Keep on schleppin’ — Queens buses aren’t as bad as other boroughs

Who knows how slowly this MTA bus will chug along its route. Photo courtesy of Chris Torres/Wikimedia Commons.

Who knows how slowly this MTA bus will chug along its route. Photo courtesy of Chris Torres/Wikimedia Commons.

By Jonathan Sperling

The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round — at least in Queens.

The borough’s bus network managed to avoid “winning” a series of raspberry awards presented by the Straphangers Campaign and TransitCenter. The titles, known as the Pokey and Schleppie awards, are given to bus routes throughout the city that suffer from slow and unreliable service.

“Riders on high-ridership routes endure bus service that barely moves faster than walking,”  said Mary Buchanan, research associate at TransitCenter said in a statement.

“Fortunately, NYC DOT plans to speed up service with dedicated bus lanes on 14th Street in Manhattan, Church Avenue in Brooklyn, Fresh Pond Road in Queens, and Broadway in the Bronx — riders need swift action on these projects,” she added.

This year’s Pokey Award for the slowest local bus route went to Manhattan’s M14, which raced through the city at 4.3 mph, according to the findings. It beat out 60 high-ridership bus routes, or bus lines with 10,000 or more daily riders, for the title. By comparison the Queens’ Q54, shuttles commuters between Jamaica and Williamsburg at a blazing fast average speed of 6.4 mph.

Aside from Staten Island’s slowest bus, the S48, the Q54 was the only slowest borough bus to average a faster speed than a manatee, which cuts through the water at an almost-unclockable 5 mph. 

Queens also (sort of) dodged the Schleppie Award for the least reliable bus route. That honor was awarded to Brooklyn’s B15, which mostly travels through Eastern Brooklyn before finishing its route in Howard Beach and at JFK Airport. Findings show the B15 arriving bunched — when two or more buses arrive at a stop at the same time, a sign that large gaps have opened up in service — 20 percent of the time.

“Traveling to the airport is a universally stressful experience. For Brooklyn bus riders, that experience is only made worse by taking the B15, which is the only bus in Brooklyn that connects riders to JFK airport,” Jaqi Cohen, campaign director for the Straphangers Campaign, said in a statement.

The Q24 was Queens schleppiest bus, bunching 16.3 percent of the time along its route between Jamaica to Bushwick.

Queens’ buses still suffer from a lack of reliability and speed, however. Commuters in Southeastern Queens, which lacks subway service, have complained of overcrowding, delays, and irregular service on buses.

Hope may be on the horizon, though. The MTA announced in April a plan to redesign Queens’ bus network by improving bus stop spacing to speed up customers’ commute times,” and “improving off-peak service frequency and coverage,” among other changes. Average bus speeds in Queens are down 3 percent since 2015, according to MTA data. 

And in June, Queens buses scored another victory when the state legislature passed a bill that removes the cap on bus lane cameras. Under the bill, drivers who violate bus lane laws more than four times in a 12-month period are subject to a $250 fine. Revenue gained from paid fines will go toward the New York City Transportation Assistance Fund, which funds the operating and capital costs of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s subway action plan.

Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that the Q54 shuttles riders between Flushing and Williamsburg. The Q54 travels between Jamaica and Williamsburg.