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Nostrand Ave. Trolley Makes Way for MTA New York City Transit Select Bus Service

Trolley Tracks at Nostrand Avenue
Trolley Tracks at Nostrand Avenue. Photo: The Brooklynist

MTA New York City Transit’s Select Bus Service (SBS) is the 21st century response to the city’s growing need for speedy and efficient surface transportation. When SBS comes to Brooklyn on November 17, the new B44 SBS service will operate the length of the borough between the Williamsburg Bridge Transit Center and Sheepshead Bay.  

However, before construction on special bus lanes could even begin, contractors had to remove hundreds of feet of trolley tracks; remnants of a mass transit system inactive since the middle of the last century.

New York City Transit and the New York City Department of Transportation have been working with bus customers, neighborhood residents, local merchants and elected officials for five years to bring SBS service to Brooklyn.  This federally-funded project has been under construction all year and nearby residents and regular B44 bus customers have witnessed the steady progress as crews repave the street, build bus stations and install fare collection machinery.

“SBS is designed to shorten travel times for our bus customers along busy corridors and has been a huge success since we created the first SBS route along the Bx12 in the Bronx,” explained Darryl Irick, President of MTA Bus/Senior Vice President NYC Transit Department of Buses. “Our buses move more than two million customers a day and we are constantly seeking ways to provide a more efficient service. SBS is a shining example of that effort.”

A portion of that progress involved the removal of several pieces of rail that once supported the BMT’s Nostrand Ave. Trolley.  In operation from 1871 to 1951, the complicated light rail line had several different branches and in one form or another connected Manhattan’s Delancey St. with Avenue U, in Brooklyn.  When the trollies were retired from service, the heavy steel rails were simply paved over rather than removed.    

The B44 SBS will operate southbound from the Williamsburg Bridge on Lee Avenue and Nostrand Avenue all the way to Sheepshead Bay.  Northbound SBS will operate on Nostrand Avenue and then via Flatbush, Rogers and Bedford Avenues to Williamsburg.  The B44 local bus will continue to operate northbound on New York Avenue between Farragut Road and Fulton Street.     

The B44 SBS will connect to nine different subway lines along its route: the J Subway Line IconM Subway Line IconZ Subway Line Icon at Marcy Avenue; the G Subway Line Icon at Bedford-Nostrand; the 3 Subway Line Icon at Nostrand Avenue; the A Subway Line IconC Subway Line Icon at Nostrand Avenue; and the 2 Subway Line Icon5 Subway Line Icon at Brooklyn College.   The B44 SBS will introduce new three-door, articulated buses to Brooklyn.  These high-capacity buses are all-low floor for easier and faster boarding.  For customers who are mobility impaired, the buses feature quick-deploying ramps, rather than lifts.

The B44 SBS will feature bus lanes—in both directions—between Flushing Avenue and Flatbush Avenue, a total of nine miles. Generally, the bus lanes are one lane away from the curb, which allow deliveries and neighborhood parking to be retained at the curb.  In this segment, every bus station will feature a bus bulb, which extends the sidewalk creating more space for pedestrians and bus customers.  The bus bulbs will make it easier for everyone to board and alight with platforms that are nearly level with the bus floor.  While bus bulbs are in use along SBS routes in Manhattan and the Bronx, this will be their first deployment in Brooklyn. 

As is the case with other SBS routes in the Bronx and Manhattan, B44 SBS will also feature off-board fare collection, which means that customers will pay at the bus station prior to boarding the bus.  Every station will include machines to accept MetroCards and a machine to accept coin payment.