Brooklyn elected officials last week gathered near Brooklyn Borough Hall to express frustration about the proposed cuts to both the B38 and B54 routes which run from Downtown Brooklyn to Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick into Ridgewood, Queens.
The cuts to service and protest over them came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo, last week announced the MTA’s $51.5 billion meant to budget fixes to the subway lines, but at the expense of these vital bus services.
These cuts, however, would make commute times longer and more congested in commutes that rely on the bus routes as the only form of public transit. Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams slammed the proposed cuts and said that it would affect low-income communities disproportionately.
“Brooklynites, particularly in low-income communities, rely on buses to get around. It would be premature to make service changes while so much is up in the air, like the upcoming MTA board meeting, the borough’s bus network redesign, and the implementation of congestion pricing. Yet that is exactly what the MTA is doing. We cannot allow bus service in this city to go into a death spiral, where service cuts lead to lower revenues and vice versa. We need to invest greater operations resources in our bus network. Otherwise, the poorest New Yorkers will pay the price once again,” Adams said.
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst) and Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol (D-Greenpoint, Williamsburg) also decried the cuts, saying services should be added and not cut.
“Grow public transit service, don’t cut it! Cutting bus and subway service is a death spiral that reduces ridership and leads to more cuts. Instead, let’s expand and improve our system. In neighborhoods with less access to public transit, build. On lines that are unreliable, modernize. Let’s have a vision of better bus and subway service worthy of the greatest city in the world,” said Gounardes.
Lentol noted he and other state lawmakers recently voted to pass congestion pricing in Manhattan, largely to create a much-needed funding stream for the MTA.
“I applaud the MTA’s 5-Year Plan but there is room for improvement. MTA has already announced service cuts to vital lines in my district. This is unacceptable. We cannot improve service at the expense of other riders. My colleagues and I in Albany passed congestion pricing to provide a much-needed funding stream to the MTA. We were there for the MTA; now, they must be there for us,” said Lentol.
As a result of the proposed cuts, the B54 wait time would increase incrementally during peak morning period from 7 to 8 minutes, and during the midday off-peak period from 12 to 15 minutes. It would also increase the wait time during off-peak evening periods from 9 minutes to 12.
The B38 bus service is going to be switching over to articulated 64-foot buses which can accommodate 115 riders rather than the regular 85 riders on 40-foot busses. This, however, would eliminate four stops at Ashland Place, Kossuth Place & Broadway, Bushwick Avenue (westbound), and Cypress Avenue. The cuts would increase the time it would take for riders to get to the nearest stop, and increase wait times by one minute during off-peak midday hours while peak travel hours are to remain the same.
These changes to the B38 and B54 routes are part of 29 proposed bus route changes implemented by the MTA’s Capital Plan. This comes as only about $6 billion of the $51.5 billion are allotted to MTA New York City Buses. Other Brooklyn lines that would be affected are the B46 and the B15. The MTA defended these cuts saying that parts of the plan would add more service to other lines.
MTA spokeswoman Amanda Kwan responded to the protests telling other media outlets that it’s no secret that the MTA is in a dire financial situation, and the agency is required to balance its operating budget.
“Today we announced that we’re increasing service on routes that benefit tens of thousands of riders in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, while saving money. Who wouldn’t be in favor of that?” Kwan said.
The MTA board is expected to vote on the plan Wednesday and plans to advance it by October 1 for a vote of implementation.