Home Buses The M42’s slow trek across town

The M42’s slow trek across town

by Benjamin Kabak

Transportation Alternatives' Paul Steely White unveils the Schleppie Award while Gene Russianoff looks on. (Photo courtesy of Kim Martineau/Transportation Alternatives)

If you’re trying to get across 42nd St. in a hurry and the M42 is on the horizon, you’re better off walking. At least that’s the message the Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives had for the city’s transit riders as they unveiled the annual Pokey and Schleppie Awards for the New York’s bus routes today.

Maintaining an average rate of just 3.6 miles per hour during the noontime run, the M42 captured the Pokey Award, the Straphangers’ recognition for the system’s slowest bus. It is the second consecutive year this midtown route has taken home the trophy. For anyone young enough and healthy enough, it is indeed possible to cross Manhattan on foot faster than the M42 covers it on wheels.

The Straphangers and TA also unveiled the slowest routes in the other four boroughs as well. Taking home the honors were the B35, the Bx19, the Q58 and S42. Still, none of those buses can hold a candle to the M42. Each maintains speeds above 5 mph, and the S42’s 8.2 mph velocity might be slow for Staten Island but would be considered speedy along the streets of Manhattan.

As for the Schleppie, a nod for the system’s “least reliable” bus, the Bx41, the system’s 15th most popular bus route, took home the award. The Straphangers had more on the unreliable local buses:

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

While local buses remain among the worst forms of surface transportation in the city, TA and the Straphangers acknowledged the MTA’s Select Bus Service plan. It’s taken a painfully long time to get Select Bus routes off the ground, but riders are noticing improvements.

“The next generation of buses is making inroads in New York City — Select Bus Service can cut travel time for riders,” Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said. “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.”

Eventually, as the MTA replaces the MetroCard with a contactless payment technology, bus load times will improve, and bus speeds should improve. Still, though, bus stops are much too close together, and the lack of lane and signal priority means that buses will forever be at the whims of surface conditions. Until bus routes are cleared, pokey and schleppy will be a perfectly adequate description of New York City bus service.

For more on the awards and the Straphanger’s methodology, check out their press release. After the jump, a vide on the awards from Streetsfilms.

The 2010 Pokey & Shleppie Awards from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

You may also like


ferryboi December 7, 2010 - 2:47 pm

Hmmm. I work on 42nd St and see an M42 every few minutes, and except for heavy traffic around 9am, the bus seems to move quick enough. It does go slow when wheelchair riders and/or tourists board (with dollar bills in hand, wondering why they can’t pay with cash), but that can’t be helped. While The Straphangers Campaign means well, these numbers are useless. Ask any rider of the S40 bus on Staten Island standing in the cold for a bus that has 20 minute headways (then doesn’t even show up) if they’d mind a bus every 7 mins, even if it crawled along at 5 mph.

Lawrence Velazquez December 7, 2010 - 3:01 pm

I see the M42 every few minutes, except when I want to take one.

ferryboi December 7, 2010 - 3:03 pm

Time moves slower when you’re the one doing the waiting! Just light up a cigarette; a bus is certain to come along as soon as you do 🙂

Alon Levy December 7, 2010 - 3:48 pm

Time moves slower when you’re the one doing the waiting!

This is completely true. The MTA’s ridership projection screen figures that time moves 1.75 times as slowly when you’re waiting or transferring as when you’re moving; this is how it models the benefits of a one-seat ride.

Dan Lewis December 7, 2010 - 5:07 pm

I’ve out-walked the M14 from 5th to 9th at least twice in my life, once in torrential rain.

Meese December 7, 2010 - 5:35 pm

Why didn’t you take the L?

Thomas December 7, 2010 - 6:34 pm

I agree! When I used to work at the UN, I never took the M42, as I noticed I always out-walked it to Grand Central, on my way to catch a 4/5.

Henry December 7, 2010 - 9:55 pm

I’m curious as to why there’s no Schleppie award for a Queens bus route.

ajedrez December 7, 2010 - 10:25 pm

The slowest bus is the Q58, at 6.6 miles per hour.

See: http://www.straphangers.org/pokeyaward/10/

tacony palmyra December 8, 2010 - 12:53 pm

I outwalk the buses on 125th every day. There’s no single bus route that traverses just 125th Street though, so it won’t show up here.

Christopher December 8, 2010 - 4:52 pm

Oh to bring back streetcars…

Video of the Day: Trike vs. M42 bus :: Second Ave. Sagas April 6, 2011 - 11:31 am

[…] slower than a running chicken.” In fact, the Straphangers Campaign had given the M42 its Pokey Award in 2010. Between the surface congestion and the dwell times as stations as passengers dip their MetroCards, […]


Leave a Comment