Brooklyn's New B44 Express Bus Causes Traffic Nightmare, Residents Say

By Sonja Sharp on January 13, 2014 7:52am 

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 Some drivers complain that uneven enforcement is making Brooklyn's first Select Bus service a nightmare for car commuters. 
B44 Select Bus Service
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CROWN HEIGHTS — The new B44 Select Bus Service has snarled traffic on Nostrand Avenue, choking a key Brooklyn corridor and doubling travel times, local drivers and business owners say.

The express bus began rolling from Williamsburg to Sheepshead Bay in November, and though regular riders say it has sped up their commutes, others in the community are speaking out against the increased traffic they attribute to the new dedicated bus lane.

"It's been a huge mess. I’ve been living on Nostrand for five years, and it’s not the same — it’s taken away from what Nostrand Avenue was," said Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association President Jackee Namwila.

The dozens of members of her group are unhappy about the bus, she said.

"It creates a lot of noise, especially all the honking," said Manwila, who owns NAMSI Healthcare Consulting on Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights. "Now it’s all traffic — it’s noise, noise, noise, so much noise pollution."

The problem, critics said, is that the B44 Select Bus service runs in a new dedicated lane, forcing drivers into a single remaining lane on Nostrand and Rogers avenues. Drivers are supposed to get an extra lane during rush hour, when parking on the streets is banned, but many residents said the ban has not been enforced.

"There’s supposed to be two other lanes, but it’s just one because in the other everyone is parking," said Diel Levin, 31, a saleswoman who commutes from her home in Crown Heights to Midwood for work. She said the formerly 12-minute ride now takes at least 25 minutes.

"I'm not against the bus lane," Levin added, "but my issue is the way they enforce it...if they enforced the no parking, it would be a win-win."

The city's Department of Transportation has not received traffic complaints related to the new bus, a spokesman said.

A DOT study — presented to local community boards before the bus launched — said traffic along both Nostrand and Rogers avenues should not be negatively affected by the express bus and might even improve in some areas. The 9.3-mile north-south route is the seventh busiest in the city, with more than 42,000 weekday riders, about 9,000 of whom board in Crown Heights.

Despite the complaints from drivers, bus riders said they were grateful for the new service, which has eased their commutes.

"It's 10 to 15 minutes faster," said Quam Bobb, 28, who relies on the select bus to get from his home in Crown Heights to his workplace in Flatbush.

But representatives for former State Sen. Eric Adams and Councilman Jumaane Williams said they have been fielding concerns from their constituents about increased traffic ever since the new bus launched. Community Boards 8 and 3 have received complaints as well.

"It’s a 5-mile trip, but it takes 25 minutes," said Marty Shine, 50, of his commute from his home on Empire Boulevard to work on Coney Island Avenue. "I can’t imagine how this is supposed to help us." 

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