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NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign Transportation Alternatives
NEWS RELEASE

Embargoed for Release:                                
Wednesday, November 12, 2003, 10:30 am
Contact: Gene Russianoff (212) 349-6460
John Kaehny (212) 629-8080

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Second-Annual "Pokey" Awards for Slowest City Buses
M23 is City’s Pokiest of Most-Used Routes at 3.4 MPH;
Penguins Swim and Chickens Run Faster; Walkers Close Behind
Groups Renew Calls on City to Speed Up Bus Service

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives today awarded their second annual “Pokeys” to the slowest of the most-used bus routes in New York City. The groups also renewed their calls for city traffic and transit officials to work to boost bus speeds.

The city’s slowest most-used bus route is the M23 cross-town, averaging 3.4 miles per hour as measured during the evening rush hour along the route’s most crowded segments. (See attached methodology and tables one and two listing bus speeds for the 60 most-used bus routes in the city.) By contrast, the groups noted, a King penguin can swim at 5.3 mph and a chicken can travel at speeds up to 9 mph. The average person walks at 3 mph, close to the speed of the slowest routes.

Transit officials have acknowledged that New York City has the slowest bus speeds in America, at an average of 7.5 mph in recent years. According to the groups, the slowest most-used bus routes in each borough are:

B35 4.6 mph    Runs between Brownsville and Sunset Park in Brooklyn
Bx9 4.5 mph Runs between Riverdale and West Farms Square in the Bronx
M23 3.4 mph Runs cross-town on 23rd Street in Manhattan
Q32 5.3 mph Runs between Jackson Heights and Penn Station
S62/92    7.8 mph Runs between Travis and the St. George Ferry Terminal

“City bus speeds are in the cellar,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign. “There’s something terribly wrong when the slowest city buses come in a distant third behind chickens and penguins and just ahead of the average pedestrian.” Russianoff noted that the seven overall slowest bus routes in the city were all in Manhattan: the M23 (3.4 mph); the M42 (3.6 mph); M66 (3.6 mph); M14 (3.8 mph) and M31, M96 and M101 (4.4 mph).

“There’s a lot city traffic officials could do to make buses travel faster,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “Bus riders could have quicker and more reliable trips with 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 the exclusive bus lanes.”

In the 2002 Pokey Awards, the groups found that the slowest bus route in the city was the M96, which travels cross-town in Manhattan along 96th Street. However, the groups cautioned that comparisons could not be made between the 2002 and 2003 findings due to changes in the group’s methodology for calculating bus speeds. (See methodology.)

After the 2002 Pokey Awards, city traffic and transit officials conducted joint field surveys of a number of bus routes, said Russianoff. The groups said some modest steps were taken to address some specific route-by-route problems, but they were disappointed that more had not been done.

Among the steps the groups have recommended to reduce bus travel times are:

  • Wider bus lanes with expanded hours.
  • Longer bus stops to eliminate waits for multiple buses to enter the stop.
  • Bus lanes with physical means to discourage other vehicles from violating bus lanes.
  • Pre-boarding fare payment at high-volume times and places to reduce dwell time at stops.
  • Bus priority signals to help late-arriving buses catch up to schedule.
  • Scheduling for even spacing while allowing buses to travel as fast as conditions allow.

    The groups have also released two “anatomies” of bus routes — the B41 in Brooklyn and the M96 in Manhattan — detailing specific measures to reduce travel times. These anatomies can be found at: www.straphangers.org/reports.html and www.transalt.org.

    The groups noted that in March 2002, Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall gathered transit and traffic experts to discuss “Bus Rapid Transit” options for New York City. Following that meeting, the city took a number of actions, including creating a rush-hour morning bus way on Church Street, as well as enhancing the bus/HOV lane on the Gowanus Expressway approaching the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, said the groups.

    The groups noted that no follow-up BRT gathering has been hosted by City DOT.

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg has expressed strong interest in “Bus Rapid Transit” strategies. His campaign platform called for “subways on the surface” in such places as First and Second Avenue in Manhattan, said the groups.

    Other possible “BRT” candidates according to the groups, include Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn; Jamaica and Archer Avenues and Main Street in Queens; Third Avenue in the Bronx; and Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island.

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