Bang, zoom — straight to Manhattan!
A Bensonhurst bus driver is launching an express service for Bay Ridgites who are fed up with the R train and sick of forking over a small fortune each week to ride Metropolitan Transportation Authority express buses into Manhattan. The service, Four Hearts Transportation, will put rubber to road in March and is geared toward riders who are looking for more of an experience than a mere morning commute, according to the modern-day Ralph Kramden behind the wheel.
“I want to be part of the people’s routine. When they come on the bus they’ll see a friendly face everyday,” said James King, who drives school buses by day and also drives visitors to the Upstate Correctional Facility in Malone, NY, for conjugal visits. “If you give people a good ride, make them feel comfortable. They’ll come back.”
A one-way ride on King’s line will cost $5 — compared to $6.50 for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s express bus — and a weekday commuter book that will run Ridgites $40 with the fifth day of rides free.
King expects to lure customers with the prospect of a cheaper ride, he said.
“It’s all about giving people an affordable, reliable alternative,” he said. “The people out here just want something to can call their own.”
Bay Ridge has two Manhattan-bound express buses run by the transit authority — the X27 to downtown Manhattan and the X37 to midtown.
King’s route — inspired by the now-defunct Metro Apple Express — will start at 97th and Third Avenue, wind through Brooklyn (making stops along the way), speed into the financial district, and wrap up in midtown. King will pick up straphangers along the route starting at 7:50 am and return the way he came starting at 5:20 pm, he said.
His flagship engine is a 1985 General Motors bus with fire-engine red pleather upholstery and a sleek, silver paint job. The bus is registered with the city and undergoes safety inspections every six months — the most recent inspection was Feb. 7. King bought the set of wheels up in Massachusetts, where it ran as a campus shuttle for the University of Massachusetts, and restored the dilapidated bus to its former glory.
“She needed some love, so I fixed her up,” said King. “She has that old-school vibe. It makes people stop and take a peak. The looks on their faces are just unbelievable.”
But the service isn’t just an excuse to get Ridgites cruising in ’80s style. King’s father was a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus driver for a handful of decades, and running a bus service is one way to preserve his memory, said King.
“This is how I keep my dad’s spirit alive,” he said. “I’m a sentimental knucklehead when I want to be.”