Brooklyn’s first Select Bus Service (SBS) line arrived on Nostrand Avenue on Sunday, November 17, replacing the B44 Limited route with what is essentially a super-express bus route between Williamsburg and Sheepshead Bay.
However, although some people are excited about the prospect of getting to their destination faster, others are calling for the return of at least one eliminated bus stop they say is crucial to the route’s effectiveness for neighborhood residents.
“This is about the elimination of the stop at Avenue L and Nostrand Avenue, causing distress to residents of the area,” said Councilmember Jumaane Williams at an early morning rally on November 19.
“Many people at Andries Hudde J.H.S., the rehabilitation center, the synagogue and the handicapped [facilities] rely on this stop,” said Williams. “Now there is an added burden to the community.”
Until now, the B44 has run in two sections: the Limited route and the Local route. Both stopped at Avenue L, which is a mini-transit hub with the Bay Ridge-to-Flatlands B9 stopping at the same intersection.
But, no longer. In addition to requiring passengers to pay their fare before boarding—using MuniMeter-like machines instead—the new SBS route jumps from Kings Highway to the Flatbush Junction—a distance of 1.2 miles, with Avenue L in between. Commuters must now rely on the Local bus to get them to an SBS stop, meaning longer waits and crowded buses.
“My granddaughter is 15 and today we had to take her to school because yesterday, she stood there at the bus stop for 40 minutes and the bus never came,” said Jose Bernhard. “This happened to a neighbor on Avenue U, too. I’m going to have to take her to school every day, which is hard because my son also goes to work with the car.”
“It makes you late,” added 14-year-old Jana, who was waiting for the Local bus to her middle school a mile away. “The point of the [express bus] is to get you there faster. Today, we waited 15 minutes. It used to be five.”
However, some residents are more optimistic.
“It’s good. It’s confusing now because it’s new, but it saves time,” said Jennifer Wallace. “I take it from Flatbush Junction to Kings Highway and then change to the B82. It’s a 15-minute wait now; before it was 45 minutes.”
That was the MTA and city’s goal under PlaNYC, said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, noting, “With six routes launched in just six years, SBS has delivered low-cost transit options to underserved parts of the city faster than any transit project in generations. The B44 SBS alone will save its 40,000 daily passengers one million commuting hours a year.”
According to Williams and local Assemblymember Rhoda Jacobs, the problem isn’t SBS service itself, but rather the choice to eliminate crucial stops—without community input.
“Folks often didn’t even know SBS was coming until today [Tuesday] or yesterday, when they were heading to work,” said Williams.
“Although faster bus service is certainly welcome, the benefit for some riders should not come at the expense of many others [including] senior citizens, who make up a large portion of riders and for whom the bus is a lifeline,” said Jacobs. “Once again, while our communities appreciate the MTA’s efforts to make bus service more efficient, we hope that you will take our input into account, and consider restoring this vital bus stop.”