They say the Metropolitan Transit Authority is throwing seniors under the bus.
Dozens of seniors joined with local elected officials to call on the transit agency to add another stop to the B44 Select Bus Service route at a Marine Park press conference on April 30.
The local B44 currently stops on Nostrand Avenue and Avenue R, but seniors citizens say they can wait up to 45 minutes for a local bus, while multiple select buses pass them by on the mile-long stretch between select bus stops on Avenue U and Kings Highway.
The authority has so far refused to add a stop, but the local councilman points out that the area has a large population of elderly residents — including the highest concentration of Holocaust survivors in the borough — and he says making them hike half a mile to other select stops or wait for a local bus in extreme conditions is just cruel.
“Holocaust survivors have walked enough to their death march,” said Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay). “How much more do they need to walk and stand outside in horrible temperatures?”
B44 Select Bus Service began in November of 2013 and area seniors complain that since the route began, their commutes to doctors’ offices, grocery stores, and senior centers have hit a red light. The select bus service replaced a limited bus route that used to stop at Nostrand and Avenue R, and residents say local bus service has slowed down too, severely limiting public transportation options.
“We’re finding that the regular buses are coming less frequently,” said Irma Alexander, a longtime local who lives in Marine Park.
A leader of the Transportation Workers Union said the union has been calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to add this stop, which he said would be a logical fix for residents.
“We’ve been making similar complaints,” said J.P. Patafio, the Vice President of Local 100 TA Surface. “Put in a fix — it is not a difficult thing to do.”
But a spokeswoman said the authority tried to put a select stop at Nostrand and Avenue R, but decided it wasn’t feasible, because the bus stop at that corner is also too short to accommodate the extra-long select buses.
“When we attempted to lengthen the northbound stop at Avenue R in order to prepare for longer, articulated SBS buses to stop there, the newly lengthened stop extended across a private driveway,” said Amanda Kwan. “Because of this, we had to return the bus stop to its original length, which only allows for the shorter, standard local buses to properly and safely stop there.”
At the existing B44 local bus stop on the northeast corner of Nostrand Avenue and Avenue R, there is a private driveway about 30 feet from the corner. But on the southeast corner of that intersection, on a block lined with apartment buildings rather than private homes, the nearest driveway is more than 100 feet away.
Another elected official said he doesn’t buy the transit agency’s excuses.
“I think they’re being disingenuous,” said Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Marine Park), adding that the authority has the ability to shift the stop if necessary. “If they’re willing to do something, they find a way to do something.”
Maisel said he hopes the authority reconsiders its decision and tests out a pilot program.
“Instead of just rejecting us outright, let them see what the benefits are to our community and to their ridership if they just try something for a couple months,” he said.