It is well known that Red Hook and the Columbia Waterfront District don’t have much in the way of public transportation. To help, many locals would like to see the B71 brought back to make life easier for residents and workers.
The B71 operated until 2010, when service ended due to budget cuts. It served the Columbia Waterfront District and Prospect Park as well as other areas. Residents and community advocates alike say that returning the bus to the area will make it much easier for residents without cars to get around.
Nino Pantano, a longtime resident of the Columbia Waterfront District and whose father had a shoe store on Union Street, has been a major advocate for restoring the bus line along with his wife, Judy.
“The seniors, school kids and general population must have this bus restored,” Pantano said. “We have only the B61 bus here and with the expansion in population in our local and surrounding neighborhoods, we must have more service now.”
Pantano believes that putting this new line back in service will make it easier to get to schools and doctors in Park Slope, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Medgar Evers College and other places in Brooklyn.
Councilman Brad Lander, whose district includes the Columbia Waterfront District, supports bringing back the B71. However, his office says that progress is currently at a standstill.
“I am not sure quite sure if it will be approved next year,” Lander’s office said. “It is something that we are working on. We definitely support it. We want the bus to be back in service.”
One person who works in the area who thinks the line’s return would be of real benefit to the community is Ben Fuller-Googins. He is the Programming and Planning Director at the Carroll Gardens Association (CGA), and thinks it would help people who have far commutes both to and from the area.
CGA helps organize domestic workers in the neighborhood, and many of those workers come from Flatbush and Crown Heights.
“These workers, who often work from the early morning until late at night, need to take a network of buses and subways,” says Fuller-Googins. “Restoring the B71 line would give more travel options and create more reliable and efficient commute times for domestic workers.”
He thinks that relating the issue to low-income workers and residents makes clear that restoring some variation of the B71 isn’t just a transportation issue but also relates to race and class, involves broader questions of what developing an equitable city looks like.
Fuller-Googins thinks that it would make an impact if workers had the option of only taking the bus.
In October of 2015 Lander’s office started a petition to get the bus line restored. So far, 1,687 people have added their names.
“Students lost their route to school,” the petition said. “Seniors lost the bus that took that took them to the grocery store and shopping on Fifth Avenue. The link up to Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Museum, or down to Columbia Street and Brooklyn Bridge Park was severed.”
Lander’s “Bring Back the B71 Bus!” petition also said that the Union Street bus that went from the waterfront to Eastern Parkway was a vital way of connecting the Waterfront District to Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Park Slope and Prospect Heights.
The office’s petition stated that the route needs to return since so many more families and businesses are in these neighborhoods. Brooklyn Bridge Park, which didn’t exist back in 2010, has now been open for a few years and is a destination for tourists as well as residents of Brooklyn.
The proposed route for the B71 is different than the original, and attempts to accommodate more neighborhoods than previously. The new route would skip areas with a lot of traffic on Union Street and Eastern Parkway, and would extend the route to Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, more of Crown Heights and more of the Columbia Waterfront District.
The MTA cut the previous B71 partly due to low ridership, but officials think the new route will be more popular.
Fuller-Googins feels it important to recognize that transportation policy disproportionately impacts low income workers and residents.
“We know that limited transportation access amplifies existing barriers for low-income workers, disproportionately people of color, who are likely to not own cars and therefore depend on public transit to get to work, school and shopping,” Fuller-Googins said. “Many people who work in these communities such as restaurant and domestic workers cannot afford to live here and require long commute times.”