Slashing service on Brooklyn’s busiest bus route is painful but necessary amid a severe budget shortfall, NYC Transit President Andy Byford said Monday.
“We are so often sitting in meetings really doing things that we do not want to do,” Byford said at a meeting of the MTA’s Transit Committee. “We are in a realm of difficult decisions."
Byford said Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees are never happy to cut service. "We are transit professionals. We want to add service,” he said.
Last week the MTA announced drastic cuts to service on the B46 select bus route. That line and the B46 local bus together carried 38,000 riders every weekday in 2018 — down from 48,000 weekday riders in 2013.
The route primarily serves Utica Ave., and travels through low-income neighborhoods like East Flatbush and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Starting in late January, service on the line will be reduced — including a cut during the evening rush from 20 buses per hour to just 12 per hour.
Transit officials last week defended the cuts by noting that they will run more articulated buses on the route. They also said that fewer buses will mean less traffic congestion along the route.
Byford on Monday did not address the congestion comment directly, but did say that more service leads to higher ridership and fewer people in cars.
“There’s plenty of evidence to show that where you expand service... that latent demand does appear,” he said. “We want to get back into that positive cycle.”
The cuts to the B46 select bus is expected to save the MTA $2.4 million per year. Without cuts, the agency expects to face a $1 billion deficit by 2023.
MTA board member Veronica Vanterpool pointed out that the agency is spending $2.5 million for wifi on its buses, and asked why that money can’t be used instead to provide additional service.
"I would always favor the train turning up or bus turning up over everything else,” replied Byford.
He asserted that he is not considering cutting bus routes altogether, but warned that the agency finances are in a “bad place.”
“We are in real difficulty in the short- to medium-term in our operating budget unless we can get some form of sustainable, dependable, additional operating revenue stream,” Byford said.