brooklyn, the dense mesh of buses going between subway lines rather than to them makes the average even slightly lower. This means that very high frequency is a high priority.

So bad is the MTA’s thinking about frequency that core routes in the borough are split into local and limited variants, each running every 10 minutes off-peak, including some of the busiest corridors in the borough, like the outer circumferential B6 and B82 and the more inner-circumferential B35 on Church (split in the plan into a local B35 and an SBS B55). This is not changed from the current design, even though it’s easy to do so in the context of general consolidation of stops.

To make this even worse, there does not appear to be any increase in service-km, judging by the plan’s lack of net increase in frequency. This is bad planning: bus operating costs come from time (driver’s wage, mainly) and not distance, and the speedup provided by the stop consolidation should fuel an increase in frequency.

The Battery Tunnel

The most annoying aspect, at least to me, is the lack of a bus in the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, connecting Manhattan with Red Hook. Red Hook is isolated from the subway and from the rest of Brooklyn thanks to the freeway, and has bus connections only internally to Brooklyn where in fact a short bus route through the tunnel would beat bus-subway connections to Lower Manhattan.

We got the idea for the inclusion of such a bus service from planners that we spoke to when we wrote our own redesign. The service is cheap to provide because of the short length of the route, and would complement the rest of the network. It was also popular in the neighborhood meetings that tee consultants ran, we are told. And yet, it was deleted on a whim.

58 comments

  1. brw12

    Thanks for carrying the torch for this. I loved your Brooklyn proposal, and strongly agree that reliable frequent service is the crucial element that unlocks bus trips as a practical piece of routine travel. I also appreciated the conceptual clarity of buses being associated with specific avenues.

    • Alon Levy

      The biggest frustration for me – as a planner, not a user – is that they’ve gone through so much effort with nothing to show for it. For example, we didn’t do any community outreach and they did, and the most notably thing that came out of this outreach is a demand that we figured out without it (the tunnel bus) and then they omitted it anyway because a pair of high-ups didn’t want it to happen.

      • Luke

        Seems to dovetail nicely with the idea that outreach is done for the sake of saying it was, not for it having any real impact on planning.

        The idea that bus service in Brooklyn is only slightly more frequent than bus service in the Portland suburb I live in is almost refreshing. There really is no place in the U.S. that does transit consistently well, not even New York.

  2. Eric2

    “speedup provided by the stop consolidation should fuel an increase in frequency.”

    It looks like they are decreasing average stop count by ~35%, and just guessing this maybe provides a 10-20% increase in overall speed, which is nice but not dramatic. Maybe it’s better to wait until a redesign has proven itself in practice, and if there are indeed a lot of buses sitting around having finished their routes, then increase frequencies accordingly?

    • Alon Levy

      If the increase in frequency is targeted at the off-peak and on routes that wouldn’t already have 6-minute service (such as the high-performance routes today that have been wrongly split into local and limited variants), it’s a large improvement.

        • Alon Levy

          Yeah, it’s an argument that if you take just the stop consolidation aspects of our proposal, they net a 19% increase in speed (16% reduction in trip time). So that’s a 19% borough-wide increase in average frequency (or 16% reduction in headways). But in fact the highest-frequency routes can’t be made more frequent because they’re at the effective capacity of on-street buses beyond which they bunch too much.

          In our proposal, frequency on each route is set as the better of current frequency or a bus every 6 minutes. There are six buses with sub-6 minute off-peak headways – B6, B35 (to us as well as the MTA in its B55 variant taking over the JFK-bound B15), B38, B41, B44, B46 – all of which run every 2-3 minutes at rush hour and can’t be made more frequent then anyway; those have 29% of the total service-km, and other than the part where the B35 is lengthened to go to JFK, all of these are service-km that exist today. The B82 is every 6 minutes already too, and bumps this from 29% to 32%. If you increase frequency by 19% on average, but the entire increase is in what post-increase is 71% of the system, then the increase is by 68/(68-16) – 1 = 31%.

