Brooklyn’s new B44 Select Bus Service that’s expected to cut travel times for commuters by up to 20 percent was unveiled this week — but it hasn’t quite arrived yet.
The brand-new articulated buses are now plying the 10 miles of dedicated bus lanes between Williamsburg and Sheepshead Bay, but several key parts of the service aren’t expected to come online until sometime next year.
Some of the new bus stops projecting out into the street aren’t quite finished, a few miles of dedicated northbound lanes along Rogers and Bedford avenues have yet to be painted, and the technology that will change red lights green as a select bus approaches hasn’t been switched on yet, but Mayor Bloomberg nonetheless pledged at a kick-off event on Monday that despite appearances, the new service will speed up commutes.
One of the things aimed at speeding up the service is the roadside kiosks where commuters pre-pay for the ride, eliminating card swipes with printed tickets. And early next year the ticket stations will be upgraded with signs which provide maps of the area and real-time bus-arrival information.
The new service, funded by a $28-million federal grant, replaces the B44 limited, an express service along the B44 local route, and eliminates some of the limited’s stops. Riders used to riding the B44 limited should also be aware that the new select service route deviates from the limited path heading north-bound at Flatbush Avenue, where it hangs a left before heading up Rogers Avenue, as opposed to heading further north up Nostrand Avenue until Farragut Road, where the local takes a right and then a left at New York Avenue.
The B44 local will continue to run, and is expected to move considerably faster by sharing the select bus’s dedicated lane.
The Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association had feared that businesses would lose customers — and parking spaces — to the new bus route, and staged a protest against the select bus project when it was announced in 2009. But the group has since adopted the age-old adage, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
“There’s nothing we can do about it at this point,” said Lindiwe Kamau, president of the Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association, who worried that deliveries may be impeded by the bus lanes flanking the parking spots where vans typically double park to unload goods.
Kamau worked with the city and 42 business owners to find alternative spots to accept deliveries.
“It started out rocky,” said Elena Conte, an organizer for the Pratt Center for Community Development, which consulted with the merchants group on the project. “But the city agencies learned and it got better.”
To make up for any customers that may be driven off as result of the new lane, the merchants association is determined to find new ones. They will be running a holiday shopping promotion that rewards commuters with discounts when ever they show a receipt for the new line at participating businesses between now and Dec. 31.