The bus. Possibly the most romantic form of public transportation, made all the more romantic by its numerous portrayals on the big screen. Think Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke taking a furtive ride in Austria, a moody Eminem scribbling notes and of course Kate Hudson and her ensemble belting out “Tiny Dancer.” None of the claustrophobia of the subway or the pat downs of the airport.
Though its hard to feel any way romantic about a 3.5 mile-per-hour ride across a crowded Manhattan, but that’s the speed that the M50 bus was clocked at by The Straphangers Campaign this year, earning the route the not so sought after, Pokey award, now in its 10th year.
“You can push a lawnmower faster crosstown than it takes the M50 to go from 1st to 12th Avenue” Gene Russianoff, NYPIRG attorney for their Straphangers Campaign said, bestowing the route with a golden snail trophy today. Staff and volunteers timed their rides on 35 different routes, chosen because they either had a high volume of riders or were historically known for being slow.
The slowest routes in each borough were the B41 in Downtown Brooklyn, the Bx19 in the Bronx and Harlem, the Q58 in Queens and the S48 in Staten Island.
Not content with just highlighting tardiness, the Straphangers Campaign also gave out it’s sixth Schleppie, an award for the least reliable buses in the city, to the M101/102/103. The criterion for which being the deviation length of arrival from the actual bus schedule. Not good when you consider the M101/102 and 103 constitute some of the highest ridership’s in the city. The line received a pair of golden elephants.
Behind the jokey awards is the serious danger of a significant failing in transport. Bus breakdowns are on the up year over year, and furthermore the percentage of city buses that were 12 years or older has more than doubled in the past year.
“The M50 might be slow but the bus system itself is racing toward catastrophe at full speed,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “New Yorkers deserve better.”
The M.T.A. has $800 million in their capital plan for new buses, up until 2014. One would think they best get spending.