By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Every day, tens of thousands of commuters descend on 86th Street and Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge to get on the R train or board one of five bus lines that stop there, making the intersection one of the busiest transit hubs in southern Brooklyn.
But along with the great choice of buses comes safety concerns, according to members of the Bay Ridge community board, who are pushing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to ease the congestion by moving one or two of the buses off the corner.
The B1, B16, S53, S79 and S93 buses all stop at the intersection. Adding to the traffic congestion is the fact that the area around 86th Street and Fourth Avenue is also the terminus for four of the bus lines – the B1, S53, S79 and S93.
The S53, S79, and S93 all travel between Bay Ridge and Staten Island. The S79 goes to the Staten Island Mall. The S93 travels to the College of Staten Island (CSI). The average weekday ridership for the three Staten Island buses is 16,000, officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) told Board 10 members at a recent meeting. That’s not counting the ridership numbers for the B1 and B16.
The S93 currently operates only during rush hours. In 2014, the bus will begin running 24 hours a day.
The proliferation of buses at one corner creates a dangerous situation, according to community board members, who discussed the issue at the board’s monthly meeting on Nov. 18.
“A woman was killed there darting between the buses,” Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Thursday. The woman walked in between two parked buses and was then crossing Fourth Avenue in the middle of the street when she was struck by a car and killed. The fatal accident took place two years ago.
“Buses double park there and that adds to the danger,” Beckmann told the Eagle.
Hundreds of people line up to board the buses, a situation that results in crowded sidewalks and an increase in sidewalk litter, board members said.
At the Nov. 18 meeting, Doris Cruz, chairman of the board’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, said members emphasized the need for safety improvements in the meeting two weeks ago with MTA officials. “The committee emphasized to the MTA that the most important consideration at 86th and Fourth is safety. That is our priority. The MTA decision to place five buses at this location is a major contributor to the safety issues at this site and they have a responsibility to improve safety,” Cruz said.
One suggestion put forth by Cruz’s committee is to change the route of the S93 and make it end on at 87th Street near Fourth Avenue, where the B1 now terminates. That would get the bus off the avenue, committee members said.
Another suggestion was to move a taxi stand that is currently located on 86th Street just before Fourth Avenue, and make that a B16 stop. “This would add space for the B1 and S79 on Fourth Avenue between 86th and 87th streets,” Cruz said.
Board members also told the MTA to move the terminus of one of the Staten Island buses to 95th Street and Fourth Avenue.
The MTA appeared cool to that idea, citing the fact that an elevator is going to be built at the R train station at 86th Street, carrying passengers from the sidewalk down to the subway station. The R train’s 95th Street station does not have an elevator.
But Cruz said the 86th Street elevator won’t be built any time soon. “An elevator will not be installed before 2019, more likely 2020,” she said.
No one on the board questions the importance of having a Bay Ridge to Staten Island bus link. Hundreds of Brooklyn students ride the S53 and S93 buses to get to the College of Staten Island.
It’s just a question of where the buses will terminate.
Beckmann said she believed the economy might be an underlying reason as to why the buses are jammed with passengers. “Kids who can’t afford to go away to school are staying here in New York to go to college. And CSI has a lot of great programs,” she said.
The rising tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge are forcing Staten Island residents out of their cars and onto buses like the S53, S79, and S93, she said.
Board 10 Chairman Brian Kieran expressed confidence that the safety issue would be resolved. “The 86th Street bus problems will be solved,” he said. Kieran urged patience. “It will take time,” he said.