Restoring Connections: A New Bus Route for Brooklyn
Why Does Brooklyn Need a New Bus Route?
Bus riders in Brooklyn often get the short end of the transit stick. As the most populous borough, Brooklyn has 52 lines transporting 30% of the MTA’s bus riders. Thanks to system-wide budget cuts in 2010, 38 lines were cut, 10 of them in Brooklyn (more than any other borough), including the B71. Now, we envision an opportunity to create new connections using part of the discontinued B71 route.
This proposed over-the-canal and under-the-river route responds to how over Brooklyn is with being underserved. This new route’s primary objectives will be to connect transit-starved Red Hook to Lower Manhattan, and to provide crosstown service in Brownstone Brooklyn.
The B71 was a vital East-West connector that stretched from a transit-isolated community on the west side of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (Columbia Waterfront District) to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights. Currently, there is more than a mile between the nearest eastbound buses, the B61 and B65 (and .9 miles westbound), a large gap that could be filled by restoring service to Union Street
The proposed new route would extend into Red Hook, take the Hugh Carey Battery Tunnel to Lower Manhattan, return back to Red Hook, then proceed up the Columbia Waterfront and over to Prospect Park.
A Growing Need
Since the discontinuation of the B71, the population around the proposed new route has grown by 10.7%, much more than the increase in New York City or Brooklyn alone. This increase in the still-growing population has fed a demand for more transit, and even greater growth (and transit demand) may result from rezoning.
As Gowanus is rezoned, new residents, business, and industry will mean more demand for public transit. Without adequate local bus service, Gowanus will be in jeopardy of not having the infrastructure necessary to support its increased population, and a lack of transit options may spur otherwise unnecessary private vehicle ownership. Given the lack of accessibility, current unreliability, and the geographic distance between stations, the Gowanus Study area’s subway stations at Carroll St, 4th Ave – 9th St, Smith-9th Streets and Union Street do not meet the current or future needs of the area. Since 2011, the aforementioned stations grew in ridership by more than nine percent.
Transit Desert: Red Hook & Getting to Manhattan
Red Hook is not served by any subway stop, and only by two local Brooklyn bus routes. More than half of those who work in Red Hook travel more than 45 minutes to get to their jobs, and nearly 50% of Red Hook residents commuting to work also spend more than 45 minutes in transit to their workplaces. Currently, the MTA/ NYCT buses that use the Battery Tunnel to enter Manhattan do not make a stop in Red Hook, despite the Tunnel’s proximity to this transit desert. A direct connection between Red Hook and Manhattan would make 90,000 more jobs accessible for Red Hook commuters within a one-hour transit zone.
When the B71 was eliminated in 2010, older adults, young people, and families with children were disproportionately affected. Between 2015 and 2016, riders and area residents joined together in support of an improved and restored B71 route. After modifications were proposed to upgrade the old B71 route, more than 1,700 people signed a petition in favor of a better B71.
Seniors from area senior centers, like the Eileen Dugan Senior Center, Park Slope Center for Successful Aging, and Wyckoff Gardens Senior Center were heavy users of the B71, as it provided a connection to businesses, Prospect Park and cultural facilities. Many lost access to grocery stores after the route was cut. In addition to those using senior centers, it is important to provide all New Yorkers with the necessary infrastructure to age in place, and to prepare for an estimated 35% increase in the over-65 population by 2030.
Commuting students were also left behind by the B71. There are nine schools within two blocks of the proposed new route. Families with school children and students attending MS 51, Brooklyn New School, and the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies have faced transportation challenges since the B71’s elimination.
Families to Cultural Centers
Many of Brooklyn’s best cultural centers are within a half mile of the new route’s endpoints: the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Having transportation access to these world-class institutions will offer improved cultural opportunities to residents along the route.
A new bus for Brooklyn will mean many new and improved connections. The proposed new route will provide unprecedented access to Manhattan from Red Hook, add a cross-canal transit option for a rapidly growing Gowanus, and bring residents nearer to cultural and recreational destinations. A new bus route will mean better access to parks and cultural institutions and increased mobility for the aging communities and families of Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Park Slope, Red Hook, and the Columbia Waterfront. The proposed route, with more than nine schools within 600 feet, will enable a safe, direct route to school for many young people. By linking Red Hook directly to lower Manhattan, and improving connections through Gowanus, the proposed bus service will open up thousands of new job opportunities and improve commutes for thousands of residents. Brooklyn’s next bus route will introduce a new level of reliable mobility for Red Hook and Gowanus, serve a rapidly increasing population, and provide access to essential destinations.