Select Bus Service Comes to Brooklyn

Photo: Ben Fried

Boarding at Nostrand and Flushing on the first day of B44 SBS service. Photo: Ben Fried

Yesterday was the first day of service for Brooklyn’s first Select Bus Service route, upgrading the B44 Limited with a dedicated bus lane, off-board fare collection, bus bulbs, and fewer stops. It’s the sixth SBS route to enter service, following two in the Bronx, two in Manhattan, and one in Staten Island.

In addition to improving transit speeds, these measures should help reduce bus bunching on what has been one of the most unreliable routes in the city — in 2009 the B44 took home the Straphangers Campaign Schleppie Award for NYC’s least reliable bus route.

At noon, Mayor Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan will announce the launch of the new service, and we’ll have a report from the presser later today. Just a note for now about how the coverage of this bus upgrade is playing out: Whenever a new SBS route launches, it takes some time for people to acclimate, and the first stories tend to zero in on how riders have trouble adjusting to the payment system or the elimination of stops. It’s not until several months later, maybe a year, that the performance metrics come in, showing better bus speeds and increased ridership.

The changes to the B44 are more significant than other SBS projects because northbound service is switching from New York Avenue to Rogers and Bedford Avenues, which are wider, one-way streets that can more readily accommodate transit lanes and bus bulbs. (The local B44 northbound will remain on New York, where it provides direct access to Kings County Hospital.) So there’s certainly going to be an adjustment period.

Yesterday afternoon I spoke to two women, Gem and Meg (they swore those were their real names and the palindrome was a coincidence), who were getting off a northbound B44 SBS bus at Fulton Street. They were returning from a trip to visit family at Nostrand and Flatbush, about three and a half miles away. Most passengers were confused about how to pay fares, they said, but the trip was still about 10 minutes faster than it used to be.