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Q46 ranked best in city in survey of bus system

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Four of every 10 buses in the MTA New York City Transit system arrive late or in bunches, creep along more slowly than in any city in America and provide overall "lousy" service, according to a transit watchdog agency that ranked the Q46 line in Queens as the most punctual in the five boroughs.

"On-time performance for buses remains a joke and the scourge of bus bunching a constant torment," said Neysa Pranger, coordinator of the Straphangers Campaign, which monitors bus and subway performance.

The report, titled "Standing Still," listed performance measures produced by the Transit Authority for its 4,300 buses for the period from October 1998 to September 1999 vs. the corresponding span from 1997 to 1998.

One the biggest problems, the survey concluded, was that although the number of passengers has risen by 38 percent, bus service has increased by only 9 percent. The Straphangers also complained that few bus drivers make announcements, buses have become dirtier and break down more often.

With 83 percent of Queens buses characterized as clean, they were second only to Manhattan, which was only one percentage point better and in the middle as far as driver announcements are concerned with 32 percent found to have acceptable service in this area.

Pranger said the Transit Authority admits its buses are the slowest in the United States, averaging eight miles an hour overall and six miles an hour in Manhattan. Nationwide, city buses average 13 miles an hour.

Although the survey turned up much that was negative, there were bright spots, including the Q46 line which links Kew Gardens with Glen Oaks. It had a 76 percent on-time record - the best in New York City..

Queens buses also had an average on-time record of 67 percent that was surpassed only by Staten Island.

As for regularity of arrivals, Queens buses had a record of 64 percent, which was two percentage points worse than in the previous survey but still the best borough except for Staten Island.

Of the four Queens lines surveyed:

The Q43, running from Jamaica to Floral Park, was on time 72 percent of the time, up 3.8 percent from the previous report. It also ran on a regular basis 71 percent of the time, the best in the city outside Staten Island..

The Q58, running between Flushing and Ridgewood, turned in Queens' worst showing. It had the greatest decline in on-time service, falling from 63 percent to 58 percent. The Q83, running from Jamaica to Queens Village, dropped from 71 percent to a 65 percent on-time record.

Pranger said the survey included not only regular MTA NYC Transit buses but those operated by several private bus lines that serve vast areas of Queens. She said performances of some of them were superior to those of the Transit Authority, although the private lines recently were accused of poor service and some politicians said such lines should compete for city contracts.

The worst on-time record was turned in by the M1 operating between the East Village and Harlem in Manhattan. It was on time 42 percent of the time.

Al O'Leary, chief spokesman for the Transit Authority, said the report was "intellectually dishonest." He said the system improved during the last three months of 1999, a period not included in the survey report.

Gene Russianoff, a lawyer for the Straphangers, suggested that the MTA should replace managers and supervisors who fail to improve performance by early next year.

"Bus service is lousy," Russianoff said.

The Straphangers Campaign is a division of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

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