  3. Gregory Homatas

    One comment on nomenclature :California has freeways. We have expressway designations or parkways. Toll roads are either turnpikes NJ or Thruways NY.
    My comments on the Bus network redesign are that they should route the B69 bus in Park Slope via the original route on 8th Avenue and Prospect Park west to convenience senior citizens and others of mobility impairments that want to enjoy Prospect Park without negotiating two blocks up the hill from 7th Avenue to the park as 7th Avenue has a dedicated bus which is the B67. Currently the B69 runs along 7th Avenue along with the B67 which to me is also a duplication. The other comment on the bus network redesign is to reinstate the B71 union st bus which would alleviate car traffic from Gowanus and Cobblr Hill up to Grand Army plaza and Park Slope. During the PM rush car traffic is backed up my block in Park Slope and I believe this would help this situation.

  4. Stephen Bauman

    The Brooklyn and Queens proposals lack the information to provide a comprehensive analysis of its merits or lack thereof. A gtfs static is required to evaluate how people would be affected. Any analysis without this data is speculation.

    Some items in these reports required some detailed gtfs static data but are not available to the public. Two examples are the precise (longitude and latitude) locations of the stops and the shape file for the routes. These would permit quick analysis to determine how much further potential riders would have to walk to/from the bus stop. A comparison would also provide a comparison with the current schedules as to which stops have shelters that are provided by NYCDOT. The absence of this data restricts comments to mostly anecdotal data.

  5. Stephen Bauman

    ” The local buses are supposed to stop every 300-400 meters, which is not the best (the optimum for Brooklyn is about 400-500) but is a good deal better than the current spacing of about 200-250… People travel short distances: citywide, the average trip distance before corona was 3.4 km, which works out to 18 minutes at average New York bus speed (source: NTD 2019).”

    The useful speed parameter for evaluating bus trip usefulness is door-to-door trip time duration not bus speed. This includes the walking time to/from the bus stops, waiting time as well as the time within the bus. The average bus trip in NYC is fairly short compared with other US cities. The net result is that travel time within the bus is much lower compared with other US cities. Adding an additional average 200 meters (656 ft) would add an average of 219 seconds @ 3mph walking speed to the average door-to-door trip duration. That’s 20% of the average bus travel time.

    It’s not at all clear how much bus stop spacing influences bus speed. There was a recent article that compared bus stop spacing for many US cities.

    https://findingspress.org/article/27373-distributions-of-bus-stop-spacings-in-the-united-states

    NYC bus stop distances are already greater than most US cities, including those that have higher average bus speeds.

    I analyzed the gtfs schedules for the larger cities and determined that the correlation between average bus stop spacing and average bus speed is approximately 20%. That’s fairly low and means that increasing bus stop distance isn’t a panacea.

    I did discover a parameter that has a much higher correlation to bus speed. That parameter is derived from the NTD. It’s the ratio of the number of unlinked passenger trips (UPT) per vehicle revenue mile (VRM). That correlation is around -80%. More passengers per mile means slower trips – who would have thought!!! NYC has one of the highest ratios among US bus operators. Only San Francisco (MUNI) is slightly higher among major US bus operators.

    Now correlation does not imply causation. However, there are two ways to reduce the UPT/VRM ratio: decrease the number of bus passengers by making bus travel less attractive and increasing the number vehicle route miles by increasing service. The latter has two problems. First, buses are subsidized to a much greater extent than subway passengers. Second, bus crossings at certain selected intersections are already more than these intersections can possibly handle (all other vehicular traffic eliminated). These intersections are mostly in Queens, so there is some margin for increasing service frequencies in Brooklyn.

    • Eric2

      If you double stop spacing from 200m to 400m, the average person has to walk 100m more to reach the stop, not 200m.

      Of course, in theory it’s 100m at both ends, but in practice one end of the trip is typically a subway stop or other large destination with a bus stop right outside it. In which case the added time is only at one end.

      • Matthew Hutton

        I’d expect the average New Yorker walks at ~4km/h (which is my walking pace) so would take 90 seconds to walk 100m or 180 seconds to walk 200m.

        • Stephen Bauman

          Thanks for the correction. I converted meters to feet but for got to convert mph to fps. My number for 200m walking time should be 146 seconds. That’s still 13% of the average bus travel time. You’re a bit slower because 4 km/hr is 2.5 mph. Obviously exact figures are highly dependent on assumptions.

          The important point is that walking time to/from bus stops is a significant portion of total trip time. It becomes more important for New York City’s short distance trip length.

