Brooklyn Braces for Loss of Bus Lines

In the Press

Brooklyn Braces for Loss of Bus Lines

Amanda Fung
Crain's New York Business

MTA cash crunch comes home to roost in Carroll Gardens For Phyllis Straka, there's just nothing like the bus for getting around in Brooklyn. “I'm a senior citizen on a pension, so a car service is too expensive,” says Ms. Straka. As for the F train stop on Smith and Ninth streets, it's too far for her to get to on foot. Beginning this summer, she and her Carroll Gardens neighbors may have no other choice. As part of a desperate attempt to save cash, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has put two popular area bus lines, the B71 and the B75, on the chopping block. “These buses are the lifeblood of the neighborhood,” says City Councilman Brad Lander. “Carroll Gardens has a lot of seniors, and those seniors can't ride the subway. These buses are also absolutely essential for families.” Carroll Gardens has dodged this bullet before. Early last year, the B71 and B75 briefly appeared on the agency's hit list, only to be quickly removed. In December, when the MTA announced a $400 million shortfall for the 2010 budget and unveiled possible new cuts, the two bus lines were among them. According to the agency, the average daily ridership of the B71 is 1,200, and the daily average for the B75 is 3,200. MTA officials point out that they have proposed an alternative service for each line, which involves extending the B61 and the B77 to replace the B75 on Ninth Street and Prospect Park West, and having riders use the B65 instead of the B71. NO READY ALTERNATIVE But the latter bus isn't really all that easy to replace. It is the only east-to-west connector from Carroll Gardens to Cobble Hill and Park Slope, according to Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, which represents the neighborhoods, who adds that there is no subway alternative. And while a good portion of the B75 route actually runs parallel to the F train, the subway is just not an option for many area residents—namely young children and the elderly. What's more, no less a source than New York City Transit just last October admitted in a report that the F train “does not have the capacity to absorb bus riders,” says Mr. Hammerman. “The B71 and B75 are all we have. We can't go up and down stairs to get the subways,” says Agnes Caminiti, who has lived in Carroll Gardens for 80 years. “We need the buses.” Ms. Straka relies on the bus to run errands such as paying bills or visiting her doctors in downtown Brooklyn and Borough Hall. Both bus lines also transport children who travel outside of their immediate neighborhood for school. Adding to the problem, the F train station at Smith and Ninth is currently under reconstruction, which will cause lengthy service disruptions and require closure of the subway station for the better part of a year, according to Gary Reilly, transportation chairman for the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association. Extending the other bus lines “will make [the loss of the B71 and B75] hurt less, but of course we prefer to keep them running,” says Mr. Reilly. PACKED WITH STUDENTS in spite of the MTA's ridership numbers, Carroll Gardens residents insist that these bus lines are always packed—especially with kids—during peak hours, when students go to school and return home. The bus lines are also direct links to the Grand Army Plaza library, Long Island College Hospital and Prospect Park. And they provide residents access to a number of commercial districts and restaurants along Fifth and Seventh avenues in Park Slope. “Eliminating these buses will be a killer,” says Maria Pagano, a resident of Carroll Gardens for 31 years. “They connect us across Brooklyn; when you've had knee surgery, it's not easy to walk from one side of the Gowanus to the other.” The MTA says that it is mindful of the effect of the potential changes in service, and that “it is trying to minimize the overall impact and hopes to affect the fewest number of riders while maximizing cost efficiency.”

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