On Sunday morning, April 15th, several hundred Brooklyn residents assembled at the corner of Kings Highway and McDonald Avenue in the Gravesend section to voice their staunch opposition to a Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Transit Authority plan to implement a “Selective Bus Service” plan along the B82 route.
Holding aloft signs that say “Save Our Streets”, the neighborhood protestors (comprised of residents and business owners) as well as a bevy of local elected officials called on the DOT to abrogate what they perceive as an “ill intentioned” plan.
Said one resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity, “This plan that calls for the institution of express bus service along Kings Highway will serve to severely hurt the economic well-being of the numerous commercial enterprises on the avenue. The new bus lane will take over blocks and blocks of metered parking spots. That translates into more frustrated drivers who cannot find a parking spot. And if they can’t find a parking spot, they can’t shop along Kings Highway and that means that the shop owners will suffer financially.”
Addressing the safety aspect that looms over the concept of express buses another resident said, “This SBS plan will also place pedestrians in great danger as Kings Highway will be jam packed with buses and other vehicles and the risk of getting hit by a bus will increase dramatically.”
Other residents said that, “elected officials and politicians should be reminded that it is through the tax dollars of the Kings Highway businesses that are they compensated for their services.”
Another resident said, “Right now, what would help with easing vehicular congestion on Kings Highway is for the DOT to more aggressively ticket those who flagrantly double park. It is clear that both buses and passenger vehicles cannot drive down Kings Highway in a timely manner when they are blocked by those who double park.”
Senator Simcha Felder told the determined crowd that “these are our streets; we live here and it should be left to us to decide the future of our neighborhood and its value as a vibrant hub of commercial success. The business owners are local residents as are those who shop there and placing an SBS route on the B82 will be a tremendous blow to the economic welfare of the community and we have told the DOT and the MTA that we will not accept that scenario under any condition.”
Also addressing the community rally was Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz and Councilman Kalman Yeger. Said Councilman Yeger, “ We have never had this kind of support, this kind of achdus for a project like this before. We know that Kings Highway is a not a highway, but a residential/commercial street and we want to preserve it as such for everyone who lives here and for generations to come.”
Councilman Mark Treger said, “There is a reason that my colleagues and I got a call after the Town Hall meeting and before today’s rally saying that the MTA has put this plan on hold. It is because as a community, when our voices are joined as one, we can have the power and influence to make a difference for everyone who resides in the Kings Highway area.”
According to an eye-opening report in the Gotham Gazette, supporters of SBS routes throughout the New York City metropolitan area have been severely disappointed in the results of such transit experiments. The report explicitly revealed that SBS “has not solved the problems that it promised to solve, such as stemming the loss of ridership, making buses more reliable, or significantly shortening passenger trip times.”
A report issued by City Comptroller Scott Stringer and is entitled, “The Other Transit Crisis: How to Improve the NYC Bus System” states that “of the nine SBS routes introduced prior to 2016, five have experienced a ridership decline. SBS routes travel at an average speed of 8.7 miles per hour, or just slightly better than the seven miles per hour achieved by local buses. City-wide, SBS routes fail to maintain steady, evenly spaced service 19 percent of the time, while local buses fail 22 percent of the time.”
Corroborating these facts is Margie Bijou, a board member of the Kings Highway Business Association. The organization that Ms. Bijou represents has championed community opposition to the proposed SBS route since learning about it in early February of this year.
“During a routine board meeting of the KHBA back in February did we learn about the MTA’s plan for express bus service on Kings Highway. After conducting exhaustive research into this important matter, I learned that despite their protestations to the contrary, it turned out that the MTA and the DOT (who work in consonance on these kinds of projects) did not survey 235 businesses in the Kings Highway area and beyond to ascertain the feelings of residents,” Ms. Bijou exclaimed.
She added that the once heralded cachet and influence of Community Board # 15, (which regularly debates local and city governmental matters that impact its residents) was effectively silenced by the MTA bigwigs. “I was told that even though there is growing community opposition to the SBS route, that it really did not matter what the results of the community board were and that this ill-conceived plan would go into effect this coming summer. We all felt that this plan was being foisted upon us unwillingly and many of us resent that,” she added.
For Ms. Bijou and the community members that she represents this issue far exceeds the scope of express buses running along Kings Highway. “For us, the way in which this entire unfortunate episode was handled by the city – namely the MTA and the DOT – was the truly frightening aspect to this story. They tried to stonewall us on every occasion; they tried to push something on us that we find repugnant in every way. After giving this matter much thought it appears that if governmental authorities are in a position to wield way too much power, they can force other very harmful regulations on communities. This would leave the average citizen’s group or community board without any tangible recourse in terms of voicing their opposition and determining their own fate.”