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NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign Transportation Alternatives


Embargoed for Release:                                
Thursday, September 23, 2004, 10:30 a.m.
Contact: Gene Russianoff (212) 349-6460
Paul Steely White (212) 629-8080

Third-Annual “Pokeys” Awarded for Slowest City Buses; M34 is City’s Pokiest Route at 4 MPH

Some Trips Run Slower Than NY-Philly on Amtrak, Groups Find

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives today awarded their third annual “Pokeys” — a golden snail on a pedestal — for the slowest local bus routes in New York City.

The slowest of the city’s 190 local bus routes is the M34 cross-town, averaging 4 miles per hour at 5 p.m., as estimated by MTA New York City Transit. (See attached tables.)

According to the groups, the slowest bus routes in each borough are:

B63 5.4 mph Between Bay Ridge and Cobble Hill
Bx13 5.2 mph Between Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan
M34 4.0 mph Cross-town on 34th Street in Manhattan
Q24/Q32  6.9 mph   Between Jamaica and Bushwick; Jackson Heights and Penn Station
S60 7.6 mph Between Sunnyside and Grymes Hill
(For individual borough breakdowns click here)

The groups also found that the weekday scheduled running time for several city bus routes is as slow or slower than most regular scheduled Amtrak service from New York to Philadelphia.

The groups noted, for example, the M15 bus trip from downtown Manhattan to 126th Street can take one hour and thirty-one minutes. An M15 scheduled to leave South Ferry at 5:03 p.m., for example, is scheduled to arrive at East Harlem at 6:34 p.m.

In comparison, weekday afternoon runs of New York-Philadelphia Amtrak regular service (non-Acela, non-Metroliner) is scheduled for as little as one hour and fifteen minutes, with most scheduled times varying between one hour and twenty minutes to one hour and twenty five minutes.

“Many city buses move at a maddening crawl,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. “It should not take as long to go the ten miles from downtown to Harlem by bus as it does the 110 miles from New York City to Philadelphia by Amtrak.”

Russianoff noted that even the M-15 “Limited” — with fewer stops than local M15 runs — can run slower than the New York-Penn Station to Philadelphia-30th Street Station trip, with some trips taking one hour and twenty-one minutes.

Other bus routes with longer running times than the New York to Philadelphia Amtrak run include (see Chart Seven):

  • B15 - 1:28 minutes from Bedford Stuyvesant to JFK Airport;
  • B63 - 1:25 minutes from Bay Ridge to Cobble Hill;
  • Bx42 - 1:19 minutes from Throgs Neck to Morris Heights
  • M1, M2 Limited, M3, M4, M5 Limited, M7, M15 Limited, M101, M102 and M103 - 1:21 to 1:54 minutes from points in Upper Manhattan to lower or midtown Manhattan;
  • Q32 - 1:25 minutes from Jackson Heights to Penn Station;
  • Q44 Limited - 1:22 minutes from Jamaica to Bronx Park South;
  • Q54 - 1:16 minutes from Jamaica to Williamsburg Bridge Plaza;
  • S74 - 1:17 minutes from Tottenville to St. George Ferry; and
  • S78 - 1:16 minutes from St. George Ferry to Tottenville

“There is a lot city traffic officials could do to make buses travel faster,” said Paul Steely White, director of Transportation Alternatives.

White said, “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.”

Russianoff noted that the seventeen overall slowest bus routes in the city were all in Manhattan, where traffic congestion is greatest. (See attached tables.)

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. In the 2003 awards, the groups awarded the Pokey to the M23, which travels cross-town in Manhattan along 23rd Street.

However, the groups cautioned that comparisons could not be made between the 2002, 2003 and 2004 finding due to changes in the group’s methodology.

The 2004 Pokeys are based on 5 p.m. bus speeds estimated by officials of MTA New York City Transit. The 2002 Pokeys were based on noon-time New York City Transit estimated bus speeds. The 2003 Pokeys were calculated by using New York City Transit afternoon running times and schedules at the most crowded points for 60 of the most-used local bus routes in New York City.

In July 2004, the MTA awarded a $2 million contract to a team of consultants to review strategies to make buses faster. The ‘Bus Rapid Transit’ study will take two years and is being conducted with the City Department of Transportation.

Among the possible ‘Bus Rapid Transit” strategies which will be reviewed 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 MTA has earmarked $21.9 million in its proposed 2005-2009 five-year capital plan to fund BRT initiatives in 2007. “That’s a good start, but if the MTA and the City want to quicken buses on more than just one or two routes, they need to earmark more funds for 2008 and 2009,” said White.

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.

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 Avenues in Manhattan, said the groups.


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