It's that time of year again: when the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and TransitCenter bestow the not-at-all coveted "Pokey Award" on New York City's slowest bus. This year, the M14A took home the dishonor, clocking in at a miserable 4.3 miles-per-hour—dead last among the MTA's sixty highest ridership routes.
While the M14A has long been an easy favorite to "win" the annual contest, this year was supposed to be different. The bus, which crawls along traffic-choked 14th Street, was poised to get a dedicated busway this month, the culmination of a multi-year outreach effort by transit advocates and city and state officials. But that street redesign was abruptly shelved just days before its launch, after a judge sided with a group of homeowners and block associations who had sued to stop the busway.
"Right now, there is actually a plan that has been laid out," said Thomas DeVito, senior director of advocacy at Transportation Alternatives, during the event. "The street has been redesigned in order to dramatically improve buses—that is currently on hold right now, because of a frivolous lawsuit and it is hurting New Yorkers."
The slowest, high-ridership bus routes by borough (Straphangers Campaign & Transit Center)
The route was upgraded earlier this month to Select Bus Service, giving riders access to off-board fare collection and all-door boarding. But, as a result of the lawsuit, the M14 is the city's only SBS route that does not have a dedicated bus lane.
"The recent implementation of SBS along the route has been a welcome change for M14 riders," said Jaqi Cohen, Campaign Director for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. "Still, there is no better way to speed up service along the route than by rolling out the red carpet for bus riders with a dedicated busway."
Cohen added that she would "rather ride a manatee than take the M14A," since the marine mammals travel at least 5 miles per hour.
The Pokey and Schleppie awards! (Straphangers Campaign)
Anti-bus residents, meanwhile, may be celebrating the Pokey Award without irony. Arthur Schwartz—a frequent opponent of bus and bike lanes, who filed the lawsuit—explained his perspective to Gothamist last month: "This is not Midtown. These are residential blocks with low-density, old houses, and people don't want it to be a crosstown thoroughfare... Who uses the bus? The people who live in the area would rather have a slow bus than have traffic and soot and noise on their streets."
The combination of SBS and the busway was expected to improve speeds by as much as 30 percent for 27,000 daily riders, according to the city. The two parties are due in court on August 6th.
The most unreliable bus routes, by borough (Straphangers Campaign & Transit Center)
In addition to the Pokey, the "Schleppie" was awarded to the B15, which serves 19,827 daily weekday riders between Bed-Stay and JFK Airport, in recognition of its unreliability and tendency for bunching. Transit advocates also unveiled the first-ever "Lifetime Depreciation Award," which was given to the M42 for its dwindling ridership, down one-third since 2012.
"It would be great if the governor paid more attention to buses," concluded Cohen. "We have over 2 million riders on the bus each day, but unfortunately bus riders get put aside and forgotten. That’s why we’ve seen terrible service for years."
Reporting by Xavier Rubira.