Relief for Riders on Brooklyn’s Busiest Bus Route as B46 SBS Debuts

Riders boarding the B46 SBS at the connection from the 3 and 4 trains no longer have to wait for everyone to dip a Metrocard. Photo: David Meyer

The B46 on Utica Avenue is Brooklyn’s busiest bus route, with more than 44,000 trips each weekday. Like other high-volume NYC bus routes, the B46 has also been susceptible to paralyzing traffic congestion and a boarding process that takes ages, as each passenger dips a Metrocard at the front of the bus. But B46 riders got some relief from slow, unreliable service this weekend with the launch of Select Bus Service.

With camera-enforced bus lanes, off-board fare collection, fewer stops, and priority for buses at traffic signals, NYC DOT and the MTA implemented a suite of improvements similar to the nearby B44, where travel times improved 15-30 percent after the debut of SBS.

Dedicated bus lanes were implemented on Utica Avenue in 2014 and 2015. Image: DOT
Bus lanes were implemented on Utica Avenue in 2014 and 2015, but camera enforcement didn’t begin until this month. Image: DOT

Where it runs through East Flatbush, the B46 serves some of the densest neighborhoods in the city outside of convenient walking access to the subway. (Last year, Mayor de Blasio suggested extending the subway from Eastern Parkway down Utica Avenue.)

DOT implemented bus lanes and transit signal priority on Utica in 2014 and 2015. On Sunday, off-board payment, bus stop consolidation, and camera enforcement of the bus lanes took effect, though drivers who violate the bus lanes will receive warnings instead of fines for the first 60 days. Bus bulbs — which enable passengers to board without the bus driver pulling in and out of traffic — will be installed next year.

On the evening commute yesterday, Elizabeth Bruno, who takes the B46 one stop between her home and the Utica Avenue subway station on Eastern Parkway, said she has noticed improvements even though riders are still adjusting to the service. “Because it’s new, I think, it takes a little while for people to get accustomed to, but once they get accustomed to [it], I think it will be fine,” Bruno said. “The Select is moving really faster because you don’t stop at every stop.”

“With the Select, it has gotten a little better,” said Yvette Glover, who rides the B46 every day from Eastern Parkway to Broadway and Myrtle. “I believe it’s a good thing.”

The B46 SBS runs from DeKalb Avenue to Kings Plaza, replacing the old B46 Limited that ran the length of the route but made express stops between DeKalb Avenue and Avenue H. The local B46, which previously stopped at DeKalb Avenue, will now make local stops from Kings Plaza all the way to the Williamsburg terminus.

Despite its very high ridership, the new B46 doesn’t have the articulated buses with three doors that have helped reduce crowding and speed boarding on other SBS routes. Nor will the bus lanes be in effect at all times. DOT originally proposed 24-hour bus lanes, but enforcement was cut to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in response to “community feedback,” according to an agency presentation — and gripes from local elected officials.

Capital improvements in 2017 will bring safety measures -- like the concrete islands on Eastern Parkway picture here -- to points along the B46 route. Image: DOT
Capital improvements in 2017 will bring safety measures — like the concrete islands on Eastern Parkway picture here — along the B46 route. Image: DOT

As a candidate in 2013, de Blasio pledged to phase in 20 “world-class bus rapid transit” lines, which then became the somewhat less ambitious policy goal of implementing 13 SBS lines in his first term (on top of the seven routes implemented by the Bloomberg administration). The B46 is the sixth SBS route to launch in de Blasio’s two and half years as mayor, with two more scheduled to debut this fall.

In a statement this morning, the mayor lauded the improvements for bus riders and highlighted the street safety improvements — the project includes sidewalk extensions and turn bans along the route. “Back in 2013, we made a strong commitment to expand the number of communities that see the benefits of Select Bus Service,” de Blasio said. “For communities with limited subway options, SBS is a winning formula that transforms bus commutes by saving precious time while also suiting our Vision Zero goals by making sometimes dangerous streets like Utica much safer.”