Marty Golden and 5 Democrats Want to Block Better Bus Service on Kings Highway

The Southern Brooklyn pols are trying to nix bus lanes planned for the B82, one of the slowest bus routes in the borough.

Free her. Photo: DOT
Free her. Photo: DOT

DOT and the MTA are working to speed up bus service on the B82, which carries 28,000 daily trips across southern Brooklyn but averages less than 7 mph. Standing in the way are six Brooklyn pols who are trying hard to stop improvements that will make life better for their bus-riding constituents.

The plan for B82 Select Bus Service calls for bus lanes along Kings Highway, slated for implementation this spring. The B82 is one of Brooklyn’s slowest, least reliable routes and in dire need of improvement. Nearly one in every five B82 buses arrive in bunches, and only 48 percent arrive on time, according to the Bus Turnaround Campaign.

State Senator Marty Golden
State Senator Marty Golden

DOT has mapped out the segments where the B82 moves the slowest — that’s where bus lanes are coming.

At least, that’s where bus lanes will be implemented if the city withstands the protestations of Republican State Senator Marty Golden and five Democrats — State Senator Simcha Felder, City Council members Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch, and Assembly members Steven Cymbrowitz and Dov Hikind.

On narrower blocks of Kings Highway, the DOT plan would repurpose 134 parking spots for bus lanes that will be in effect on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. [PDF]. Outside of those times, the curb would still be reserved for car storage.

To those six elected officials, those parking spaces are more important than faster, more reliable bus service for tens of thousands of people.

In a March 8 letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Golden opposed the conversion of parking spots into rush hour bus lanes on Kings Highway between MacDonald Avenue and Ocean Avenue — where buses travel 5 mph or slower! — claiming it would result in “less shopping” and cause “permanent damage to retailers and businesses.”

Then earlier this week, the five Democrats echoed Golden in comments reported by Kings County Politics.

The dedicated bus lanes proposed for Kings Highway between McDonald Avenue and Ocean Avenue only run in one direction, and only during the weekday morning and evening rush hours. Image: DOT/MTA
The bus lane segments proposed for Kings Highway between McDonald Avenue and Ocean Avenue. Image: DOT/MTA

But experience has disproven the old scare tactic about bus improvements undermining local business. On Fordham Road in the Bronx, retailers saw more growth in sales after the launch of Select Bus Service, which repurposed curbside parking, than the borough as a whole.

Most people aren’t driving to shop on Kings Highway either. DOT and MTA surveyed 7,500 people out on the street and found that more than three quarters of them came by transit or walking, not by car.

DOT and MTA surveyed 7,500 Kings Highway shoppers, and found the overwhelming majority weren't coming by car. Image: DOT
DOT and MTA surveyed 7,500 Kings Highway shoppers, and found the overwhelming majority weren’t coming by car. Image: DOT/MTA

Meanwhile, much of the B82’s poor performance can be traced to chaotic curb management, with parking and delivery activity interfering with buses, according to DOT. In video interviews compiled by the agency, riders said the street is simply too clogged with cars and trucks for buses to travel smoothly:

Even so, to assuage concerns about parking, DOT and the Kings Highway BID tasked traffic engineer Sam Schwartz with adding 21 parking spots in the area.

The electeds were not appeased. At a City Council hearing earlier this month, Deutsch told Trottenberg that he “used to be so happy to see her,” but now he thinks, “Uch, another SBS route in my district.”

The B82 was one of 16 bus routes in Brooklyn that received an “F” in the bus report cards released last month by the Bus Turnaround Coalition. The route provides an essential connection across southern Brooklyn. There is no train that serves those trips — tens of thousands of people riding the bus have to stew in traffic with single-occupancy vehicles.

People will still be able to shop on Kings Highway after bus lanes are installed. If anything, once buses that can carry 50 people prove to be faster and more reliable, more customers will be able to reach those businesses than with a handful of cars clogging the curb.