By Mary Alice Miller
After years of planning and construction, central Brooklyn transit riders have begun to access new select bus service replacing limited stops along the B44 route complete with “bus bulb” sidewalk extensions. Most bus bulbs are flush with the sidewalk, but at the Nostrand Avenue/ Empire Boulevard stop the bulb is 4 inches above the sidewalk along its entire rim.
The entire bulb with 4 inches above sidewalk level is an obvious impediment to wheelchair-bound riders. One MTA worker who was directing passengers on how to pay for their ride was asked by a pedestrian how a wheelchair would access the bulb. The pedestrian was told that wheelchair riders could board the local bus.
Ironically, even though the bulb rim is inaccessible to wheelchairs, even an ambulatory person could easily trip and fall on the rise, creating a liability.
The only wheelchair access is at the corner of Nostrand Ave. and Sterling Street, where a ramp leads from the sidewalk into the street. From the street a wheelchair can access the bulb, but the ramps are so close together a wheelchair would have difficulty navigating the sharp 90-degree turn. A wheelchair would be required to enter further into the street to access the bulb, risking exposure to congested Nostrand Avenue traffic in order to navigate the turn.
When asked about safe accessibility for wheelchairs from the street onto the bulb, an MTA staffer said the traffic lane closest to the bulb is for buses only. Apparently, a wheelchair-bound person would have to trust that drivers obey traffic rules and avoid that lane at all times.
MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz did state that MTA buses themselves are completely accessible and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Our Time Press contacted the NYC Department of Transportation, the Straphangers Campaign and the Office of the President of the MTA Bus Department and provided pictures. None were able to respond by press deadline.