Straphangers: Walking is faster than the M50


The M50 takes home the dubious distinction of being the slowest in the city.

If you’re trying to get across town in a hurry, you’re better off walking than taking the M50, according to the Straphangers Campaign. The transit riders advocacy group released its latest Pokey and Schleppy Awards this morning, and Manhattan’s M50 which runs crosstown on 49th and 50th Sts. was found to be the slowest with speeds of just 3.5 mph at noon on a weekday.

“You can push a lawnmower faster crosstown than it takes the M50 to go from 1st to 12th Avenue,” Straphangers attorney Gene Russianoff said at a press conference this morning.

It seems as well that riders are aware of the M50’s slow speeds. In 2010, the bus ranked 151st in ridership out of 191 local routes. Only 3905 riders per weekday board the slow-moving crosstown route. Anyone else heading east to west could hop the E or M trains via the 53rd St. tunnel or simply power themselves with their own two feet.

In addition to saluting the M50, the Straphangers also recognized the slowest routes in other boroughs as well. In Brooklyn, the B41 which travels via Flatbush Ave. between Kings Plaza and Downtown Brooklyn took home the prize. I’ve always believed Flatbush ripe for BRT-like improvements. In the Bronx, the Bx19 averaged 5.0 mph while the Q58 into Flushing was Queens’ slowest. The S48 earned recognition for its speeds along Staten Island but at an average of 8.8 mph, that’s one bus route that’s downright speedy.

In addition to honoring the city’s slowest buses, the Straphangers doled out the Schleppy award for the least reliable bus. Unfortunately, they couldn’t give the award to the entire bus network. So the M101/102/103 routes that run along Lexington and Third Avenues took home the joint prize. These buses — some of the busiest in the city — suffer from missed schedules and excessive bunching.

It wasn’t all bad news for buses though as the Straphangers declared that Select Bus Service was living up to its promises. They fond increases in travel speed of asmuch as 50 percent along both the Bx12 and M15 SBS corridors. It is promising then that two bus routes named least reliable in the city by the Straphangers — the B44 in Brooklyn and the S78 along Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island — will soon see their own Select Bus routes.

Of course, as I’ve noted recently, theses slow speeds and unreliable service levels are just one of the problems facing the buses. Ridership along local routes has been on a steady decline as the MTA has cut service levels over the past few years. Outside of the SBS routes, there is no indication that bus service will be getting better any time soon, and transit advocates seem to recognize that reality. “This year’s Pokey goes to yet another sad example of our underfunded transit system,” Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, said. “The M50 might be slow but the bus system itself is racing toward catastrophe at full speed. New Yorkers deserve better.”

13 Responses to “Straphangers: Walking is faster than the M50”

  1. The Cobalt Devil says:

    The S78 along Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island is one of the least reliable? Who actually does this survey? Do they put one guy on Hylan Blvd to count buses? The S78 runs every 12-15 mins and is almost always on time. Tell these guys to hang out on Richmond Terrace and look for an S40 bus. I’ve waited 30-45 mins for that damn bus in the middle of rush hour. It’s notoriously late, and many times dispatchers cancel two or three runs in a row and put the buses onto other lines, especially during midday hours. I’d take the S78 over the S40 any freaking day of the year.

    • ajedrez says:

      But the crazy thing is that Richmond Terrace is used by a lot of buses deadheading from the Castleton Depot to St. George. I’m sure there have been a lot of times when the riders are waiting a long time, and the people are piling up, but the MTA just keeps on sending out of service buses right past them.

  2. I’ve personally been burned by the M50 multiple times. From 10th to 8th it’s tolerable, but once it gets to Broadway / 7th, it’s all over.

    • John-2 says:

      West of Eighth and East of Lex the M50 is OK, but being both in the midtown area and on narrow one-way streets just kills it when someone double parks or blocks the box between Lex and Eighth (and it’s a problem that dates back at least half a century).

  3. SpendmoreWastemore says:

    Better to cancel the M50.
    Then cancel any other bus averaging 4mph or less. Those low speed happen in densely used areas, so there is likely to be another bus/train/something nearby. Resources thus saved should go to making the remaining service more reliable.

    Also, slightly increase the speed limit on 4 N-S avenues: Second and 1st, which have SBS and 2 on the West Side. The current limit is 20 mph, which is nuts. SBS buses are apparantly monitored and observe the 30mph posted limit, so they crawl and block traffic.

    • al says:

      How about we turn some of the 1 way crosstown streets into 2 way busways/LRT.

      • SpendmoreWastemore says:

        And then remove buses from the next crosstown over. For the level of service they provide, they take up too much space, make too much noise and block traffic. We need some xtown buses of course others are a waste.

        2 way busways make some sense, but then you have space left over and lose the considerable advantages of 1 way xtown streets. Any type of street level rail in Manhattan makes no sense other than for tourist/amusement value. It’s a distance of two miles, and the lines would be disconnected from anything else. Where would you park them?

        Have two good xtown subways would do a world of good. That will happen sometime around never.

        • ajedrez says:

          The ridership on the M50 is actually decent. At close to 4,000 riders and a cost per passenger of around $2.30, it doesn’t perform too bad.

  4. John says:

    They should truncate the M14A/D buses to run between the LES and 14th and Ave A. Only during L shutdowns should these buses run to the west side, in my opinion.

  5. BBnet3000 says:

    “You can push a lawnmower faster crosstown than it takes the M50 to go from 1st to 12th Avenue,”

    wait, thats the average speed from 1st to 12th? If thats true, how fast does it average for, say, 3rd through 8th?

  6. SEAN says:

    Who wants to push a lawnmower across town anyway. Sounds offly strange to me.

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