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NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign Transportation Alternatives

Embargoed for Release:                                
Monday, June 10, 2002
Contact: Gene Russianoff (212) 349-6460
John Kaehny (212) 629-8080


First-Ever “Pokeys” Awarded for Slowest Busses in New York City
M96 Is City’s Pokiest Bus; Penguins Swim and Chickens Run Faster
Groups Release Report on Ways to Speed Up Bus Service

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives today awarded the first-ever “Pokeys” to the 25 slowest bus routes in New York City. The groups also issued a comprehensive 90-page report advocating “Bus Rapid Transit” strategies that have boosted bus speeds in the United States and around the world (see summary of report).

The city’s slowest bus is the M96, averaging 4.3 mph at midday travelling across 96th Street in Manhattan. There are 202 local city bus routes operated by New York City Transit. (See table of five slowest local bus routes in each borough based on data from MTA New York City Transit. )

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 has the slowest bus speeds in America, at an average of 7.5 mph. And speeds are worsening, the groups noted, with average speeds declining 8% in Manhattan between 1996 and 2001 and by 4% in the other three boroughs.

The slowest bus in each borough, according to New York City Transit 2000 bus profiles, is:

B63 6.0 mph Runs between Bay Ridge and downtown Brooklyn on 5th Avenue
Bx35   5.9 mph Runs between West Farms in the Bronx and Washington Heights
M96 4.3 mph Runs crosstown on 96th Street in Manhattan
Q32 5.6 mph Runs between Jackson Heights and Penn Station
S42 8.5 mph Runs between New Brighton and the Staten Island Ferry Terminal

“Pokey busses waste time and fray nerves,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign. “Slow busses are one reason why the recent census says New York City has among the longest travel times to work in the nation.”

“City busses could travel a lot faster,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “Actions like changing traffic signals, passengers paying before boarding on busy routes, and extending sidewalks out at bus stops can greatly increase speeds,” Kaehny said.

The “Bus Rapid Transit for New York City” report released by the groups 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 and crowding on busses; traffic lights out of sync with busses; vehicles blocking bus stops; and how bus service is scheduled.

The report offers a variety of strategies for speeding up bus service, including:

  • Re-designing bus stops to reduce delay from busses maneuvering into and out of bus stops.
  • Longer bus stops to eliminate waits for multiple busses 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 busses catch up to schedule.
  • Scheduling for even spacing while allowing busses to travel as fast as conditions allow.

A full copy of the report and appendices can be found at: www.schallerconsult.com/BRT.

The groups noted these kinds of strategies have greatly increased bus speeds in such cities as Los Angeles and Vancouver. They urged city transportation officials to conduct pilot Bus Rapid Transit projects as soon as possible.

Possible “BRT” candidates, noted the report, are First/Second Avenue and the Broadway/Church Street in Manhattan; Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn; Jamaica and Archer Avenues and Main Street in Queens; Third Avenue in the Bronx; and Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island.

The groups noted that 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. City Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall has been working with transit officials to explore “BRT” options for New York City, said the groups.

The report notes that “Slow bus speeds are a key deterrent to bus ridership, particularly for work trips. In surveys, bus riders cite ‘how long the trip will take’ as the most serious problem with bus service, and 51% say long travel times are a serious problem ’most of the time’ for them.”

The report was drafted by Bruce Schaller, a widely-respected analyst who has worked for MTA New York City Transit and the Taxi and Limousine Commission.


Straphangers Campaign Letter to Transit Authority and Department of Transportation

www.straphangers.org | www.nypirg.org