Politics: Special K

We’re Not Talking About Drugs or Cereal

By Jeffrey Bradley

Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane. Remember the K bus? That peripatetic beast wandered all over the Beach connecting out-of-the-way neighborhoods and off-the-beaten-track byways like a branch line connects with a main line. What we liked about it—besides its passing through Orchard Park, we mean—was it got us to where we wanted to go… eventually… without a transfer. Can’t beat that one-trip, one-bus aspect even if, in the case of going to Diplomat Mall (actually to a doctor roundabouts) meant the inside of a bus for an hour. And that’s just one way, which, still, beats getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick, right? But factor in an hour for the return trip and you can see it’s a lot like launching an expedition.

Listen, if you’re gonna take a bus on the Beach then you’re gonna learn what it means to wait.

It had this going for it, tho’. It ran every half hour and it got us there. It’s cost-cutting replacement—something had to give to afford those luxury limos of elected officials—the confusedly named, Thomas the Tankish 115/117 Mid-Beach Connector is famous for neither, running but once an hour and describing a convoluted loop, a sort of vehicular double-helix. So what once took one bus and an hour, now takes a walk, two buses and an hour and a half or, heavens to Betsy!, three buses and ‘til Tuesday, which is kind of a lot.

Listen, if you’re gonna take buses on the Beach then you’re really gonna learn what it means to wait.

Point is, they’re not through yet trifling with this bus. Seems folks want it taken from its current route along Sheridan Avenue where it’s deemed “an unsafe aberration serving no need” and move it to Pine Tree Drive.

At a meeting recently to discuss specifics, Sheridan was revealed as a smaller roadway by half, with no curbs or gutters or contiguous sidewalks. Also (it was said) buses take advantage of the lesser traffic to make up scheduling time by cruising along at speed… which sits not at all well with the Orthodox, who tend to walk in the street. If deteriorating service hasn’t ameliorated these bad effects, it has, apparently, made it more palatable for those that live there. Question is, what happens when REAL public transit starts serving the Beach, say, in the form of circulating buses or <gasp!> streetcars that run 20 minute headways bi-directionally in interconnected zones?

Some claim that moving the route for its entire length over to Pine Tree is simply a case of moving the problem. Not! Comparing Pine Tree to Sheridan is like comparing apples to grapes as Pine Tree’s a totally different roadway. It has 4 lanes divided by a generously landscaped median (there are even people who want the pine trees cut down, but what do the haters know?). Granted, there aren’t enough sidewalks there now, but they’ll have to be built to accommodate the bus—supposedly on the County’s dime—including pedestrian crosswalks, too. And—put this down in the Another Myth Has Been Shattered category—the  route will not increase traffic because adequate public transit decreases the need for cars. Good Ford!

Some 17th Street Irregulars who drifted north for this meeting reported that the NIMBY arguments raged, with Pine Tree-ers outnumbering the Sheri-dans some 4 to 1. They also disclosed that the same nonsensical sky-is-falling arguments about public transit—you know, that it’ll attract Those People (aka “the wrong element”, as if anybody’s gonna ride a bus to steal your TV), that nobody rides it (well, sure, it’s a bus; might as well be wearing a t-shirt says ‘Loser’ while you’re waiting), that things around here “will change” (let’s bloody hope!)—continue to surface. When will the boo-birds learn?

In the event, the City, duly represented at this obstreperous meeting, did what the City does best: it punted. It’s the classic case of the harried wardheel, pulled this way and that by capricious NIMBYist winds, able to do no thing… and so nothing gets done.

Score one more for leadership, eh?

And while we didn’t mind the old K line wandering about so, we have to admit that looking forward, with streetcars finally in place, the move from Sheridan to Pine Tree makes estimable sense. In fact, both streets benefit by the plan, and retain the same-old same-old without it.

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