To splice, or not to splice, B61 bus

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will decide next week whether to splice the B61 into two shorter routes, an effort aimed at bringing efficiency and convenience to the notorious line.

According to the agency, the 9.7−mile route connecting Red Hook to Long Island City would be made into two: a southern route, traveling from IKEA on Beard Street to Downtown Brooklyn, and a northern route, the newly formed B62, which would travel from Downtown Brooklyn to Queens Plaza, rerouted through the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza bus terminal.

“Both of these routes would operate with the same total level of service as the current B61 route, but their reliability would increase because of the shorter operating distances,” according to Howard Roberts, president of MTA−New York City Transit, which operates the city’s buses and subways.

Roberts, in a July 15 letter to Community Board 6, said the B61 presently experiences “severe delays due to traffic congestion,” especially when it rumbles through Downtown Brooklyn, “resulting in unreliability and frequent customer and community complaints.”

Jay McKnight, the co−chair of the Red Hook Civic Association, knows firsthand how unreliable the B61 can be. “If B61 passes you by, you might as well go home,” he said, alluding to its infrequency of service.

He said the split would most certainly improve commuters’ wait times, but may not help their wallets. “If you’re going 10 blocks more, you have to take the B62. That uses up your transfer,” he said. If riders have to take another bus, that’s another $2.25 without an unlimited MetroCard. “It becomes a double fare zone,” McKnight said.

The MTA has been investigating ways to improve the B61, and the creation of a B62, since 2007, when this paper first reported of the possibility. Ahmed Cooper−Bey, MTA−NYC Transit’s general superintendent for Brooklyn road operations, conceded the B61, has “issues.” Cooper−Bey said last year, “We are aware of the problems with the B61 and we are going to address them.”

The proposal has won the strong support of Williamsburg lawmaker Assemblymember Joe Lentol, who said his commuting constituents shouldn’t be forced to endure the impact traffic snarls of their southern neighbors.

“Residents of Brooklyn have had to put up with persistently delayed buses along the B61 bus route for far too long. There is just no reason that riders in North Brooklyn should have to put up with longer commutes because of congestion in Downtown Brooklyn,” Lentol said in a statement. “All too often waits will stretch up to an hour only for two buses to come at the same time due to back ups in Downtown Brooklyn.”

Updated 3:34 pm, October 19, 2011
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