    • Allan Rosen

      I don’t see NYCT Transit on the table, only MTA Bus Company. But I guess the numbers wouldn’t be that different.

      • Stephen Bauman

        I did my own calculation for the larger cities, using the static gtfs files for the same random October 2019 day. The source data is available on the web.

        My calculation included the 6 different MTA-NYCT and MTA-Bus gtfs file sets. All the other cities have a single static gtfs file, although some of these files include multiple operations.

        I also separated local buses from commuter buses, BRT/SBS and limited bus trips. I wanted to get the average spacing for local routes. I summed up the total mileage for all trips from the shape.txt file and divided that by the sum of the number of stops for each trip less the number of trips to get the average distance between stops. I took only the local routes for the other cities: Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

        I also summed up the total running time for the day’s trips for the selected local trips. I divided this by the total mileage to get an estimate of average operating speed for the different cities. The correlation between the average operating speed and distance between stops was around 20%, as I reported.

    • Alon Levy

      North American practice is bad. The standard elsewhere in the world is 400-500 meters, and if you plug in walking speed and average New York City bus trip distances, you still get that standard, and not 200-250 meters. In general, given the consistent underperformance of American public transit, any variation from rest-of-first-world practice needs to be assumed to be a deficiency in American practice until proven otherwise; the goal of the periphery is to absorb the knowledge of the core and imitate, not to explain to itself why it shouldn’t learn.

      The problem with doing a general correlation is that it misses why the stop spacing may be different on different routes. If you instead look at a specific route with local and limited variants, the difference in trip times is consistent with a stop penalty of 25-30 seconds, independently of how many passengers get on or off; I checked this in New York and Vancouver and if anything New York seems to have a slightly longer stop penalty.

      • Stephen Bauman

        What’s the criterion by which you rate North American practices bad? I’ve defined mine as minimizing door-to-door trip time.

        It’s impossible to do a comprehensive European stop distance comparison because many cities don’t include a shape file in their GTFS static schedule. Those that include the shape file do show longer distance between stops. Unfortunately, Paris and London don’t include a shape file. London, of course, does not provide a GTFS static schedule. Stop distances were irrelevant in London, during the Routemaster days. The open rear platforms meant that passengers would enter and leave the bus, whenever and wherever it was convenient.

        I’m aware of many shortcomings in my analyses. I’m doing the best I can with the published data that’s available.

        Here are some shortcomings of comparing limited and local stops along the same route. First, it does not provide direct insight as to what will happen when local service is eliminated. That essentially is what will happen when stop distances are increased to current limited stop length. Second, limited service is available only during peak periods for many lines. This makes it difficult to make an all day comparison. Third, the comparison should not be between limited and local service but rather comparing limited/local service with hypothetically making all buses local with shorter headways due to having more buses on the route. FWIW, I used to regularly take a typical 2.4 mile trip along a route with local/limited service. It was a wash as to whether the local or limited would arrive first. The limited would pass the local but the local would pass the limited, when the limited was at one of its stops.

        The 30 second per stop penalty refers to the time spent changing to/from the curb lane. The time spent at the curb does increase with the number of entering/exiting passengers. It’s been 60 years since the last Bingham buses were scrapped in NYC. This means curb time increases faster than linearly vs. the total of pickups and dropoffs.

        • Alon Levy

          The criterion is ridership: the US is bad, and therefore local traditions are not persuasive authority.

          But as it happens, it’s not that the planners are unaware of this problem. In fact, minimizing door-to-door trip time is taught in transport planning textbooks; the optimum depends on the average unlinked trip, but even at the relatively short distance for New York, the formula spits around 400 meters. The difference is that in Europe, Asia, and Australia/NZ this formula is followed, whereas in the US the tradition of shorter stop spacing was developed in ignorance of it, and consolidation is then blocked by an onerous process in which planners are mistrusted and traditionalist local notables are elevated.

          Re comparing locals and limiteds:

          1. The presence of the local doesn’t make the limited go faster (e.g. some of the limited buses I use in this comparison, esp. in Vancouver, are more crowded than their local counterparts).

          2. I take local and limited routes departing at the same time – this isn’t a comparison of all-day averages, which would make the local look better if the limited doesn’t run overnight.

