Simply Botched Service

Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer and RepChatter co-host Deb Brown.

In 2010, the New York City Department of Transportation and the MTA New York City Transit decided to put a new type of bus service into action on First and Second Avenues: the Select Bus Service (the bus with the blue lights), which is supposed to speed up the buses by 20 percent. Two months ago, the City decided to expand the program up and down 34th Street. Instead of paying on the bus, you need to insert your MetroCard into one of two free-standing kiosks by the bus stop and get a receipt. You can then enter through any door. This is similar as to how you would get on a subway car – you pay first and then get on any car.

In theory, this seems like a good idea. I’m sure the City believes it’s demonstrating that it’s innovative in finding new solutions to move people faster and having riders feel more positive about the transit system. However, as a daily rider of the 34th Street bus, the slogan “Select Bus Service: Simply Better Service” doesn’t ring true. Here’s why:

First, since November, from my experience, at least 30-40 percent of the time one or both kiosks are either out of service and/or the paper receipt doesn’t come out. The kiosk is happy to take the $2.25 from your MetroCard, it just decides not to give you a receipt. This poses a problem if the transit police decide to check.

Second, if the transit police decide to randomly check a bus, and you explain that the paper receipt didn’t come out, they will still issue you a $115 fine. Why they don’t have mobile readers that can check your MetroCard to see if you paid is beyond me. I still don’t have a clear answer as to how you fight the ticket and prove that you paid.

Third, if both kiosks are out of service at one of the stops, EVERYONE who got on at that stop must get off at the next stop and pay and get a receipt. Talk about defeating the purpose of this bus! It’s supposed to speed up the ride, yet imagine 20 or more riders at a stop getting off to get a receipt and then get back on.

Fourth, if you’re running for a bus, you may make it if you just pay on the bus. But, if you’re running for a Select Bus, you now have to take several more seconds to hit start, put in your MetroCard, and wait for the receipt (if it comes out). I have witnessed some kind bus drivers who patiently wait for the rushed riders, and I have seen others who leave just as the person receives his/her receipt, leaving the poor rider to wait for the next bus.

Fifth, one objective of the MetroCard was to eliminate paper receipts for transfers. Now, we have paper receipts just to get on the bus.

Sixth, two stops were eliminated from 34th Street: Lexington Avenue and Madison Avenue. This speeds up the ride, of course, but also makes for some unhappy passengers who used to get on or off at those stops.

Seventh, one of the two M34 buses turns on 34th Street and Second Avenue and proceeds to 23rd Street and First Avenue. At that First Avenue stop, there’s no kiosk. The City apparently didn’t realize that you can’t put kiosks there for some reason (probably because there isn’t enough room). So, anyone who gets on that stop gets on for free.

Eighth, I’m sure there are some who are skipping the kiosk altogether and simply getting on for free, which is frustrating to all of us who pay. It’s like jumping the turnstiles in the subway, only a lot easier.

The City should consider changing its slogan to “Select Bus Service: Simply Botched Service.”

4 thoughts on “Simply Botched Service

  1. The name alone warranted withdrawing the buses, PRCarl. Question for you: as an erstwhile Brit and newly-minted Wyoming cowboy, do you not find some of the British monikers for people, places and things a bit, shall we say, pedestrian?

  2. They tried this in London when they introduced “bendy buses” that had three doors through which you could board. Once you were on you would swipe your travel card. These bendy buses have just been withdrawn for a variety of reasons, one of which is the number of fare dodgers.

  3. Hi Sam: It’s possible the City is doing a better job in curbing this behavior. However, this type of bus service certainly makes it easier for riders to get on without paying. The only time they’re caught is when the Transit Police decide to do a random check. Since I’ve been using the bus, I’ve only seen a random check one time, which was during the holiday season.

  4. I hadn’t heard about this new service, Deb, but this post was particularly interesting to me in light of an NPR program I was listening to a few days back talking about the drastic drop in fare evasion. The guy who headed up the NYPD at the time was on the show talking about how they curbed that behavior, yet it sounds like some new changes could cause the problem to flare back up?