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PLG buses lose again; Nostrand Merchants protest bus upgrade

The Straphangers Campaign has given the B44 bus, which runs along Nostrand Avenue, its annual Shleppie Award for being the most unreliable line in the City. And a runner up? The B41, along Flatbush. Both of these buses are likely to be either bunched together or spread far apart over 20% of the time, causing gaps in service.


Unfortunately, the one community effort directed to change the matter only promises to make things worse: the Nostrand Avenue Merchants Assocation organized a protest last week against Department of Transportation efforts to upgrade B44 service. The DOT has been working on a plan to implement a Bus Rapid Transit network, starting with Nostrand and Rogers Avenue. Streetsblog writes:

[Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association president Lindiwe] Kamau takes issue with bus improvements planned for Nostrand because, she claims, dedicated bus lanes will eliminate curbside parking along the corridor. Here's the thing: The most recent renderings of Select Bus Service on Nostrand [PDF] depict buses operating in an existing travel lane. The curbside parking lane would still be there.


On a typical weekday, more than 40,000 people ride the B44 on the Nostrand corridor. On Saturdays, average ridership is about 29,000. B44 riders can definitely use some relief: They currently depend on the second-most unreliable bus route in the city, according to the Straphangers Campaign. The improvements promised by Select Bus Service -- pre-paid boarding, dedicated travel lanes, signal priority -- would speed trips and enable buses to stick to their schedules.


When I had asked Kamau why she opposed plans for BRT on Nostrand, the indignities and inconveniences of riding the bus weren't foremost in her thoughts, nor were her own customers' transportation needs. She said merchants already get ticketed for parking their cars on this stretch of Nostrand during the p.m. rush, when the west side of the street is a no-standing zone. "We already have problems with parking," she said. "Our merchants get tickets constantly."

Bill Thompson, Bill de Blasio, and John Liu all came out to a Nostrand Merchants press event to protest the bus line upgrade, which, incidentally, is the kind of short-term thinking that made me not want to vote them (or, at least not in the primaries). In essence, they threw their weight toward a relatively powerful minority--car owners--ignoring the voices of the silent (unorganized) majority. Or, as one commenter put it, "Democrats [made] a huge effort to pander to a single merchant who, essentially, wants nothing more than to be able to park her own car in front of her shop."

(Photo: Streetsblog)



As one of the non-car-owning majority (although in this neighborhood I feel more like a minority), I wholeheartedly support the BRT system. I was invited to attend this protest and declined for that reason. I agree that it is ridiculous and short-sighted to block this plan -- so many people depend on this and other bus routes. If they were more reliable, perhaps car owners could also be persuaded to give up their vehicles, which consume far too much of the financial resources of people who can least afford them. Maybe we should organize a counter-protest?


A counter protest (or, rather, a pro-bus rider campaign) is a great idea. I'm going to do a little research to find out what we can do that will be most effective in this particular case (whether that be a petition, a letter-writing campaign, etc.) More on that later.

The funny thing about the merchants is that they don't even pretend that the parking is for their customers - they just want to be able to park in front of their businesses! Most of the businesses along Nostrand here cater to walk-up customers.

btw, we actually own a car (shared with a neighbor). We're not out to eradicate cars; cars have their place. But we ought to be doing everything we can to improve and prioritize public transit.


Just say when and I'm in!

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