How your bus measures up

The M31 crosstown bus travels at an average speed of just 3.9 mph, according to a report from the Bus Turnaround Coalition. Photo: Michael Garofalo
Sluggish speeds and poor reliability plague Manhattan routes, report finds
By Michael Garofalo

Does your bus route deserve a passing grade?

It’s not likely, according to a new study.

Thirty-three of 41 Manhattan bus routes got an “F” in the Bus Turnaround Coalition’s annual report cards, which assign letter grades to every route in the city based on speed and reliability metrics.

Most Manhattan routes posted average speeds well under the citywide average of 6.6 mph — no surprise, given the borough’s congestion woes — with some routes barely outpacing the average pedestrian walking speed of 3.1 miles per hour, the study found.

Citywide bus ridership is down 17 percent since 2009 and has dropped in every year since 2013. The decline has been most precipitous in Manhattan, where average weekday ridership fell from 488,821 in 2012 to 380,075 in 2017 — a 22 percent drop in just five years. Transit advocates point to poor service as a primary factor driving the downward trend.

Manhattan’s lone bright spot, according to the survey, was the “B”-rated M35, which runs between East Harlem and Randall’s and Ward’s Islands. Every other route in the borough received a “D” or “F” from the Bus Turnaround Coalition, a partnership between the Riders Alliance, the Straphangers Campaign, TransitCenter and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged in January to increase bus speeds 25 percent by 2020 through increased NYPD bus lane enforcement, new bus lanes, and the installation of traffic signals that give green light priority to buses at 300 intersections each year.

The MTA is in the process of redesigning the entire bus route network and plans to introduce a new fare payment system that will allow for all-door boarding to reduce the time buses spend at stops. Transit experts are hopeful that congestion pricing, which state lawmakers may vote to enact this spring, will reduce traffic and contribute to faster bus service in Manhattan.