L train shutdown PSA: You know buses work too, right?

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The seats are cleaner and the cell service is better. Devyn Caldwell / Flickr

Somehow, even though it’s not actually happening until 2018, the coming L train shutdown remains the buzziest topic in the borough. And just when you thought things were dying down, the Wall Street Journal announced yesterday that the L might have to shut down on the Manhattan side too, and everyone’s up in arms again.

In light of this ongoing media fear-mongering — which has caused arguably the worst case of seasonal creep we’ve ever seen — we feel it’s high time we remind you that BUSES WORK, TOO. They may not be as frequently immortalized in film, or as reviled for gropers, or as romanticized in Patti smith novels, but city buses are just as functional, and way more reliable, than subways. How? Let us count the ways.

You can track buses.

I sincerely don’t understand how some people are still shocked when I tell them this. There are two ways to do it: first, by text. Almost every stop along a Brooklyn bus route has a five-digit stop code that you can text to 511123. Within seconds, you’ll be sent a text that lists the next three or four buses coming your way, along with how many miles away each one is. Second, you can use the MTA Busfinder App. It’s a web app, but you can pull it up on your phone browser and save it to your homescreen. Either way, you don’t have to leave the house! Memorize your nearest stop code or bus line, and just check when the next bus is coming while you’re getting ready. You can estimate how long you’ve got to get to the stop. (Pro tip: 0.5 miles away usually means 10 minutes, even though they’ll pretend it’s less than that.)


Select-bus service is almost the same as a train. 

The B44, the Bx41, the M15…  these are the godsends of above-ground transit. Like glimmering bright blue spaceships, the neo-futurist SBS buses whiz up and down their respective avenues and only stop at major intersections along the local routes. If you happen to work along any of these bus lines, study up on SBS service. You can transfer from local to express just like you would along subways.

You’ll always have cell service. 

Guys! Gone are the days of losing service on your daily commute. If you’re lucky enough to live and work in the same borough, that is. Instead of heading underground every day, just ride city buses to your heart’s content, answering e-mails and checking dating apps and reading Medium articles as you go like it’s a leisurely Adirondacks train ride. You might have to transfer buses to get where you need to go, and it’ll definitely take more time than the train, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be productive.

It’s safer than riding the train. 

On more than one occasion thanks to the Late Night Request-a-Stop, I’ve been able to ask a bus driver to drop me off in between stops so I could be closer to my house. When you’re the last person on a bus late at night and you don’t feel safe walking from the usual stop, this makes all the difference. It’s also worth noting that assaults and robberies are less frequent on buses, since they’re harder to get away with. A subway conductor wouldn’t notice someone jerking off on the train, for example, but a bus driver sure as hell would. They’re also more capable of taking decisive action, like stopping the bus to kick offenders off.


An empty bus at night is still chaperoned by the driver. Jason Kuffer / Flickr
An empty bus at night is still chaperoned by the driver. Jason Kuffer / Flickr

Bus drivers are more personal than subway conductors. 

Whereas a subway conductor will never be able to hold a conversation with you, and won’t be so kind as to keep the doors open when you’re running down the steps late a night, a bus driver is almost always up for conversation, or for keeping the doors open at a bus stop when they see you running towards it. Being courteous goes a long way with the driver on your route, and getting to know them personally will foster that sense of small biz familiarity we so often crave in this mad, mass-marketed city.

Listen, I’m not saying the buses are perfect. Crowded buses are hell, traffic lights will thwart your ETA and you might have to stand for a very long time. But at least you won’t have to contend with people passed out in their own urine spread out across the seats, or with waiting in the service-less underground during unexplained delays, or with stairs. #StopTheClimb, and start learning how to use the goddamn bus system.

For more rants, text “Sam” to 511123. Just kidding, follow her on Twitter instead: @ahoysamantha

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