On February 26, the B103 express bus heading westbound to Downtown Brooklyn from Canarsie, Midwood and Flatbush was rerouted to operate non-stop from the Prospect Expressway via Seventh Avenue, Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue away from its previous route along Third Avenue, which had increasingly heavy traffic delays according to a service change bulletin issued by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in February.
However, the new route also included 18th Street between Eighth and Seventh Avenues a residential block that homeowners and parents argue is too narrow, too full of children and too close to schools for a city bus to pass through safely, dozens of times a day.
The MTA quadrupled traffic with the B103 [coming] every two minutes at peak times on 18th Street, said Mark Madden, a resident who appealed for support from Community Board 7 in March. Imagine an eight-and-a-half-foot wide bus going down a 20-foot wide street 11 feet of travel lane at the narrowest point. Theres a blind curve. Its a high probability of serious injury and death.
In addition, he said, 18th Street turns right into a block full of schools and children and the B103 often blocks the crosswalk, forcing kids and parents into the street.
The school in question is P.S. 10 at 511 Seventh Avenue, with over 850 students. Zachary Jasie, who picks up and drops off his first grader daily, said the B103 seemed very out of place on a road that he agrees is the wrong street for a bus.
Around 80 percent of residents on the block signed a letter to that effect, sending it in mid-March to New York City Transit President Thomas Prendergast, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Councilmember Sara Gonzalez and CB7.
Bloomberg declined to get involved, stating that the MTA is a state agency, but CB 7 board members reached out to the MTA to emphasize the need for an alternative route.
One such alternative, suggested by Madden and his neighbors, is to re-route the B103 directly up Eighth Avenue instead of making the turn onto 18th Street to get to Seventh Avenue, then turning left onto Ninth Street a wide road already used by buses to get to Fourth Avenue.
Eighth Avenue is 40 feet wide with two traffic lanes and two parking lanes, notes Madden, who also suggested Prospect Avenue to Fourth Avenue as another alternative.
According to MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz, the stretch of 18th Street in question is used by all traffic that exits the Prospect Expressway to access Seventh Avenue and has more than enough width for buses (and trucks) to operate, including the on-street parking.
However, Ortiz said in an email that improvements to traffic conditions on Third Avenue thanks to completed construction means that the agency is currently evaluating a return to the former route using the Fourth/Third Avenue exit from the Prospect Expressway to Third Avenue as well as other options.