image of riding the bus in nyc

Why do people hate riding the bus in NYC? One word: traffic.

Question: Is riding the bus in New York really that bad? Every time I mention taking the bus to my twenty-something colleagues, they say “ewww.” They hate the bus. Why?

— Walking in Williamsburg

Dear Walking:

If you grew up in a suburb out there in flyover country and have just arrived in New York City, the subway, even at its foulest, is pretty damn exotic. Romantic, even.

But the bus? They have buses in Akron.

In my first 10 years or so in New York, I don’t think I ever took a bus anywhere. I lived on the West Side near Columbus Circle and had my pick of subways for going up or downtown. And on those rare occasions when I had to go across town, well, that’s what taxis are for.

After a while, however, my family and I made the ultimate Manhattan lifestyle alteration. We moved to the East Side. A new world opened for us: No Zabar’s or Fairway (then), but we did have Eli’s, the Vinegar Factory and Dean & DeLuca; no Natural History Museum, but the Met, the Guggenheim and (then) the Whitney were just fine; and while we missed the choices of the No. 1 or (then) 9 or the A, B, C, or D trains, we had the Lexington Avenue lines. Ugh. That’s when we discovered the buses.

Who knew you could get around Manhattan like that? Who knew you could catch an M101 right across from the back door of Bloomingdale’s and be home in 10 minutes? And, believe me, when you’re schlepping a suitcase from First Avenue to Lex, that M86 looks awfully nice. It sure beats walking.

But that’s about it. Buses beat walking … sometimes.

There’s really no defending the buses. Good if you live in a subway desert in Queens or the Bronx. Great for disabled people who have limited access to the subway. But buses are uncomfortable, they’re unreliable and they take forever to get somewhere. Take a look at that photo up there. Buses have to share the same surface streets as every car, taxi, limo, car service, Uber, Lyft, truck, van and well, you name it. Then, add in the traffic lights!

Example: According to the MTA trip planner, a morning commute from Broadway and 79th to Rockefeller Center takes 15 minutes using the No. 1 train, including an 8-minute walk from the 50th Street station. The same trip by bus? Thirty-one minutes, including the same walk.

And from Williamsburg? Fuhgettaboutit. Sixty-six minutes by bus versus 33 by subway. Enough said.

A study this year by the New York City Comptroller’s office gave even the much touted, super-limited SBS (Select Bus Service) a C grade — finding that it moved just 1.5 mph faster than regular buses and had the same 62 percent on-time performance. As with all buses, blame the traffic.

“The City and the MTA are failing those who depend on its service. New Yorkers deserve fast, frequent, and reliable public transit, and for that to happen, the status quo must change,” said Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “If we’re going to build a real and rapid bus transit system in New York City, we need to do it right. No more half measures and cutting corners. Right now, service is unacceptable, we need to do better.”


David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.

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