          3. The average headway gets longer if the buses make more stops.

          4. The 30 second per stop penalty looks independent of ridership. Then there is the effect of ridership, which is independent of stop spacing (since, to first order, the riders stay on the bus regardless of stop spacing); this is affected by whether there is all-door boarding and, if there’s front-door boarding, how fast the payment method is (some smartcards achieve boarding speeds per door comparable to proof-of-payment). There are both TRB formulas for this and some studies that we reference in our Brooklyn bus redesign for the impact of proof-of-payment on per-passenger boarding time in New York and San Francisco.

          • Matthew Hutton

            I don’t think I’ve been on many urban buses where the buses don’t stop at pretty much all the stops anyway.

          • Allan Rosen

            They don’t stop as much in outlying areas. In 2006, they eliminated my bus stop and the MTA told us 54 people a day used that stop. If you assume that no more than one person got on or off at a time and calculate the numbers of buses passing that stop daily, you would see that 9 out of ten buses did not stop. Therefore virtually no time was saved, certainly not enough to revise the schedules. Yet 54 people everyday had their travel times lengthened and possibly doubled by that one small change.

            They eliminated another stop which had to be returned because it severely overloaded the adjacent stop with about 100 beach passengers so they had to put it back. And guess what? It’s on the list again for elimination.

            If you always ride in the central city, you are correct, most buses pretty much stop all the time.

          • Stephen Bauman

            Here’s why ridership may not be the best metric for measuring operator performance. There may be factors beyond the operator’s control that influence ridership to a much greater extent than what the operator controls.

            Consider the postwar period in Manhattan. That’s when most of the avenues were converted to one-way. This essentially wrecked the surface lines because it added an average of 1/2 an avenue block to get to/from a bus stop. It’s also an example of increasing the distance to/from the stop without changing the distance between stops.

            It’s the distance to/from the destination and the stop that’s important factor. We’ve been using the distance between stops as an estimator. We also don’t know how close different routes are. It’s conceivable that residents of European cities are close to routes on different streets than those in North American cities. In that case, the distance of stops along individual routes is less important. I have noticed that most European static GTFS schedules include the stop coordinates. I will calculate what percentage of the cities’ area are within 200, 300, etc. meters of the stops. I can break it down by population for NYC because the census block data is available. I’m curious if such data is available for other countries.

            Here’s one bit of cherry picking for the bus ridership metric. I noticed that the number of trips in Paris dropped 16% between 2011 and 2019. The drop in NYC was 10% during the same period. Should one conclude that the MTA’s management was better than that of the RATP?

            1. I see you and Mr. Paul have noticed that crowded buses operate more slowly than less crowded ones. This observation points to my suggestion that passenger trips per linear distance (UPT/VRM) is a good predictor of bus speed.

            4. I am familiar with the TRB studies regarding POP systems. Here are some limitations that were presented in those studies. POP time saving disappears, once there are standees. The SF MUNI data was not based on low floor buses.

            The low floor buses have limited aisle width at the front wheels. This invariably slows down entry, especially when shopping cars are present. The net effect is that low floor buses exhibit the same impediment to entry/exit without the necessity for that many standees.

            One more item for my to-do list concerns the MTA’s GTFS-RT bus feed. They have started including the bus passenger count for some buses starting on 12/15/2020. There are lots of reliability problems with the feed.

          • Alon Levy

            Ad New York vs. Paris, at some point looking at trends gets to the “the first world is in a recession now and therefore we in Brazil/India/Russia/wherever don’t need to reform any of our institutions” excuse. (But also, the 10- and 20-year trend is generally better here than in New York.)

            If you want to look at Paris specifically, there are special Parisian issues like “the Métro goes everywhere and therefore city buses are inconsequential.”

            Ad census block data, it is unnecessary for planning. At no point has any of this data – especially passenger surveillance data – actually led to better planning; it’s just an excuse by managers to create more work for other people. It’s especially silly in the context of discussing bus stop spacing in European cities with isotropic density (which is also true of New York, and only false for some very recent TOD, like some parts of Toronto and Vancouver). At some point, the default assumption needs to change from “American transit practices are okay and any change needs extraordinary evidence” to “the US has negative knowledge and any variation from standard practices elsewhere need extraordinary evidence,” which you are not providing.

