At Sloth-Like 3.5 MPH, M50 Bus Wins This Year’s Pokey Award

Bus ridership is down in Manhattan, but where Select Bus Service increased speeds on First and Second Avenue, New Yorkers are riding more than ever. Image: NYCDOT/MTA

Want to understand why more Manhattanites don’t ride the bus? Look no further than this year’s Pokey awards, given out annually by the Straphangers Campaign. Manhattan buses, as usual, top the list of the year’s slowest service.

The Pokey this year goes to the M50 crosstown bus, which averaged a mere 3.5 miles per hour at noon (imagine it at rush hour!). The 14 slowest lines are all in Manhattan, with the Bronx’s Bx19, which runs down Southern Boulevard and into Harlem, clocking in as the slowest bus in the other boroughs.

Those glacial speeds explain why Manhattan-wide, bus ridership is down five percent over last year. Some of that decline surely stems from broad economic and demographic trends, but speed clearly matters. Along First and Second Avenues, where Select Bus Service was installed and speeds rose dramatically, ridership jumped up nine percent.

The good news for New Yorkers is that the MTA remains on board with expanding Select Bus Service. “The past year established Select Bus Service as a game changer in New York, with 20 percent faster bus service now on three routes,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz told Transportation Nation’s Jim O’Grady. “We are working with the city to expand the SBS network, bringing faster boarding, dedicated bus lanes and enhanced bus lane enforcement to more and more routes.”