When the B71 bus route was eliminated last year, many residents found themselves in a troublesome transit situation.
But luckily, a local van service has stepped up to fill in the transportation gap.
As part of a pilot program that was implemented by the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), Brooklyn Van Lines is serving the same route that was eliminated, picking up riders at the corner of Union and Columbia streets, and making various stops before ending at Bedford Avenue and Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, before looping back around.
"TLC was just looking for people to fill in the spots and we stepped in," said Sulaiman Haq, President of Brooklyn Van Lines. "We had primarily served the Flatbush area beforehand, but it takes us five minutes to get to this area and we figured it was worth seeing if there would be enough interest."
The routes begin at the corner of Union and Columbia streets on weekdays at 7:55 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. The service not only stops at popular locations including Prospect Park and Carroll Gardens Library, but has become a lifesaver for many who use the service to get to work every day.
"It's taken at least 20 minutes off my commute each way," said Carroll Gardens resident Robin Anderson, who began using the service in January. "The only option before this was to either switch buses, or just use one and take a rather long walk from there to my job, which just wasn't convenient during the winter."
Perhaps most surprising about the service is that while the MTA has drastically raised their prices, Brooklyn Van Lines has managed to keep theirs the same. A single van ride costs $2, which is cheaper than a trip on the subway.
Haq said keeping prices low is essential to building business in the area.
"We were getting pressure to raise prices, but I said that we're in hard times and people don't have that kind of money," said Haq. "We would be putting ourselves out of business very quickly."
Although Haq said that business is slower simply because of the warmer weather, he has noticed repeat business throughout the neighborhood and a demand beginning to slowly build up.
Perhaps the biggest downfall of Brooklyn Van Lines is their lack of publicity and web presence. Without a website or posted schedule to be found, potential passengers must call one of the drivers, Osmond, directly on his cell phone to schedule a pick-up time.
"When you see them coming down the street, it looks like a commercial van," said Kim Yee, a frequent passenger on Brooklyn Van Lines. "A lot of people aren't aware that they are offering this service, so they need to publicize themselves more."
Haq said they are in the process of putting together a website and also looking to add more vans and additional stops starting in September, but it will ultimately come down to local consumers as to whether or not Brooklyn Van Lines continues to stay in the neighborhood.
"TLC asked me if I wanted to remove the service for the neighborhood, but I told them that I couldn't decide that," said Haq. "They have to ask the passengers that."
Call Osmond at: (347) 526-9504