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Bus, stop! Critics want to put the breaks on bus plan

Street changes: The Metropolitan Transit Authority and Department of Transporation want to launch a new Select Bus Service for the B82 bus, which would ban turns from Flatlands Avenue onto Ralph Avenue.
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More like “Reject Bus Service.”

Community Board 18 ripped the latest proposal to bring Select Bus Service to the Coney Island-to-East New York-B82 bus, and said the plan to ban left turns from a busy commercial strip in Canarsie would push traffic onto nearby residential streets.

The plan laid out by city and state officials at a meeting on June 21 would nix left turns from Flatlands Avenue onto Ralph Avenue — a non-starter for locals, said one board member.

“That is so heavily used — where are these people going to go then up to make the left? Then they go up to residential? Those poor people,” said Barbara Bieber. “It’s congested now, it’s going to be a disaster because now you’re going to have cars backed up, it’s insane. You can’t get rid of that left turn.”

The Metropolitan Transit Authority and Department of Transportation first pitched the idea to speed up the B82 bus — which 32,000 straphangers use daily — in January 2016. But the plan faced a backlash at the time because officials only touted the benefits of the program, while sidestepping details about how the new service would disrupt local traffic patterns.

Now that officials have specified where the dedicated bus-only lanes would go, critics are again demanding they put the brakes on the plan — or go back to the drawing board.

“There’s an old parable about a farmer who had two chickens, one chicken was healthy and one chicken was sick. In order to cure the sick chicken, he killed the healthy one to make chicken soup,” said Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Canarsie) during the meeting. “Basically what you’re doing is you’re creating additional problems — whatever solution you have is worse than what we already have.”

The rollout of the Select Bus Service would include sidewalk bus shelters, real-time passenger information screens, off-board fare payment, and handicapped-accessible bus stops from Bath Beach up to East New York. But the new B82 route would also include an extended left-only turning lane near the busy Kings Highway and Nostrand Avenue intersection, and bus-only lanes along heavily-travelled Kings Highway and Flatlands Avenue.

And the route would also prohibit drivers from making a left turn from Flatlands Avenue onto Ralph Avenue, instead sending traffic down Glenwood Road, which is filled with youngsters and senior citizens from the nearby New York City Housing Authority’s Glenwood Houses in Canarsie — making residents question the plan’s priorities, said another board member during the meeting.

“You are willing to sacrifice the poor kids who live in the projects by flooding their street that also, you know what’s also on that street, is senior citizens,” said Judy Newton. “You’re willing to do that? There’s a lot of children who live in public housing there, I don’t get it.”

Both agencies have already done lots of community engagement before presenting the plan, said a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, but will take the board’s feedback and concerns into consideration.

“The draft plan we presented was based on extensive community outreach that began in 2015, including outreach events at senior centers, libraries, and several B82 bus stops, as well as conversations with schools, hospitals, civic associations, and places of worship along the corridor,” the spokesman said. “The proposal will be further informed by our conversation with members of Community Board 18 this week. We look forward to returning to the board in the fall.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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