            And ad POP, the buses in New York are often low-floor and do exhibit speed gains from SBS.

          • Eric2

            @Stephen Bauman
            Low floor buses are necessary nowadays for accessibility reasons, whether or not they speed up travel.

            @Alon
            You haven’t refuted his point that a naive ridership comparison does not prove whether a change was good or bad.

          • Alon Levy

            It’s not just a naive ridership comparison, though. It’s ridership and operating costs and capital costs and the long-term ridership trend.

            (And also, low-floor buses absolutely speed up travel: they reduce boarding time per passenger dramatically.)

          • Fredrik Staxäng

            This: some smartcards achieve boarding speeds per door comparable to proof-of-payment.
            Which ones?

          • Matthew Hutton

            OV Chipkaart in the Netherlands seems pretty fast. Comparable to EZ Link IMO.

      • James S

        “The standard elsewhere in the world is 400-500 meters, ”

        Rest of the world? Not really. Vans that stop on demand (no dedicated stops) are probably the predominant bus ridership model both in terms of overall ridership and vehicles.

        If you mean western Europe, then say western Europe.

        • Alon Levy

          I mean Singapore, and Australia, and Israel, and New Zealand – it’s not just a European standard, it’s dominant for anything that’s recognizable as a bus rather than a jitney.

        • Nilo

          Probably not? There are a lot of people in Africa and Indonesia obviously, but China and Brazil are dominated by formalized buses as I understand it. Eastern Europe obviously is formal transit dominated if much more tram.

    • Paul

      A key factor is that most bus stops are served on request. A low ridership route with short stop spacing has a lot of stops in theory, but most of them are skipped on a typical trip. I’d expect that stop consolidation may not shift the average number of stops served by very much, but it could reduce the variance. But with higher ridership, you might see more of a reduction in stops served.

  6. Allan Rosen

    The MTA says nothing about using a consultant. I am curious how you know this and why they needed it with their huge Operations Planning Staff. When I headed the Brooklyn Network Redesign study in 1981 and 1982, I had no consultant and a staff of only six. We developed a network that was better than what was developed this time around. Why nothing happened with it is another story.

    As someone involved in Brooklyn bus planning, officially and unofficially for fifty years, I have much to say about this plan, most of which cannot be said here. The only thing I agree with you on is that it is a bad plan which is why it is getting a poor reception.

    However, it is not a bad plan for many of the reasons you cite, but for different reasons. Yes, the frequencies are bad, but service cost money and the MTA is not willing to invest money in the system. Yet they state in the Existing Conditions Report that the borough is growing and Downtown Brooklyn is growing the fastest. So they choose not to invest additional resources, or perhaps cut resources which they do not tell us, and cut service in Downtown Brooklyn as well. I also agree that it is not comprehensive enough.

    The worst part of the plan is stop consolidation, not the best. However you call it, consolidation or right-sizing, it is still the same thing, bus stop removal on a massive scale which is a form of a service cut because it greatly increases passenger travel times and walking distances which is discriminatory to anyone with a mobility problem. The time this saves in bus running time and operating costs is greatly exaggerated. The negatives far outweigh the positives.

    When I accomplished the very successful 1978 comprehensive changes before joining the MTA, we received a very positive response from all six affected Community Boards. One activist who had been a constant critic of city plans for twenty years, said this was the best plan put out by the city he has ever seen. The reason is simple. The plan was good. The MTA, on the other hand puts out poor plans and receives much flack for it.

    Alon, you are very bright, much smarter than myself in many respects, and I admire your many interests and expertise. But when it comes to Brooklyn buses and the MTA, you have a lot to learn. It is no mystery why they did not propose a local bus through the Carey Tunnel. They do not want to give residents a choice of bus or subway to travel between Brooklyn and Manhattan because providing train service is cheaper than bus service and they know such a route would be hugely successful and don’t want riders to switch from the subway to the bus even if it would be quicker for them. The MTA knows they could never meet the demand, and might have to operate buses as frequently as every two minutes, not the 30 minutes they proposed when Bloomberg forced them to develop alternatives travel into Manhattan because of proposed congestion pricing. Local elected officials later revived that plan.

