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Bensonhurster starts Ridge-to-Manhattan bus service

Ralph Kramden incarnate: Bensonhurst bus driver James King is launching a Bay Ridge express bus into Manhattan for transit-starved Ridgites.
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Bang, zoom — straight to Manhattan!

A Bensonhurst bus driver is launching an express service for Bay Ridgites who are fed up with the R train and sick of forking over a small fortune each week to ride Metropolitan Transportation Authority express buses into Manhattan. The service, Four Hearts Transportation, will put rubber to road in March and is geared toward riders who are looking for more of an experience than a mere morning commute, according to the modern-day Ralph Kramden behind the wheel.

“I want to be part of the people’s routine. When they come on the bus they’ll see a friendly face everyday,” said James King, who drives school buses by day and also drives visitors to the Upstate Correctional Facility in Malone, NY, for conjugal visits. “If you give people a good ride, make them feel comfortable. They’ll come back.”

A one-way ride on King’s line will cost $5 — compared to $6.50 for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s express bus — and a weekday commuter book that will run Ridgites $40 with the fifth day of rides free.

King expects to lure customers with the prospect of a cheaper ride, he said.

“It’s all about giving people an affordable, reliable alternative,” he said. “The people out here just want something they can call their own.”

Bay Ridge has two Manhattan-bound express buses run by the transit authority — the X27 to downtown Manhattan and the X37 to midtown.

King’s route — inspired by the now-defunct Metro Apple Express — will start at 97th and Third Avenue, wind through Brooklyn (making stops along the way), speed into the financial district, and wrap up in midtown. King will pick up straphangers along the route starting at 7:50 am and return the way he came starting at 5:20 pm, he said.

His flagship engine is a 1985 General Motors bus with fire-engine red pleather upholstery and a sleek, silver paint job. The bus is registered with the city and undergoes safety inspections every six months — the most recent inspection was Feb. 7. King bought the set of wheels up in Massachusetts, where it ran as a campus shuttle for the University of Massachusetts, and restored the dilapidated bus to its former glory.

“She needed some love, so I fixed her up,” said King. “She has that old-school vibe. It makes people stop and take a peak. The looks on their faces are just unbelievab­le.”

But the service isn’t just an excuse to get Ridgites cruising in ’80s style. King’s father was a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus driver for a handful of decades, and running a bus service is one way to preserve his memory, said King.

“This is how I keep my dad’s spirit alive,” he said. “I’m a sentimental knucklehead when I want to be.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

Updated 9:34 am, February 10, 2017
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Reader feedback

Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from BS, BK, NY, US says:
Nice nostalgic and futuristic Rapid Transit Series bus. Did he got a drivers license to operate a bus? Was it regulated by the DMV and the DOT?
Feb. 10, 2017, 6:07 am
Tony from Bensonhurst says:
I may be a little biased when it comes to this as I am a bus operator for the mta. What's going to happen when that bus breaks down half way through a trip? Flat tire, low air pressure, there's so many things that can go wrong just 5 minutes after checking it. Is he going to have a standby waiting to accommodate those passengers? I'm all about cheaper and faster service, my wife takes an express bus every morning so I know the cost, I just hope he has all his bases covered. I give the guy a lot of credit for at least giving it a shot.
Feb. 10, 2017, 4:42 pm
Jorge Gaston from Philly, Pa says:
The old BM15 is back again. If he goes succesful, I see Four Hearts go into the bus business, and compete with X27/37 routes. Hopefully he expands to other areas that DO need express bus service
Feb. 12, 2017, 2:05 am
Rosie from Bay Ridge says:
Interested in finding out more, but no website or other offered. How to get more info.?
Feb. 19, 2017, 1:51 pm
Vlad from Brooklyn says:
Err, a private bus already serves this area. Robert is reliable and prompt.

I fully support the independence from the MTA and its nasty personnel, but I recommend a Bensonhurst route or better yet, try Williamsburg as the L train gets shut down for repairs.
Feb. 27, 2017, 4:19 pm
Toby from Bensonhurst says:
He should bring back the BM11 bus route the N train riders needs better service.
April 22, 2017, 10:03 am
Toby from Bensonhurst says:
Jorge that is the BM10 route not the BM15 route.
April 22, 2017, 10:05 am

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