Summer 2002, p.2

First-Ever "Pokeys" Awarded for Slowest Buses in NYC
M96 Is City's Pokiest Bus - Penguins Swim and Chickens Run Faster

A sure bet against the Bx35 in The Bronx.The not so illustrious Pokey Award.The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives awarded the first-ever "Pokeys" to the 25 slowest bus routes in New York City. The "winners" were chosen from the 202 local city bus routes operated by New York City Transit.

The city's slowest bus is the M96, averaging 4.3 mph at midday while traveling across 96th Street in Manhattan.

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.

Transit officials have acknowledged that New York City's buses, averaging 7.5 mph, are the slowest buses in America. And speeds are worsening. The groups noted that average speeds declined 8% in Manhattan between 1996 and 2001 and 4% in the other four boroughs.

Not as fast as that chicken-the M96.According to New York City Transit 2000 bus profiles, the slowest bus in each borough is:

  • Brooklyn: B63 - 6.0 mph - Bay Ridge to downtown Brooklyn on 5th Avenue
  • The Bronx: Bx35 - 5.9 mph - West Farms to Washington Heights
  • Manhattan: M96 - 4.3 mph - Crosstown on 96th Street
  • Queens: Q32 - 5.6 mph - Jackson Heights to Penn Station
  • Staten Island: S42 - 8.5 mph - New Brighton to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal

Goodbye Pokey, Hello BRT
Straphangers and T.A. also issued a comprehensive 90-page report that advocates for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) strategies; BRT has boosted bus speeds in such cities as Los Angeles and Vancouver.

The report stresses that, while traffic congestion is a key factor in slow speeds, other factors are just as important. These include long waits for passengers to board, not enough service leading to crowding on buses, traffic lights out of sync with buses, vehicles blocking bus stops and poor scheduling.
The report offers a variety of strategies for speeding up bus service, including:

  • Re-designing bus stops to reduce delay from buses maneuvering into and out of bus stops.
  • Longer bus stops to eliminate waits for multiple buses to enter the stop.
  • Bus lanes with raised lane dividers or other physical means to discourage or prevent other vehicles from violating bus lanes.
  • Pre-boarding fare payment at selected high-volume boarding times/locations to reduce dwell time at bus stops.
  • Bus priority signals to help late-arriving buses catch up to schedule.
  • Scheduling for even spacing while still allowing buses to travel as fast as conditions allow.

T.A. and Straphangers urge city transportation officials to conduct pilot Bus Rapid Transit projects as soon as possible. The groups noted that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has expressed strong interest in BRT strategies. His campaign platform called for "subways on the surface" in such places as 1st and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. And, it has been reported that City Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall has been working with transit officials to explore BRT options.

Likely BRT candidates are 1st/2nd Avenue and Broadway/Church Street in Manhattan, Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, Jamaica and Archer Avenues and Main Street in Queens, 3rd Avenue in the Bronx and Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island.
A full copy of the report and appendices can be found at

Spoiled Straphangers?
In Moscow, the subway comes punctually every two minutes, all day long.
In New York City, subway riders are blamed for bad decisions:

"Let's face it," he said. "New Yorkers are--how do I say this politely?--New Yorkers are spoiled. We're the only system in North America that has regularly scheduled express service, and people are very reluctant to take locals, even when it makes sense."

MTA Spokesperson, Paul Fleuranges to the New York Times why Queens subway riders hate the V Train.

Read the latest news on this subject.