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It’s a bus-aster! Bklyn ridership soaring — and MTA can’t keep up

The Brooklyn Paper
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Bus ridership in Brooklyn has jumped more than 25 percent over the past decade, but service has only increased 8 percent, according to a new study.

And the report, issued Tuesday by the Straphangers Campaign, showed an even bigger gap between weekday ridership and service levels on several key bus routes through the borough:

• Ridership on the B77, which links transit-deprived Red Hook (and its new Ikea!) to Park Slope, went up 114 percent from 1997–2007, yet service actually decreased by 9 percent, the study showed.

• On Red Hook’s other key line, the B61, which connects the neighborhood (and its new Ikea!) to Downtown Brooklyn, ridership went up 74 percent, yet service went up just 7 percent.

• The B71, which connects the Columbia Street Waterfront District to all the neighborhoods to the east, saw a 49-percent increase in ridership, yet a 6-percent decrease in service.

• The B24, which makes an odd run from Williamsburg into Queens and back into Greenpoint, had 60 percent more riders, yet had a 6-percent service decline.

• The B9, a vital route for residents of the northern part of Bay Ridge trying to get to Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and the Kings Plaza mall, saw a 36-percent increase in ridership, yet had a 2-percent decline in service.

• The B1, which runs from Bay Ridge, through Bensonhurst and into Brighton Beach, had 31 percent more riders, yet had 1-percent less service.

In all cases, the Straphangers Campaign measured service using New York City Transit’s own “revenue seat miles” statistic, a calculation that takes into account the length of a route and the number of busses running along that route. The full report can be viewed at http://www.straphangers.org/bus08/bus_final_table1.pdf.

“Crushed by crowds? Have to wait for more than one bus to go by? It’s not your imagination, transit officials have never caught up to the waves of new bus riders,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, a division of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

New York City Transit, a division of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, questioned the Straphangers’ statistics and conclusions.

“It is untrue that NYC Transit has not kept pace with the increase in ridership — which resulted from free bus-to-subway transfers and discounted fares,” the agency said in a statement.

“The increase, most of which occurred by the end of 2001, was met with unprecedented increases in bus service.”

The agency claimed that service increased by 29 percent city-wide during the decade, but the Straphangers report put the service increase at just 15 percent during a period of 22-percent ridership growth. The discrepancy is due to methodology: “NYC Transit’s figure includes weekend service and express bus service, while ours does not,” said Russianoff. “We looked only at weekday service.”

New York City Transit has recently threatened decreases in its bus service, given its parent agency’s budget deficit, but Russianoff cautioned against such cuts.

“It makes no sense to cut service that’s already lagging behind ridership and new riders are flocking to transit service as the price of gasoline heads toward $5 a gallon,” he said.

Updated 5:07 pm, July 9, 2018
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