    The only plan I can think of that would be worse than what the MTA created is the plan you and Eric developed. Too many trips are disrupted by requiring many multiple transfers. Presently, only one third of the bus trips in Brooklyn can be completed by a single bus. Under your plan, that number would be reduced to about ten percent, and the number requiring four or five transfers would rise from about 20 percent to around 80 percent. Even with increased frequencies you propose, most trips still would take longer as with the MTA’s plan.

    The MTA is only holding virtual meetings because they are afraid to meet with the public in person because of the reactions they know they will receive. If you had to present your plan in person to Brooklyn communities, you would need to wear head to toe body armor. You would be eaten alive. I would have no problem presenting the plan I developed to communities because I presented a comprehensive plan before.

    • Eric2

      “It is no mystery why they did not propose a local bus through the Carey Tunnel. They do not want to give residents a choice of bus or subway to travel between Brooklyn and Manhattan because providing train service is cheaper than bus service and they know such a route would be hugely successful and don’t want riders to switch from the subway to the bus even if it would be quicker for them.”

      I wonder what fraction of these people are already taking a bus to the subway.

      • Allan Rosen

        The people who would use such a service are currently making their entire trip by subway at least in Brooklyn. They may use a bus at their destination.

        • Noah Atchison

          As one of the “people who would use such a service”, yes, currently the most direct way to get into Manhattan from Red Hook is to walk or take the B61/B57 to the Smith-9th Street subway station and then transfer to the F/G. I’ve lived in the area for several years and, in my anecdotal experience, a disproportionate number of people bus for a few reasons:

          1. Getting to the Smith-9th Street subway station requires crossing Hamilton Avenue, which is unpleasant and dangerous. Hamilton is filled with cars traveling at highway speeds after getting off the BQE and the lights are timed such that unless you jog, you end trapped under the BQE for a full cycle. Crossing can be especially nerve-wracking at night when speeds are higher and visibility is lower.

          2. Regardless of traffic danger, the route is inaccessible. The curb cuts along Hamilton are placed for cars and not for pedestrians, so if you’re pushing a stroller/using a wheelchair you need to veer off of the crosswalk and into the street to get onto the sidewalk after crossing.

          3. The Smith-9th Street Station itself is inaccessible. As came up when the B75 service to downtown Brooklyn was eliminated in 2010, the Smith-9th Street station is literally the highest subway station in the world and has no elevator. Many of the bus users in Red Hook are older and avoid the station for that reason (as do I if I, for example, have luggage). While there are escalators, they are frequently out of service. To reach an accessible station, you currently need to take the B57 or B61 to downtown Brooklyn.

          All of this is to say that local electeds face pressure to advocate for direct bus line into Manhattan because despite being within 15-20 minutes of the F/G line, the subway system doesn’t “feel” accessible due to a combination of station architecture and streetscape decisions. So, while it’s true that many people traveling from Red Hook to Manhattan use the subway for their entire trips, it’s also true that Red Hook has one of the highest car-ownership rates in the city, and the assumption that people will just cross a highway to access the subway probably contributes to city-planning decisions that lock that pattern in.

          • Allan Rosen

            Thank you for your input. I definitely believe that the route is necessary. I proposed in in my redesign also. But how do we get the MTA to listen?

          • Nathanael

            Don’t get me started on the illegal renovation of the Smith-9th St station. MTA was legally required to add elevators, and didn’t because MTA was run by ableist criminals with a criminal mindset. It is probably the easiest station in the entire system to add elevators to — the elevators would go on the east side of the canal, with a new headhouse in the parking lot underneath the viaduct, and renovation of some of the quasi=platform already present into proper platform for customers.

    • Alon Levy

      1. I know they used a consultant because both the consultant (Sam Schwartz) and the NYCT planners who were working with the firm told us this. Yes, it’s silly and they should have done this in-house, but the MTA loves privatizing itself (=disempowering the subordinates of the honchos who make these decisions); capital construction has done the same, with the usual results.

      2. What you’re missing with the stop consolidation – and to be fair the MTA and Sam Schwartz missed it too – is how it can be plugged into more service. That’s one way it’s possible to spam additional service to turn 10-minute headways into 7.5-minute headways; getting to 6 requires additional work (a combo of bus lanes and removing low-performing routes that duplicate the subway too much).

      3. The buses never work by themselves. They work with the subway, and the goal is to get people to where they want to go by both modes, not just one.

