Straphangers Campaign 2010 Bus Award Winners

Once 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 respective Pokey & Schleppie awards. The 2009 “winners” were the M42 & B44.

Unfortunately for the M42, history repeated itself as it once again was awarded the “Pokey” for being the city’s slowest bus route. The “Schleppie” welcomed a new line to the forefront with the Bx41 earning the dubious honor. The report was not completely bad as it did note that Select Bus Service on the Bx12 is 25% faster versus its local counterpart. Here is more information on the awards courtesy of a press release from The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives:

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives today gave out two awards for poor bus service in New York City. The first is the ninth-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 29 bus routes. These lines were selected either because: 1) they had high ridership; or 2) the bus was an historically slow Manhattan crosstown route.

The “winner” of the 2010 Pokey is … the M42, which had the slowest bus speed at 3.6 miles per hour as clocked at 12 noon on a weekday. It also “won” in 2009. (The route was shortened in June 2010, terminating at 42nd Street and 12th Avenue. It no longer goes down 12th Avenue to Javits Center at 34th Street. We surveyed the route in August after the change was made.)

“Many city buses travel in excruciating slow motion,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign. Russianoff noted that for some routes, the pace is not much faster than a young person walking, which averages about 3.6 miles per hour. The M42 moves 12,847 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:

B35 – 5.4 mph – Between Sunset Park and Brownsville

Bx19 – 5.1 mph – Between Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and Harlem

M42 – 3.6 mph – Crosstown on 42nd Street in Manhattan

Q58 – 6.6 mph – Between Ridgewood, Queens, and Flushing/Main Street

S48 – 8.2 mph – Between Richmond Terrace and St. George Ferry Terminal, Staten Island

The second award is the fifth-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 2010 Schleppie is … the Bx41, which runs on White Plains Road and Webster Avenue between the Wakefield and the Hub in the Bronx.

The route moves 27,383 riders on an average weekday and has the fifteenth-highest bus ridership in the city. Almost one in four Bx41 buses — 23.5% — arrived bunched together or came with big gaps in
service during the first half of 2010. Last year’s “winner” with the worst reliability was the B44, which runs between Williamsburg and Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

The groups noted, however, that the number of unreliable buses had more than doubled in the past year. MTA New York City Transit measures a “borough-representative sample of 42 high-volume bus routes” for unreliability. In the first half of 2009, the groups found four routes out of those 42 had more than one in five buses arriving off schedule. However, that has grown to 11 routes in the first half of 2010.

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

B44 – 21.7% unreliable – btw Sheepshead Bay and Williamsburg on Nostrand Avenue

Bx41 – 23.5% unreliable – btw Wakefield and The Hub on White Plains Rd/Webster Ave

M101/2/3 – 22.3% unreliable – btw Upper and Lower Manhattan on 3rd and Lexington Avenues

S78 – 21.8% unreliable – btw St. George Ferry and Tottenville on Hylan Boulevard

“The next generation of buses is making inroads in New York City — Select Bus Service can cut travel time for riders,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “Where these fast buses have been tried in the Bronx, travel times dropped at least 20 percent. Similar improvements were recently installed on Manhattan’s East Side. Rather than pokey and schleppie buses, New Yorkers deserve quick and efficient bus service. We are encouraged by the city’s willingness to make New York’s buses work better.”

Bus Rapid Transit has brought better transit to many cities around the globe. A limited version known as “Select Bus Service” (SBS) is being tested here. The first two SBS routes have started, one on Pelham Parkway and Fordham Road in the Bronx (Bx12) and another on First and Second Avenues in Manhattan (M15). Several SBS features are also being used on the M34 crosstown route. Additional SBS routes are planned for Nostrand Avenue (B44) and Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island.

White noted that the groups found Select Bus Service on the Bx12 increased bus speeds by nearly 25 percent over the Bx12 local. The Bx12 local was clocked by our surveyors at 6.9 mph. But the Bx12 SBS traveled at 8.6 mph, nearly 25 percent faster than the Bx12 local.

The groups did not feel it was timely to survey the speed of the M15 local bus or the M15 SBS , which only began service in early October. Among bus speed improvement strategies now being tested in Phase One on the M15 SBS are:

Exclusive bus lanes painted in terra cotta to discourage cars from entering;

Payment of fare before boarding bus;

Buses with three doors and low floors to speed up boarding;

Distinctive branding of SBS buses and flashing blue lights to heighten rider recognition;

Wider subway-style spacing between stops; and

Enforcement of the bus lane by camera to keep the lane moving, starting in November.

In Phase Two next year, features to be added to M15 SBS are:

Traffic signal priority for buses to help them stick to schedule; and

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

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, the M96 in 2008 and the M42 in 2009.

The groups cautioned that comparisons with past findings were difficult due to changes inmethodology and bus routes over the years. In addition, changes in bus speeds since 2004 have generally been too small to demonstrate significant trends. The criteria for selecting buses to be evaluated for speed changed in this survey.

Between 2005 and 2009, bus routes to be surveyed were selected based on New York City Transit data. Specifically, we surveyed the ten slowest routes (all in Manhattan), as determined by Transit in bus profiles compiled in 2000. We also surveyed the three slowest routes in the other boroughs.

In this survey, the number of routes surveyed increased from 23 to 29. Eleven routes were dropped, while 17 new routes were added based on high ridership. Additionally, most of the crosstown routes between 14th Street and 96th street were surveyed.

Schleppies went to any route with an average unreliability greater than 20%. This determination is based on official “wait assessments” for “42 high-volume routes,” chosen by Transit. Wait assessment measures how closely a line sticks to scheduled intervals for arrival. Wait assessment becomes poorer the more buses arrive in bunches or with major gaps in service.

The Schleppie went to the M1 in both 2006 and 2007, to the M101/102/103 in 2008 and the B44 in 2009. Transit’s methodology for calculating this measure was changed in 2008. (See methodology.)
StreetFilms has created a video about New York City’s slow and unreliable buses. Please visit to view the film.

Click here for their methodology.

Click here for the Pokey slowest to fastest chart.

Click here for the Schleppie worst to best chart.

Click here for the complete report.

Once again these awards reveal nothing that is earth shattering. Year after year, the usual suspects are at or near the top of these negative lists. Honestly until local bus service is given the same priority that Select Bus Service is, the usual suspects will be appearing on these lists. Unfortunately this region is very car centric & unless lawmakers step in to make bus service a priority, it will continue to be treated as a stepchild.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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