TWU bus drivers blast MTA service cuts to B46 bus line

Councilmember Rafael Espinal, left, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, at podium, and TWU Local 100 Secretary-Treasurer Earl Philips, right, hold a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Photo Credit: Andy Mai

Members of the Transit Workers Union bus drivers demonstrated outside of the MTA Regional Flatbush Bus Depot in Marine Park Tuesday afternoon condemning what they say are “service cuts that will slow service for commuters,” on the vital B46 route.

Led by TWU Local 100 Vice President JP Patafio, about 50 union bus drivers from rallied outside the Fillmore Avenue bus depot chanting “no service cuts.” They were joined by elected officials including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Councilman Rafael L. Espinal Jr. and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker and several local activists.

Patafio said the B46 bus, running from Kings Plaza to Williamsburg, will be reduced to 12 buses an hour, thereby increasing waiting time for commuters despite increased capacity of the articulated buses to pick up more passengers per driver.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called on the MTA to restore full bus services to the B-46. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

“The B46 is one of the heaviest lines in Brooklyn and has been doing a great job, but the bus line is now underserved with buses and so more buses are needed,” Patafio said. “Instead, the MTA has decided they are going to cut buses, forcing riders to wait more hours and then it could affect the drivers themselves.”

Patafio claims the longer wait could result in angering commuters and increased assaults on drivers that the TWU claims has been on the rise.

NYC Transit President Andy Byford recently announced bus service reductions around the city and has already nicked service on a handful of bus routes since the spring. The authority reduced service on 11 routes in May as well as another three routes — B38 in Brooklyn, the Bx35 in the Bronx and the Q12 in Queens — in July. Those three routes, and now the B46, were assigned longer, articulated buses, which the MTA argues can carry more passengers. 

Adams said 75 percent of those using buses in New York City are “people of color.”

“We don’t drive in the back of limousines and we don’t have people picking us up or taking Lyft or Uber,” Adams said. “Our Lyft is that city bus. If you are making bus cuts, you are taking away service from 75 percent of the people. They are the people cleaning people’s homes, delivering services, working in mailrooms, people who swipe their MetroCard so they can get to their place of employment. The medium income of people taking the bus is $28,000 a year – these are everyday folks. This is your mother, your sisters, your brothers -the people who make this city.”

Councilman Rafael Espinal shows his support for bus drivers at the Regional Flatbush Bus Depot in Marine Park. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

He added that bus operators have been assaulted on their routes and prosecutions of people who assault drivers has been slow, saying this reflects a “lack of respect for the drivers.”

“When you cut bus services, you are destroying the heart of the city,” Adams said.

Walker recalled growing up in Brownsville and taking buses from Brooklyn to the Bronx. She said her mother would take the B15 every day to the airport to clean buses as she went to law school. She especially needed the B46 as she would travel with friend to Kings Plaza mall for shopping and the theater.

“As we go through the MTA budget in Albany we will say to all the powers that be that you got the money last year and want to spend money this year – but before you spend a dime we want them to reaffirm the commitment to the bus operators,” Walker said. “We must keep our bus lines available. You get people upset when the buses don’t come on-time they take it out on each and every one of you.”

Bus drivers listen as Local 100 officials condemn reducing the number of buses on the B-46 route. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

MTA officials say the change was part of routine adjustments and would be subject to “readjustment” in the next quarter should ridership increase based on the MTA monitoring of the B46 route. Officials say the change should not be considered “permanent” but subject to change based on need.

MTA spokesperson Abbey Collins said, “Contrary to this misinformation, the MTA is converting the route to larger buses which will increase capacity per trip by as much as 60 percent. Articulated buses are used on our busiest routes such as this one and these longer buses are more effective because they reduce dwell times due to all-door boarding, along with well-enforced bus lanes and transit signal priority which maximize efficiency and get New Yorkers where they need to go faster.”

The authority said the new plan, which also involves increasing service on the Q55, Q28 and S93, will save the MTA $2.4 million annually.