In case you haven’t heard, a new transit option is coming to Brooklyn on November 17, and has crowned the B44 with the much-coveted express bus alternative known as SBS (Select Bus Service), or BRT (Bus Rapid Transit, because the MTA apparently needed two three-letter acronyms to make it official). Traveling from Sheepshead Bay to Williamsburg, the new B44 Select Bus Service is replacing the Limited on that line. Want to know if it’s really worth it? Here’s the skinny:
Fare and Ticketing
The fare on select buses is the same as it is for local buses and subways ($2.50). The only difference is in the way you pay: freestanding MTA machines at the bus stop accept coin payments or Metrocards (yep, unlimited works too), and spit out a little white receipt to take onboard. This minimizes the usual wait time incurred while the driver tickets every passenger in the front: with the pre-paid system, you can also enter the bus through the back door. Just gotta hold on to that receipt, in case a fare controller is onboard and decides to check your “ticket” (if you cheat the system and get caught, you can get slapped with a $100 summons).
Waiting for the Bus
Supposedly, you won’t have to do much of this. And if you do, you’ll be comfortable. The MTA claims that SBS has extreme reliability, and is building terrifyingly futuristic sounding “Bus Bulbs” that jut out from sidewalks which will provide more waiting space and accessibility to the bus’s kneeling platform.
SBS usually enjoys traffic-free travel on a widened, reddish “Bus Only” lane during the day (it opens up to regular traffic nights & weekends). It also has something fancy called “Transit Signal Priority”, which means that the lights stay greener longer or turn green earlier for it to pass through intersections. But does that really make a difference? We here at Brokelyn are nothing if not aficionados of the scientific method, and we decided to conduct a little experiment with the SBS in Manhattan. The experiment consisted of—not surprisingly—taking an SBS bus one way, then taking a normal bus back.*
Here’s a peek at the results.
M15 SELECT BUS SERVICE
Boarding time/location: Houston St. and Allen St. @ 11:51 AM
Disembarking time/location: 78th St. and 1st Ave. @ 12:17 PM
Total distance/time: 78 blocks in 26 minutes.
M2 NORMAL BUS SERVICE
Boarding time/location: 72nd St. and 2nd Ave. @ 12:41 PM
Disembarking time/location: Houston St. and 2nd Ave @ 1:41 PM
Total distance/time: 72 blocks in 1 hour.
So, yeah, it makes a difference. The SBS is a faster, more precise, Jetsons version of the bus you’re already taking. But if this is anything like the Manhattan SBS, be forewarned that some of the bus stops are ONLY for select buses. That means that if you think, “Hey, I’ll just board this bus and get to where I’m going faster,” you might end up going multiple blocks past your destination by accident. Conversely, since the SBS only stops at about one fifth of the local stops anyway, you’re shit outta luck if you don’t live near one of the stops it makes. You would have to get a transfer once on the local bus in order to make the switch at a Select Bus-serviced stop.
The line is serviced 5:00am – 11:00pm.
Northbound service travels Rogers Ave. (instead of New York Ave.)
The SBS is cool and modern, even though it stresses me out and I’m not sure why it exists. Go for it only if it makes sense based on your location and travel needs. Otherwise, who’s complaining about a little extra landscape-watching on the regular bus? By the way, if you’re still confused about all the weird new MTA-coined phrases for this, they were kind enough to make us a glossary.
*Control group for this experiment involved staying at home and not taking public transportation at all.