12 September 2007

The Shameful Bus Called B61

I'm going to take a minute here to eviscerate the B61 city bus line. I know it's off-topic, but I don't care. This sorry-ass excuse for mass transportation has it coming.

I live on the B61's route, which is long and connects many neighborhoods, from Red Hook to Long Island City. This bus has a schedule, which can been seen in printed form at various bus stops through the city, as well as in handy pamphlets and on the MTA's website. Whether any of the B61 drivers have ever read it is doubtful. Whether or not they care that there is a schedule is not in question: they don't. The B61 comes when it comes. During the weekdays, that's supposed to be every 10 minutes—often enough for even the busiest lines. What you get in reality is one every 20 or 30 minutes and then—the B61 drivers' favorite trick—three frickin' buses in a row, following each other like duckling, the first filled to the brim, the second two utterly useless, holding a rider or two.

Every patron of the B61 has seen this phenomenon at least once a day and gritted their teeth in fury. It happens like clockwork. One person told me it's not the driver's fault—the route is too long, there's too much potential for delay as they travel through Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Dumbo and Downtown Brooklyn. To which I say: too fucking bad! It's your route! Learn it. Master it. Get it right. It's not rocket science to keep ten minutes between you and the bus in front of you. Brooklyn has traffic; figure out how to handle it. I have the chance to observe many bus lines in my daily life. Never once have I seen a B71, B63, B75 or B77 following by two empty examples of the same stupid bus. Only the B61.

And then there are the drivers. Stone-faced, sullen, indignant, unapologetic. They talk back to riders when they complain about the service. They never smile. I've seen them park the bus and get off to talk with friends without explanation when there was no cause for a break in the scheduled.

This morning I staked out my place early at a B61 stop, arriving at 8 AM to get to a 9:30 AM appointment in Manhattan. The 8:14 did not arrive. Then a completely full bus passed me by at 8:10. The 8:24 bus did not arrive. Another bus did not show up under 8:35. It was also full to bursting, but did stop. The driver continued to pull over at every stop even though there was no room in the bus. When he drove quickly over a pothole with a mighty "crash," someone in the huddled mass said, "I think you broke something in the bus." He replied, "I ain't broke nothing. There's too much weight on this bus. Why don't some of you get off?"

"Why don't some of you get off?" Well, driver, why don't you show up on time? Why don't all your friends show up on time, so each bus is evenly populated? Better yet, why don't you shut the hell up?

UPDATE (9/25/07): I read today, in AMNY, via Curbed, that the MTA plans to extend the schedules of the B61 and B77 to service IKEA. So a crowded bus will become more crowded. Nice work, MTA! Oh, well. Maybe something will change now that yuppies, and not just the working poor, experience what a sucky line the B61 is. Maybe, at the bequest of IKEA, it will become a tiffany line.


Anonymous said...

Sorry your commuted sucked this morning, but "Bus bunching" is a common problem everywhere.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

I'm sure you are right, Devyn, and I'd be interested to learn the bus lines that are also at fault. However, this does not lessen the crime of the B61 managers and drivers. Thousands of people depend greatly on this bus line for their livelihoods, many of them poor. There's no excuse.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, bus bunching sucks, but it's out of the hands of any individual driver. If the MTA would move into the current decade (or at least the previous one) and install tracking devices on buses, it could try to tweak the schedules in real time -- dispatchers could send empty buses ahead of the full ones or create temporary skip-stop service to help spread things out. But it would probably screw this up.

In the meantime, the drivers of bunched buses should be leapfrogging each other (often it seems they don't). At least that way everybody moves a little faster. And passengers can help by exiting at the back and getting their metrocards in right on the first try. The whole problem begins when dwell times at the stops gets out of control. Of course, none of this is likely to happen either.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

A.V.: Those all sound like good ideas. I've thought of them myself.

Ginger Dolden said...

Between the B-61 and the G train, I sometimes feel that walking/biking are the best forms of transportation. It's so frustrating.

Anonymous said...

