The slowest major bus route in the city is Manhattan’s M102, crawling between the East Village and Harlem at a sluggish 4.6 miles per hour — slower than a butterfly, according to transit advocates.
The line won this year’s Pokey Award by the New York Public Interest Research Group’s (NYPIRG) Straphangers Campaign and the advocacy organization TransitCenter for beating all other bus lines with high ridership.
“It’s the award that no bus line wants to get,” said Megan Ahearn of Straphangers Campaign on Monday, Aug. 8. “New York City’s buses are famously slow, which bus riders know from their bitter daily experience trying to get from point A to point B.”
The groups ranked the slowest of the 77 city bus lines that carry at least 5,000 riders a day, and many of the Big Apple’s pokiest are in Manhattan due to heavy congestion in that borough.
The winner transports more than 8,000 commuters every weekday on the East Side and could be beaten by a butterfly, which flutters by at speeds of around 5 mph.
The 15 slowest lines all travel at speeds slower than 5.5 miles per hour, but carry more than 150,000 daily riders, a little more than the population of Syracuse.
“Not to brag, but I can run a marathon faster than these buses,” said Mary Buchanan, a researcher at TransitCenter.
The bus boosters called on the city to roll out more bus priority lanes and for the state to implement the toll to drive into Manhattan below 60th Street, known as congestion pricing.
“While we recognize only the worst of the worst today, bus riders across New York City deserve fast, smooth service yesterday,” Buchanan said.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority should also activate its currently dormant OMNY readers at the back doors of buses to speed up boarding times.
The M102 dethroned the M14A, which picked up the prize the last time the organizations presented the awards in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.
That line has since enjoyed faster speeds thanks to the 14th Street busway, and one local pol called on Mayor Eric Adams to copy and paste those red-painted lanes across the Five Boroughs.
“We should replicate that all along Manhattan, one of the most congested areas in our city,” said Lower Manhattan Council Member Christopher Marte. “We don’t have to wait until congestion pricing to take action. We know what works.”
Mayor Adams plans to add 150 miles of bus lanes over the next four years, including 20 this year.
The so-called Schleppie Award for the least reliable route of 2022 went to the B12 in Brooklyn for having the highest frequency of “bunching,” when buses arrive late and several of them at the same time.
The line carries 7,965 riders every weekday between Prospect Lefferts Gardens and East New York and bunched 19.5% of the time, or nearly one in five times.
Both speed and reliability are generally trending up though, the advocates noted.
The MTA’s President of New York City Transit, Richard Davey, unexpectedly joined the press conference Monday, acknowledging there was more work to do to improve Gotham’s buses.
“I don’t think we could agree more, for sure,” Davey said.
The Transit chief working for the state-controlled authority said the city should crack down harder on illegally parked trucks right away.
The city’s Finance Department earlier this year began giving larger discounts on parking tickets to large delivery companies in exchange for them to not contest the violations in court, the Daily News reported.
“It drives me crazy,” Davey said. “I live in Manhattan, I see it all the time, ice cream trucks and other delivery trucks parked in bus lanes. We need a better job of enforcement across the system.”
When it came to a measure that is squarely in MTA’s control, allowing back-door boarding, Davey declined to give a timeline for turning on the rear OMNY readers that the agency has installed across its fleet.
“Obviously the readers are there, but I don’t think that’s coming tomorrow,” he said.
The transit honcho cited the lower OMNY use of around 10-12% on buses compared to “creeping up to 40%” on the subways.
When asked by amNewYork Metro if the added boarding option would entice more bus commuters to OMNY, Davey claimed it was “unclear,” adding he was concerned about people using the back entrance to avoid paying their fare.
“If there is crowding, [bus operators] do open the back door, right, but candidly, I haven’t seen anybody wander up to pay and I think that’s a bit of a challenge,” he said.
Mayor Adams’s office referred a request for comment to the Department of Transportation, whose chief said they are working with the state.
“With the mayor’s relentless focus on equity, we now have an ambitious plan to ‘Get Stuff Done’ for the millions of bus riders across the five boroughs,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodríguez in a statement. “We at DOT look forward to working with our MTA partners to build a safer and more efficient system, with more new and enhanced bus lanes, expanded automated enforcement, as well as new ways that our agencies will work together to improve access for the growing number of cyclists.”