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NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign Transportation Alternatives


Embargoed for Release:                                
Tuesday, October 24, 2006, 10:30 a.m.
Contact: Gene Russianoff (212) 349-6460
Paul Steely White (212) 629-8080

“Pokeys” Awarded for Slowest City Buses; M14A is Pokiest at 3.9 MPH

First-Ever List of “The Unreliables” Also Issued

M1 is City’s Most Unreliable Route; 27.6% of M1’s Buses Bunch-Up, Have Big Waits or Depart Off-Schedule

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives today awarded their fifth-annual “Pokeys” for the slowest local bus routes in New York City.

The overall winner of the 2006 Pokey Award — consisting of a golden snail on a pedestal — is the M14A, which averages 3.9 miles per hour at 12 noon. The M14A is the 14th Street crosstown serving the West Village via 11th Avenue and East Village and Lower East Side via Avenue A. The M14A is not much faster than the average speed of a pedestrian, which is 3 MPH. (See Table One, which lists the speeds of 23 city bus routes. There is also a methodology for the selection of bus routes for the Pokey Awards attached.)

The groups also issued their first-ever list of “The Unreliables.” Buses made “The Unreliables” list if —according to MTA New York City Transit statistics — more than one out of five buses on the route arrived in bunches or with big gaps during the day or departed significantly off-schedule at night.

In the judgment of both groups, buses should not have an irregularity rate greater than 20%, with more than one in five buses arriving significantly off their scheduled intervals or time points. See Table Two for the 18 buses on The Unreliables list. There is also a methodology for The Unreliables attached.)

The most unreliable bus in New York City is the M1, with more than a quarter of its buses — 27.6% — arriving irregularly, the groups found. The route was awarded a question mark on a golden pedestal. The M1 travels from Harlem to the East Village along Fifth and Madison Avenues.

“The movies have their “Incredibles,” television their “Untouchables,” and now New York City buses have their “Unreliables,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign. “You never know when these buses are coming or if they will arrive in bunched herds or wildly off-schedule.”

“New York’s 2.5 million daily bus riders don’t have to put up with slow and unreliable bus service,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

White noted that city traffic and transit officials were instituting “Bus Rapid Transit” pilot projects on five of the city’s 207 local bus routes. He was encouraged by a recent announcement by City Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall that two BRT routes will go into service in early 2007.

“There is a lot city officials can do to make buses travel faster,” White added. “This includes wider exclusive bus lanes with expanded hours; priority signals for buses; longer and better marked bus stops; and the use of on-bus cameras to enforce exclusive bus lanes.” (See attached list of Bus Rapid Transit actions.)

In July 2004, the MTA awarded a $3 million contract to a team of consultants to review strategies to make buses faster. The study is ongoing and is being conducted with the City Department of Transportation. (Information on the study can be found at: http://mta.info/mta/planning/brt/index.html.)

White expressed hope that actual physical implementation of BRT would start on more bus routes soon. He noted that while the MTA has earmarked $21.9 million in its proposed 2005-2009 five-year capital plan to fund BRT initiatives, more money would be needed to fully build out the routes.

For the Pokies, bus speed was determined by volunteers actually riding the 23 bus routes that were surveyed last year. These routes were selected because — in our 2004 Pokey Awards, which used a different methodology — we found them to be the ten slowest routes systemwide plus the three slowest routes per borough. Five surveyors rode on 23 bus routes starting at noon between July 15 and October 9, 2006.

Last year’s Pokey was won by the 34th Street cross-town bus — the M34— clocked at 3.4 MPH, using the same methodology.

The overall average bus speed worsened slightly in the last year — from 6.6 MPH for the 2005 awards to 6.2 MPH for the 2006 awards. However, the groups found results for both years to be generally consistent. Looking at individual routes, there were no clear trends, with nine routes increasing speeds, 13 routes worsening, and one route unchanged. (See Table Three.)

For The Unreliables, the groups used two official MTA New York City statistics for reliability for the first half of 2006, the most recently available data. One statistic — known as “wait assessment” — calculates how closely buses adhere to scheduled intervals during the day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The other measures “schedule adherence” during the evening from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., when service is less frequented and riders “are more likely to rely on schedules.”

Eighteen bus routes made this year’s list of The Unreliables, with more than one in five buses arriving bunched together or with big waits or significantly off-schedule. (See Table Two.)


pokey award | unreliable | pokeys by borough | unreliables by borough
methodology for unreliables | methodology for pokeys

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