This is an absurdly long route. I recall once hearing a suggestion that made sense to me: run a few buses between the start of the route and Jay Street during rush hour. During rush about 3/4 of the people get out at the train station and the bus continues onto Queens with about 5 people on it. PS: The B71 can't bunch because it only comes twice an hour to begin with!

Greg said...

This drives me crazy too.

I was told by someone in the borough president's office that the drivers do this on purpose so that they can hang out together at the end of the line. Sounds a little dubious.

However . . I don't see why the can't consolidate two (or all three) of the buses and send one express for a few stops until the spacing is reasonable again.

Smile said...

These are all good ideas.

The MTA should also look at reducing the number of bus stops-- or at least create an express bus that doesn't stop on every block.

And they should pilot starting some rush hour buses at the midway point of the route (in both directions)

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised no-one has yet mentioned that when the bus finally does arrive (this is in the pre-Jay St zone) it's half-filled with people who are either a good 200 lbs overweight and occupy two seats with one ass, on heroin, the proud bearers of a double-digit IQ (and not afraid to use it), or any combination of the above. How are the hipsters the problem? At the very least they are very THIN.

Anonymous said...

I live at the Red Hook terminus of the B61, and I can tell you that the drivers absolutely DO congregate to hang out. My favorite night I got to watch a guy do a full fledged workout in the bus while two other drivers sat talking. It was impressive - chin-ups on the holding bars, elevated push-ups with feet on the seats and hands on the floor - but I couldn't help thinking maybe there was something else the guy should have been doing. After about half an hour he finished up and wiped his brow. The two other drivers got off his bus, started their buses, and all three slid into the Red Hook night together in a tight little convoy. WHICH SORT OF SUCKS WHEN YOU'RE WAITING FOR A BUS AT TWO IN THE MORNING IN AN INDUSTRIAL WASTELAND.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Thank you readers, for showing I'm not crazy and my frustrations are shared.

Patrick said...

what would make the MOST sense, is to put in trolly service from Red Hook to downtown.

The traffic both car and public transport once Ikea opens will not be handled by any bus service that gets caught up in traffic. Not to mention the population explosion that is going to happen in the coming decades in the area called Columbia Street Waterfront.

It would be so easy. The entire waterfront area is still a blank canvas, and the main problem is the city is a really bad artist. Cadman Plaza to Brooklyn Bridge park to Union Street to the Cruise terminal to Fairway to Ikea. The views alone would attract tourists and New Yorkers to the otherwise over looked Brooklyn nabes.

but wait that requires a vision, and we all know how this city kills vision. Since this was already proposed and rejected by the city.

bollox the whole lot really.

shelterbrook said...

i was on the b61 the other day, late to picking my girlfriend up from work, when the bus driver apparently decided he was hungry. he pulled over at a bodega kneeled the bus down, turned it off and went inside for what ended up being a 10 minute sandwich ,snack and marlborough extravaganza.

it however was kind of amusing.

Brooklynbee said...

FYI, re bus drivers and routes - it's my understanding that the bus drivers get to switch their routes and the more experienced drivers with seniority choose the easier routes, leaving the newest ones to take the most difficult routes - which are no doubt made worse by the new drivers' unfamiliarity with them.

Bobby Sweet Kitty said...

I love the B-61. The drivers always offer me breaming smile and an empowering "thought for the day" each time I hop on in Williamsburg!

Really, to expect a bus driver to be pleasant and smile seems too much to ask. I sometimes ride the b-61 when it rains, and I've encountered several pleasant drivers.

There is no reason to be mean or bitchy to the drivers - they are just doing what they're told. The MTA is to blame.

Anonymous said...

Wow... you are complaining because the busses ONLY come eveyr 20-30 minutes??!?! You should try living in Suffolk County. Buses are EVERY HOUR, (a few main runs..oddly enough one I take--S61-- runs every 1/2 hr from 7-9 am and 3-7:30pm). Those few 1/2-hr runs are ONLY Monday thru Friday AND WE HAVE NO SUNDAY BUS SERVICE. Levy wants to put BUS RACKS on the busses, and they only hold TWO BIKES! How absurd is that! Please don't complain about your busses, I would even be happy w/ every 30 min. on EVERY bus! (www.sct-bus.org)