LOWER EAST SIDE — Community members and elected officials are pushing for more M15 Select Bus Service stops below Houston Street, claiming the service leaves the neighborhood's seniors and disabled struggling to get around.
Councilwoman Margaret Chin said the M15 SBS stops are too spread apart, and the local M15 runs too infrequently, to support the senior citizens and disabled commuters in her area. She vowed to continue to push for two additional stops near area hospitals and nearby housing developments, despite the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's insistence that no additional stops are needed in the neighborhood.
"We have a lot of residential neighborhoods below Houston, and they have subways but they need bus services, especially for our seniors and people with disabilities," Chin told DNAinfo New York. "The SBS stops below Houston are very far apart, and they skip some of the dense residential areas."
The M15 SBS, which runs from 126th Street in East Harlem down to South Ferry, currently only makes two stops in the Lower East Side below Houston Street — one at Allen and Grand streets and one at Madison and Catherine streets. Though the M15 local bus stops at those intersections, it operates far less frequently than the select bus, meaning commuters must either wait longer for a bus or walk farther from the nearest select bus stop, said Chin.
Chin said that she has received complaints from constituents and has been imploring the MTA for additional express stops for the past two years.
Chin joined other elected officials in penning a letter last year to the MTA requesting two more SBS stops along Allen Street — one at Madison Street, connecting seniors to Gouverneur Hospital at 227 Madison St. between Jefferson and Clinton, and one at Delancey Street, connecting commuters to more transportation and shopping options.
Currently, elderly and disabled locals going to Gouveneur Hospital must walk about a half a mile from the nearest SBS stop at Madison and Catherine Streets — or wait for up to a half hour for a local M15 bus if they want to get to the nearest local stop .2 miles away from the Hospital.
Elaine Hoffman, who is a tenant representative and resident of the Two Bridges Tower at 82 Rutgers Slip and uses a walker, said if the weather is bad, she cancels plans rather than trudge to the nearest select bus stop or wait in the elements for the local bus.
"If it's snowing or anything like that, if I have an appointment sometimes I cancel," said Hoffman, adding it was difficult for her to access the F train at East Broadway, which does not have an elevator.
"If you're handicapped, you can't take the train," she said.
The area is also home to a lot of seniors, noted Hoffman — the neighboring building at 80 Rutgers Slip is a senior housing development. The lack of bus service in the neighborhood is one of the primary complaints reps get from senior residents, said another tenant leader.
"Seniors use the bus more than the typical population and we have a lot of seniors in this area who rely on the SBS," said Trever Holland, president of the Two Bridges Tower Tenant Association. "For them to be forced to get off at Grand Street or the other location, it’s a long walk.
"That's one of the top complaints I've heard from seniors."
President Veronique Hakim of New York City Transit responded in a letter to elected officials that the agency requires approximately half a mile between bus stops unless the volume of riders merits the additional stops. This area does not have a sufficient number of riders to justify new stops, he wrote.
The MTA said the agency still has no plans to add more stops, which it said would make service less efficient.
"Our position has not changed," said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. "Adding stops to an SBS route defeats the purpose of SBS. It would slow down service along the SBS route."
But elected officials remain undaunted.
"We're going to continue to push," said Chin, noting she routinely raises the issue at MTA hearings.
State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who last year penned an additional letter to the MTA in support of the move, will also continue to fight for more SBS stops, said a spokesman.
"Senator Squadron has advocated extensively for bus service improvements around the community, including pushing hard to get the MTA to respond to community calls for additional M15 SBS stops south of Houston," said spokesman Zeeshan Ott. "We'll continue the push for SBS and local bus service improvements and MTA responsiveness, including on the M15 and M15 SBS."