      • Allan Rosen

        1. Sam Schwartz, huh? (Not him personally, but that means that the very same person doing all the MTA bus planning who has been screwing up service in the 1960s, 70’s and in 1980 is screwing it up again! I know who works for Sam Schwartz. In fact, I was hired to correct the mess he made of the Brooklyn redesign in 1980 by spending 2/3 of the resources, and accomplishing only 1/3 of the tasks.

        2. I am not missing anything with the bus stop removal. Call it what it is. It cannot be used to provide more frequent service because the time saved is a myth. Buses will not save an average of 20 seconds per stop eliminated as claimed. One third of the stops removed are lightly utilized where they are skipped anyway because no one is getting on or off. One third are heavily utilized which only increases dwell time at neighboring stops. So the average time saves is more like 3 seconds and that is next to negligible. And you are not considering the effect bus stop removal has on total travel time which is just as important as the bus’s travel time.

        3. That is totally obvious which I fully understand.

        • Alon Levy

          1. Yeah, them.

          2. The 20-30 s figure comes from actual local vs. limited bus schedules, so that includes the effect of “some bus stops are lightly utilized and are skipped anyway.”

          • Allan Rosen

            That assumes the schedules actually reflect running time. Also, it still does not include longer dwell times from some stops being more heavily used. Only acceleration, deceleration and time to get back in traffic are considered. The time to get back in traffic can be eliminated without bus stop removal with my proposed law to require non-emergency vehicles give buses the right of way when re-entering traffic. It is the law in two states and cities in Europe. If cars have to wait for school buses, they can also wait for transit buses.

          • Alon Levy

            In at least one of my test cases, Vancouver, the buses run on schedule off-peak. (In New York the schedules seem to somewhat reflect reality too, they’re just not as tight.)

  7. IAN! Mitchell

    Brief sanity check: Walking speed is ~8 km/h on average.

    Meaning that on a 3.4km trip, 18 minutes is perhaps 7 minutes faster than walking.

    On a ten-minute headway, your brooklyn bus rider is saving all of two minutes?
    That’s not a great value for $2.50

    Sounds like any redesign should be looking at stops in the 1km range, not every .3km, and 5-minute off-peak headways at an absolute minimum.

    Battery tunnel bus is a glaring omission that shows, at best, cruel anathema towards brooklyn’s transit riders.

    • Eric2

      3.4km walks are exhausting for a lot of people, and unpleasant in bad weather. Sitting in a vehicle or even in a bus stop is much preferable for trips of that length, even if little time is saved.

      • IAN! Mitchell

        Just because we’re offering a comfortable option doesn’t mean we should offer it at such a shameful combination of low frequency and low average speed that walking, eScooters, or skateboards are comparably fast.

      • adirondacker12800

        In short bursts not for a half hour. If the bus is running every ten minutes, you got real unlucky and just missed one, two of them are going to pass you in your half hour walk.

        • Alon Levy

          With the caveat that Manhattan crosstown buses are snails, when I missed an M72 at First Avenue after the service cut reducing frequency to every 12 minutes, I’d walk to Broadway usually without being overtaken by the next bus.

          • IAN! Mitchell

            I agree that tourists, the elderly, people with disabilities, people carrying things, are all less likely to consider a 25 minute walk as being worth the $2.50 to take versus 7 minutes of walking, 5 minutes of waiting, and 11 minutes on-vehicle.

            That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying harder to increase frequency and average speeds.

          • adirondacker12800

            Manhattan cross town buses don’t go to Brooklyn. If traffic is so execrable walking is faster than taking the bus, that isn’t the bus’s fault, anything increased frequency, rationalization or painting the bus pink is going to fix. It needs a dedicated bus lane and a dozen brownies, on foot, to enforce it.

          • Oreg

            In my observation, crosstown buses are indeed barely faster than walking (outside of the park). The main reason must be the single-door boarding with ticket inspection by the driver, and the many intersections with red lights. The latter prevents the bus from ever reaching reasonable speed. Not sure how much worse the many stops make it.

  8. James S

    My scan of the report is a whole bunch of red indicating reduced frequency or span of service…or both.

    Looks almost like service cuts hidden amongst a grand plan. I understand some are replaced by a new route or new express, but its very hard to understand

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