July 02, 2008

Riding the Bay Ridge Express Bus

Disembarking at 69th Street and Third Avenue, July 2, 2008

I live in Bay Ridge, and commute to Manhattan by mass transit. This has always meant a journey involving the R train, but not this past week. I decided to conduct a scientific experiment and commute for a week via the Express Bus.

Since most people in Bay Ridge have never taken an express bus, let me first say what they are. There are two express buses serving Bay Ridge- the X27 goes to downtown Manhattan, while the X37 travels to midtown. They travel the length of Shore Road to 69th Street, from which they hang a left on Third Avenue, where they take the on-ramp to the Gowanus Expressway.

The Gowanus is painfully congested at all hours, but worse still during the rush hours. But since the express buses get to use the HOV lane, they cruise at a blazing 45 mph or so, while the cars to the right stand still.

For the week of my experiment, I boarded the X27 at Third and Senator, and took it to a stop at Rector and Church. The trip back was from Cedar and Broadway to 69th and Third Avenues.

How was it? On the way in to the city, it was pretty damned good. Despite the fact that I was boarding near the last Bay Ridge stop, there were plenty of cushioned, if tight, seats. The trip was very fast- 14 to 20 minutes going to Rector, vs 30-35 minutes on the R train to the identical location.

For whatever reason, the return trip always took longer, 22 minutes at best, 35 minutes the longest. I am told that its always longer going back.

Lots of women who don't like subway rush hour ride the express bus.

Unfortunately, cell phones work on the bus. The bus drives post nastygrams asking cell phone users to sit in the back and to keep it down.

The fare on the Express bus is $5 each way, vs $2 for a normal bus or for the subway. You can buy a special 7 day unlimited-use MetroCard that allows use of all local and express buses, plus the subway, for $41. That's a sweet deal, esp. if you use mass transit both to commute to work, and on the weekend.

I'll be returning to my normal R train commute tomorrow, but I'm happy I took the time to learn about the Express bus option. Everyone in Bay Ridge should learn how to use it--even if you don't live particularly near one of the stops. Its a boutique service, a mass transit luxury liner, and a handy option the next time the R train derails or is flooded out.

Which idiot decided to run it the express buses on Shore Road anyway? Very inconvenient for the huge majority of Bay Ridge residents. No skin off my back, as long as you keep that Senator St. stop, boys.


Anonymous said...

Wow, you should ride the bus more often esp. midtown and uptown to see what a shortage there are of the buses at night and how horrible the commute can be. As far as running along Shore Road, there are apt bldgs with so many commuters that it makes sense to start the route there. Many people take the bus because it is easier than climbing the subway stairs. Also, it is in general, cooler and cleaner. However, there is a major shortage in the evening from midtown. We are forced to let bus after crowded bus pass, or pay $5 for the privilege of standing. Last week, the bus stopped short on the BQE in Bklyn sending two women passengers on the x37(standing) flying down the aisle. Heather McCown (the new CB10 member) originally started her petition to get the 69th St Ferry back due to the horrible situation with the express buses, but one year later, nothing has changed for the majority of the commuters still struggling to get back and forth to this part of the borough. Where are our elected officials? Still waiting for Vinnie's response.

The Phantom said...

I think it would make way more sense for the bus to run along Colonial or Narrows. It would be a very short walk from Shore Road.

Its really stupid to have the bus run on an avenue with only water on the other side.

If it ran along Colonial, it would be way easier for the people on Ridge and Third and maybe Fourth to think about riding it.


I realize that a lot of people are taking this week off, so maybe my experience was a little better than normal. I did take the X37 from 52nd St on Thursday and it was a very smooth ride, but that was just one time.

Anonymous said...

The express bus runs along Shore Road stopping at mostly existing bus stops (B16); if it were re-routed to Colonial Road, how many parking spots would be lost to install new bus stops, and I bet many property owners of single and two family homes would not want a bus stop in front of their house as opposed to the set back entrances of Shore Road. Where the bus runs is not the most imp. issue here, frequency of bus runs is critical.

The Phantom said...

Disagree, especially when the service is so far to one side of the neighborhood that it is inaccessible to the huge majority of Bay Ridge residents.

You could make the case for getting rid of these buses altogether and throwing the money into a few more R train runs daily.

I think a very tiny percentage of Bay Ridge commuters use these buses. Our money would be better spent in ramping up service on the R line, which is used by the huge majority.

Erik said...

Just wondering what the time schedule really is on the x37. Online, it says it will take about 30 or 40 minutes to get from 70th in Bay Ridge to Grand Central. How quick is it really on a normal weekday?

Steve-O said...

To the phantom:
We on the west side of bay ridge can take as much as 15 mins walking to get to an R train. The X bus is essential. It knocks down at least 15 minutes to 1/2 hour of my commute to Jersey City each morning. That's why the bus runs on the west side. We're just not that close to a subway.

Anonymous said...

