Straphangers Campaign 2009 Bus Award Winners

It is once again that time of year when the NYPIRG Straphangers’ Campaign hands out its annual awards for the poorest bus service in New York City. The two awards given out annually are the “Pokey Award” & “Schleppie Award”. However this year is a bit different as the group debuts a third award which is called the “Trekkie Award”. Lets get into the results which come from their press release issued earlier today:

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives today gave out three awards for poor bus service in New York City.

The first is the eighth-annual “Pokey” for slowest local bus route in New York City. The uncoveted Pokey award is a golden snail on a pedestal. It’s based on actual rides taken by Straphangers Campaign staff and volunteers on 23 slow bus routes.

The “winner” of the 2009 Pokey is … the crosstown M42, which had the slowest bus speed at 3.7 miles per hour as clocked at 12 noon on a weekday. The pace is not much faster than an average person walking, about 3 miles per hour. The M42 would lose a race with a five-year-old riding a motorized tricycle with a speed of 5 mph, as advertised by X-Treme Scooters.1

The M42 moves 13,057 riders on an average weekday and ranks 79th in riders out of the 194 local bus routes. According to the groups, the slowest bus routes in each borough are:

B63: 5.1 mph Between Fort Hamilton and Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

Bx19: 4.9 mph Between Botanical Garden in the Bronx and Harlem

M42: 3.7 mph Crosstown on 42nd Street in Manhattan

Q56: 6.3 mph Between Jamaica, Queens, and East New York, Brooklyn

S42: 10.6 mph Between New Brighton and St. George Ferry Terminal, Staten Island

Last year’s “winner” of the Pokey was the M96 crosstown.

The second award is the fourth-annual “Schleppie” for the city’s least reliable buses and is based on official transit statistics. The Schleppie is comprised of golden lumbering elephants on a pedestal.

The “winner” of the 2009 Schleppie is … the B44, which runs on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn. The route moves 41,840 riders on an average weekday and has the fifth-highest bus ridership in the city.

More than one in five B44s — 21.7% — arrived bunched together or came with big gaps in service during the first half of 2009. Last year’s “winner,” was the M101/2/3, which runs between Upper and Lower Manhattan.

The groups noted, however, that buses performed significantly better on reliability in the last year. In the first half of 2008, the groups found 13 routes that had more than one in five buses arriving off schedule. Only four routes in the first half of 2009 had greater than 20% of its buses arriving unreliably.

The most unreliable bus routes with over 20% of buses bunched together or big gaps in service are:

B44: 21.7% unreliable Between Sheepshead Bay and Williamsburg on Nostrand Avenue

Bx41: 21.6% unreliable Between Wakefield and the Hub on White Plains Rd/Webster Ave

M15: 20.7% unreliable Between Upper and Lower Manhattan on First and Second Avenues

B41: 20.4% unreliable Between Kings Plaza and Downtown Brooklyn

The third award is a first-ever Trekkie, for the city bus route with the longest scheduled running time, based on official transit statistics. The Trekkie is comprised of a golden camel trekking on a pedestal.

The winner of the 2009 Trekkie is… the M4, which runs between Penn Station and Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan.

A trip on the M4 from Penn Station in Manhattan to Fort Tryon in Upper Manhattan is scheduled to take 1 hour and 50 minutes, according to MTA New York City Transit’s schedules for 194 local bus routes up on An M4 scheduled to leave Penn Station at 4:30 p.m., for example, is scheduled to arrive at Fort Tryon Park at 6:20 p.m. taking 1 hour and 50 minutes.

In comparison, weekday afternoon runs of New York to Philadelphia Amtrak regular service (non-Acela, non-Metroliner) is scheduled for as little as 1 hour and 18 minutes to 1 hour 27 minutes.

“What a trek!” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. “Long haul riders on the M4 should be sure to bring along travel monopoly and a pillow.”

The route moves 23,224 riders on an average weekday and ranks 27th out of the 194 local routes.

The groups last looked at weekday scheduled running times for New York City in 2004. At that time, the groups found 14 of 190 local routes were scheduled to run as long or longer than most regularly scheduled Amtrak service between New York to Philadelphia. In 2009, there were 25 such routes. But given changes in methodology and bus routes, both groups thought it was not fair to compare the numbers between 2004 and 2009. (See Table 2.)

The bus routes with the longest running times in each borough include:

B8 1:38 Between Bay Ridge and Brownsville

Bx36: 1:25 Between Soundview, Bronx, and Washington Heights, Manhattan

M4: 1:50 Between Penn Station and Fort Tryon Park

Q32: 1:27 Between Jackson Heights, Queens, and Penn Station, Manhattan

S74: 1:22 Between Tottenville and St. George Ferry Terminal

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives said: “The only way to stem the tide of falling bus speeds is by giving buses more priority on the street than the rest of traffic. Stars are finally starting to align for a ‘Bus Rapid Transit’ program that will get buses moving.”

BRT has brought better transit to many cities around the world. A more limited version known as “Select Bus Service” (SBS) is being tested here. The first SBS routes have started on Pelham Parkway and Fordham Road in the Bronx (Bx12) and on 34th Street in Manhattan (M34). SBS routes are planned for Nostrand Avenue (B44), First and Second Avenues in Manhattan (M15) and Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island (S79).

White noted that the groups found “Select Bus Service” on the Bx12 had resulted in a 41% increase in speed on the Bx12 local route. The Bx12 local was clocked by surveyors in this survey at 6.8 mph. But the SBS Bx12 traveled at 9.6 mph, some 41% faster than its counterpart the Bx12 local.

Among bus improvement strategies now being reviewed in New York are:

* Tougher enforcement of exclusive bus lanes with barriers to discourage cars from entering

* Pre-boarding fare payment

* Reconfigured bus stops to speed boarding and reduce conflicts with other vehicles

* Bus priority signals to help buses stick to schedule.

Full tables of bus speeds and scheduled running times are attached. Schleppies went to any route with an average unreliability greater than 20%.

In the 2002 Pokey Awards, the groups found that the city’s slowest bus route was the M96. In 2003, the groups awarded the Pokey to the M23, in 2004 and 2005 to the M34, in 2006 to the M14A, in 2007 to the M23 and the M96 in 2008.

Click here for the methodology.

Click here for the complete Pokey Award chart from slowest to fastest.

Click here for the Trekkie Award chart from longest to shortest.

The groups cautioned that comparisons with past findings were difficult due to changes in methodology and bus routes over the years. In addition, changes in bus speeds since 2004 have generally been too minor to demonstrate significant trends.

The Schleppie went to the M1 in both 2006 and 2007 and to the M101/102/103 in 2008. The official methodology for determining this measure was changed in 2008 by transit officials.

Honestly the results produced no surprises as the same routes tend to be at or near the top of these lists. I feel that the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives Paul Steely White said it best when he said:

The only way to stem the tide of falling bus speeds is by giving buses more priority on the street than the rest of traffic. Stars are finally starting to align for a ‘Bus Rapid Transit’ program that will get buses moving.

Many other transit advocates have been calling for the same priority for ages & it is now only recently when such concepts were seriously looked into. The Select Bus Service running on the Bx12 was a great start to accomplishing the goal of making bus service better. Hopefully in the coming years, more innovations such as SBS & other concepts are implemented so we can see these awards fade away.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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[…] after the NYPIRG Straphangers’ Campaign announced its 2009 award winners for the slowest & poorest bus service, MTA New York City Transit responded with a statement. […]

[…] again, it is that time of the year where slow & unreliable bus lines get the spotlight they would rather not have. The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign announced the 2010 winners for the […]

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