During L shutdown, focus on improving bus system
by Emily Gallagher
Feb 22, 2017 | 596 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week, some friends of mine attended a workshop regarding the L train shutdown. I was out of town so unable to attend, but I was curious and so I checked in with them.

My sources were quite frustrated. They tell me that the main plan is to reroute 80 percent of riders to other train lines that are already overtaxed and the rest of the 15 to 20 percent to bus lines.

If I would have originally taken the G to the L into the city, I would be advised to take the G to the 7, which is already over capacity.

I often take the 7 to work, and sometimes it's so crowded that I cannot get up the stairs to the platform. To put more people on this train would be more than a detriment, it would be a danger.

The powers that be are suggesting folks go to other subway lines because we are at an incredible low in terms of bus ridership.

The assumption that is made is that this is because people prefer the subway and won't ride the bus. The bus, therefore, will not be built out or developed as a viable option to alleviate the situation.

I would like to suggest that the real reason bus ridership is down is because the bus is unreliable, underdeveloped and slow.

In a city where punctuality is demanded against all odds, a tardy or delinquent bus creates a recipe for disaster. At my former job, I would take the B48 or the B62 to connect to the Marcy or Hewes J.

Telling my manager time and again that I was late because the bus didn't show up resulted in the response, "find a different way to get to work."

I went from regular bus ridership to a reluctant one. Taking the bus seemed like a reckless endeavor. Occasionally a few weeks would go by like clockwork and I would have no problems. But more often, I would wait an extra long time only to have a pile up of two or three B62s show up at the same time.

Sometimes, while waiting for the B48, it would seemingly not come at all. In nice weather I armed myself with a bike to remove the randomness, and other times I would find myself frustratingly hailing a cab and spending money I did not have to take the route that the bus had offered me.

Other cities have very developed buses to be more than a paltry solution. My friend tells me that Bogota, Colombia, and Curitiba, Brazil, are the international standards when it comes to buses.

If you want to get excited about buses and see what they could really become, I suggest you take a look at an article from May 2015 in the Guardian that showed off these bus systems. From design to functionality, they win.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has its own lane and prepaid fare. We have something similar to it right now, but these cities show how far it can go and how great it can become.

BRT is a faster, cheaper way to do light rail. Light rail isn't actually that great because it's so expensive and immovable. BRT is fast, cheap and flexible, with fewer stops and a dedicated lane it can flow without the inhibitions of normal traffic.

The routes are fluid if need be, and buses can avoid obstructions, something a streetcar cannot do. They can integrate neighborhoods that would otherwise be off the grid.

If we want to avoid or at least diminish a citywide nightmare, we need to develop a new bus plan. We need to break the mold of how we have done things with buses and expand it out to be something bigger, greater and more comprehensive. And sexier, too, while we're at it.
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