It amazes me how a thread can do awry with the back and forth over where the route should be located when the MTA is in no way considering changing the route. And if you are saying well, more people would utilize the express bus if it were more centrally located, we don't need more people taking the bus when there are no seats available with the crowd there is now. We need more buses, more buses, more buses. Then it might become a consideration for those who are used to paying $2 a fare. It is not a luxury as it currently exists, its a hassle to commute to and from Bay Ridge and it will show in the property values eventually.

The Phantom said...

Commuting from Bay Ridge is not such a burden. Come off it. I've lived here all my life have commuted for most of it. Ain't buying it.

I would like to have some ridership stats for these buses and compare them with the ridership from Bay Ridge on the R line.

I do think that the express bus is a boutique/luxury service for the very few who happen to live near Third and 69th ( like me ) or who live on Shore Road or really close to it. When you combine these two groups, you have a very small subset of the population of Bay Ridge.

These buses do not serve "Bay Ridge" the way the R train does. They serve "Shore Road", and do not serve most Bay Ridge residents at all.

These buses I am sure are very crowded at times, but...I see them very often from where I live as they enter/leave Bay Ridge, and there are an awful lot of empty seats on them.

On some of the X27 runs I took this week, all at rush hour times, and on the one X37 I took from 52nd ( at 7pm or so ) the buses were at most 60% full. On the weekend, or at night, a lot of these buses hae fewer than ten passengers on them, sometimes a whole lot less.

Again I would like to see some ridership stats on these buses.

If the R train is a "10" in terms of importance to the neighborhood, these buses are at most a "1". They serve very, very few people.

Anonymous said...

If you see buses empty at some times, it is probably because buses are run throughout the day with not enough volume of buses at rush hour. Also, in all fairness your perception of commuting from the hub of 69th St to lower Manhattan does in no way compare to the majority of Bay Ridge which live all the way out to 100th Street. If you get stranded waiting for an R at 59th St you're not that far off to get home. And I'm happy to hear that you do not have any physical disabilities that prevent or impede your descent/ascent into the subway. You're entitled to your opinion, but you come off a little narrow minded.

The Phantom said...

I'm not opposed to the express bus.
I just think its somewhere between true mass transit and a taxi. Its really nice, but more of these big polluting machines on the supercrowded Gowanus is not the solution to anything.

- Again:

a) the route is designed in a way that it only serves a small fraction of Bay Ridge residents. Your "disability" comment makes my point for me about the bad routing . If someone from say 86th St and Ridge has a problem walking, its a long, long way to Shore Road. If the bus ran on Colonial or even Narrows, it would be much less of a schlep.

b) the problem about bunching at 59th St will be the subject of a future post. It is a real issue, ,that's what needs to be fixed, and that's something that hurts people from all of Bay Ridge.

c) Even at 2am ( oh yes, I ride all hours ) the R train has loads of people on it.

d) if there are many underused Express buses now, more buses will mean more and even emptier buses. Think of what you're saying.

It won't happen, but the MTA should reexamine the routing of this and other bus lines. They should also look to discontinue any and all runs that consistently have say fewer than an average of 10 passengers each way on a round trip.

Running empty, polluting buses on the horrid Gowanus serves no one and only makes commuting and highway issues worse.

earlysnow said...

I use a wheelchair and take the X28 most of the time. I live in Bay Ridge and get on at the last stop at 7th Avenue and 86th Street. It is highly inconvenient, far, but it's better than nothing. I could not do it in a manual wheelchair. The last stop of the X27 is just as difficult and even more full. I live only 2 1/2 half blocks from the subway but I can't take it anymore.

The subways in Bay Ridge are not wheelchair-accessible, nor are they accessible to anyone else with mobility problems. There are no elevators or escalators. So buses are the only way that many people with mobility disabiltities can get around. If the MTA chooses to delay putting in elevators, it has to pay to run buses, even if they aren't full. They plan to put elevators in the 86th Station by 2020 and that's all. That will help some people in Bay Ridge but not everyone. I'll be 75 by then. I don't know if I'll be alive, but I doubt that I will be up to start taking the subway again.

You might be tempted to tell me or other people to take Access-A-Ride. Each trip costs us, the tax payers, 54 dollars. Besides, many people with disabilities do not qualify for Access-A-Ride. And, as an Access-A-Ride activist, I know all about it. You have to call in advance to make a reservation, 24 to 48 hours. You have to be on time for your pick-up when you are going somewhere and leaving. Who can live their life to the minute all the time? And who has hours to waste while they are waiting to be picked up? And hours to waste while they are driven areound the City picking up and dropping off other people getting a tour of several boroughs? As a regular mode of transportation, I would not recommend it, and neither do NYCT officials if a person is capable of taking the bus.

I experience many mechanical problems on the express buses, problems with the lifts, problems with the seats, prolems with drivers being poorly trained. I have been pro-active in working with the depot and with NYCT in upgrading express bus service so that it is better for people with disabilities and thus better for all riders. People forget that when there is a problem, it isn't just you that are delayed. We're delayed, too, and we're often left at the curb while all the ambulatory riders get on the bus.

