If you need to get somewhere fast in New York, don't take the MTA's M42 bus. You should also probably avoid the B44 and the M4. Each of the three bus lines has won awards for service, but not for the kind they'd want to broadcast to the city.
Drum roll, please.
The M42 is the not-so-proud recipient of the eighth annual "Pokey" award – a golden snail on a pedestal -- for slowest local bus route in the city. Volunteers and Straphangers Campaign staff took rides on 23 slow bus routes and determined the cross-town M42 to be the winner. The bus runs at a snail-like pace of 3.7 miles per hour as clocked at 12 p.m. on a weekday. By comparison, a person walks at about 3 miles an hour. And a 5-year-old riding a motorized tricycle, which goes 5 mph, would leave the bus in the dust.
While the B44 may move faster than the M42, it's not exactly reliable. It's actually the least reliable bus route in the city, according to the Straphangers Campaign, and therefore wins the 2009 "Schleppie" award. The route has the fifth-highest bus ridership in the city, according to transit statistics, but the buses either arrive bunched together or came with big gaps in service 22 percent of the time in the first half of 2009.
That brings us to the M4, the first-ever recipient of the uncoveted Trekkie award – a golden camel trekking on a pedestal handed to the bus route with the longest scheduled running time. Just how bad is it? The M4 runs between Penn Station and Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan. Twenty-five of 190 routes were scheduled to run as long or longer than most regularly scheduled Amtrak service between New York and Philadelphia in 2009. So, yeah, if you're taking the M4, prepare for the long haul.
The MTA was quick to respond to the Straphanger Campaign's findings. Traffic in New York can be pretty bad, as everyone knows, and buses still have to share the same streets as cars and cabs.
"However, with recent innovations such as Select Bus Service (SBS) and signal light prioritization, as well as plans to further improve service recently outlined by MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jay H. Walder, it is important for the city’s 2.3 million bus customers to know that we are working to achieve improvements in bus speeds and reliability," the MTA said in a statement. "Future plans call for the eventual expansion of SBS routes, new methods of fare payment, stricter bus lane enforcement, the use of cameras to nab offenders and the development of a reliable system offering next bus information to waiting bus customers."