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‘Bus-only’ lanes coming

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A revamped B44 route will bring bus-only lanes and parking changes to Nostrand Avenue.

The city Department of Transportation (DOT) and MTA New York City Transit are now planning a faster route, dubbed Select Bus Service (SBS). Details about the plan were unveiled at the December 8 meeting of the agencies’ Community Advisory Committee (CAC), which is intended to allow DOT and MTA reps to discuss the plan with community residents.

“New York has the slowest buses of any city in the country,” said Joseph Barr, DOT’s director of transit development. He attributed that to an increase in ridership and traffic congestion.

Currently, B44 buses — which run along Nostrand Avenue through Sheepshead Bay, Midwood, Flatbush, Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg — spend about half their time in motion and the remaining time sitting at red lights or bus stops. The SBS system would decrease the time spent stationary, Barr said, since there would be bus-only lanes and longer green light traffic signals. Riders would pay for their trip using street kiosks, which would allow them to use a bus’s front and back doors to board.

The SBS system on the Bronx’s Bx12 bus line increased the amount of time buses spend in motion (50 to 60 percent), Barr said.

There would be streetscape changes to allow for the B44 bus-only lane, such as removing or relocating parking spaces. Some Brooklynites wondered if local businesses would suffer as a result.

“When I come to an area and there’s no parking, I’m discouraged to come back in the future,” said Madison resident Sholom Brody.

The SBS route would replace the B44 Limited and make fewer stops, thereby allowing buses to proceed quicker.

However, Flatbush resident Tracey Sharpe expressed concern about bus riders having to walk farther distances to SBS bus stops.

“What if there’s a snowstorm?” she said.

“The elderly will have to walk farther to get to a bus,” said Crown Heights resident Asim Muhammad.

DOT and MTA reps said the locations of the SBS bus stops have yet to be finalized.

At the CAC meeting, there were calls for additional SBS stops in southern Brooklyn.

“There’s a short section of Nostrand where you have a few car dealers and you get a lot of double-parked cars. How are you going to deal with that?” said Joe Basso, co-chair of the transportation committee for Community Board 14, which represents Flatbush, Ocean Parkway and Midwood.

“You could be stuck behind those cars that are double-parked and then you hit a red light. That could add 10 minutes [to your trip],” said B44 rider Yehuda Schupper, representing state Assemblymember Helene Weinstein.

Flatbush resident Madeline Nelson called the double-parking “stealing a public resource.”

DOT and MTA reps reiterated that this was just the first meeting of the CAC so there will be many opportunities to hear and consider the public’s comments.

“I hope that the DOT will take what the community says seriously and that we have more conversations like this,” said City Councilmember-elect Jumani Williams.

For photos and videos of what the new B44 system could look like, visit www.nyc.gov/brt.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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