The Phantom said...


I like you "handle" and I appreciate you comment

To be honest, I didn't know that the express buses were wheelchair accessible at all.

Where do they board? The front stairwell is really narrow as compared to normal buses. I can't see how there would be room.

In recent years, I've been riding the local buses ( in Brooklyn and SI mostly ) and have seen lots more wheelchair riders using them.

The process of boarding/getting off seems to be a lot faster than it was years ago. Passengers and bus drivers are more used to it, and they are very cooperative.

When said access began years ago, I remember one driver expressing anger when he saw a wheelchair customer at the stop, as it was going to slow things up. I see none of that now, and quite the reverse.

You raise a good point about the Bay Ridge subway stations not being wheelchair accessible. Not having mobility issues, I was oblivious to this [though again, I say that the routing of the X27 and X27 at the very far west edge of Bay Ridge hurts wheelchair bound or infirm walkers more that anyone else. The bus may be accessible, but the routing is inaccessible for most residents]

Bay Ridge has a lot of older and/or disabled or infirm people in it, and will have lots more in years to come. A lot of people either need elevator access in order to ride the train at all or would greatly benefit by such access, as the steps are a great ordeal for them.

As a "one platform" station,86th St station is a good choice for the first elevator, but 12 years is too goddamned long.

I'm on your side on all the big things. As an activist who writes well, you may want to consider creating a blog dealing with these issues. Its easy and free to do so, via blogger. I'd be happy to read it, and happy to promote it.

Happy Fourth weekend. Do come again.

The Green Hornet said...

How come bus drivers don't give buy backs?

The Phantom said...

You're riding the wrong bus. The Third Avenue ( B37 ) drivers are famous for giving buybacks (free rides ) for the passengers who are the big tippers.

Anonymous said...

As far as the Xpress buses go, they're an important transportation option. I would use them more if 1) the trip didn't take so long on the way back (no HOV lanes) and 2) They ran off rush hour and weekends (x38, x37). We need these buses.
More important is the "R" line. It is vital that the service gets A LOT better. Many times I wait at 59th St. for at least 20 min waiting for an "R" train while 3 "N" trains go by.
Bay Ridge is under serviced by the MTA. Why is the service to Bay Ridge so bad? Has anyone noticed how disgusting the stations are (86th and 95th)?
More trains and clean stations are not too much to ask for. If the MTA needs 50 cents more to give this to us, I'll gladly pay.

Anonymous said...

MTA is always loathe to create additional bus lines due to community outcry; that is probably why the route was designed on shore road, which already has bus routes. I believe it was also designed to give those in what was a 2 fare zone access to direct transportation into the city. Summer months=slow ridership -- not surprised you enountered buses with seats.

Anonymous said...

not only would it be ridiculously noisy to have the buses stop on Colonial or Narrows, but it would actually be terribly inconvienent, as someone mentioned before, the buses would loose all their parking spaces.
one of the reasons that the buses are on Shore is because not that many people are down there, as you said that the other side is water, which is a good thing, no? i mean they only did that to try to keep the bus noise and pollution as far away from the core of Bay Ridge as possible.
And as for bus times and schedules. The bus generally runs off schedule and many stops in manhattan don't even have their schedules posted, i take the bus home from school every day, and the worst is at 57th street when it's the middle of january and you're freezing and your bus driver decides to take a break and not let anyone into the bus.
still, all in all i'm pretty happy with the way mass transit runs to bay ridge, and i like riding the x27 and x37.

Anonymous said...

what route does the X37 run from Manhattan to Bay Ridge during the week? I know it takes Madison up.

BTW, I have seen times posted (somewhat accurate in the mornings) at individual stops now--but not in the schedule

DJR said...

I plan on taking the express bus tomorrow night, ala 11.30, for the first time. Slightly nervous, not sure what to expect, other than hopes of getting home at a reasonable hour.

All I can say is, the MTA needs to work really hard in bay ridge- we can all agree on that. The lack of service in trains and buses is amazing. I practically live in the 95th st station and they have MORE than enough workers - they need more CONDUCTORS. That is the problem. They need funding to pay for these people, for finding new people to handle and coordinate the trains as well. Its stupid. We keep on shelling out more money out of our asses for shitty service, I have yet to see any improvement since the price change. What did the R get on its report card, anyway?

Anonymous said...

First off.... I think the X27 is a major waste of MTA Money. I have taken it a few times, and I believe it is MUCH slower than the R. In all... I do not see any good use for any express buses in Brooklyn since they stop in places that are easily accessible by subway. Express buses belong in Eastern Queens and Staten Island. Instead of the X27 or X28(Since I live near 95th street and in between both) , they should add more trains on the R line and actually make a R diamond that runs through rush hours. Make the R diamond run express up to 59th street and then run local all the way to 95th besides the regular R train. They do it on the 6 train in the Bronx... and it would be a lot more effective than that pathetic excuse of a bus called the X27