Another Reason to Embrace Pre-Payment

From today’s Times, published after bus driver Edwin Thomas was stabbed to death by a passenger who refused to pay the fare:

There is one bus route on which drivers do not have to worry about
fare beaters: the Bx12 Select Bus Route, which runs along Pelham
Parkway and Fordham Road in the Bronx and West 207th Street in Upper
Manhattan.

On that route, riders now pay at curbside machines
before boarding. The machines give riders receipts that they must show,
if asked, to inspectors making random checks on the buses.

The
system, which is meant to speed travel by cutting the time it takes for
riders to board, frees drivers from having to worry about who has paid
and who has not. Drivers on the route say the system greatly lessens
the stress of the job.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’ve been thinking about this.

    I (and perhaps the Prince) would like to see the subway system be self-supporting, to prevent the state legislature from causing its collapse.

    Others embrace the Kheel plan, providing only the transit service than can be afforded for zero fare, based on the political competition for limited tax dollars.

    Then there was the suggestion of free buses on 34th Street, on the grounds that most people there had already paid elsewhere and just get free transfers anyway — the same arguement used to make the Staten Island Ferry free.

    How about striving for fare-paid operating cost break-even on the subways and commuter rail, and making the buses free? Three woudl be no more “free transfer” to the subway, but the buses themselves would be free. The MTA would be responsible for the quality of service on the subways.

    But the number, crowding and condition of the buses would be up to the city and state, dependent on the availability of subsidies. The bus schedules could even be politicized, with the city council and state legislature determining what gets subsidized and what doesn’t, and who gets how much service.

    Note that I don’t generally use the buses.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Don’t put me in the category of either 100% Farebox Operating Ratio or the Kheel plan. I’m for muddling along with regular, perhaps yearly, fare increases and predictable budget schedules. Though I kind of like your break down it would require those same “two-fare zones” to pick up the responsibility they have thus far shed to dedicate any other funding. There is another piece to the puzzle though concerning LI and the Bee Line buses and their traditional need to beg money from the counties (they have dug themselves a nice hole on their own). One of the key elements of the Kheel plan is how little is actually recovered from bus payers anyway when subtract out the late night empty buses and the loading delays from fare exchange. What about the express buses in your scenario?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “What about the express buses in your scenario?”

    Two options. Either make them cover most or all of their costs.

    Or force riders to listen to repeated automated announcements telling them that they are subsidized, whereas the less well off people who ride the subways are not, and are in fact funding their commute.

    A third option — build some of those big bike-storage facilities at the end of the subway lines, so those living beyond walking distance of the subway could get some exercise on their way to work. Commuting by bike has made me see those locations in a new, possibly more positive way.

    I’ve also suggested building park and ride lots over the N train, which is crowded but could add trains if we had them, for drivers from places like Staten Island, Dyker Heights, Marine Park, etc. It’s a quick ride from 59th to Times Square when the Manhattan Bridge isn’t half out of action for 20 years at a time.

  • At the risk of going upstream against thread drift:

    If that passenger was willing to stab the bus driver over the fare, do we have any reason to believe he wouldn’t also be willing to stab a ticket inspector over the same thing?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Thank you for throwing me a life preserver as I was caught in a tide of thread drift. Good point. This sort of system works well in Europe where for the most part they have eliminated cards and tickets in exchange for civic good faith and quality assurance level checks backed by strong financial penalties. Maybe the smart cards are the way to go here. And if they are backed by reasonable discounts they could be very efficient.

  • Bill

    I’ve seen ticket inspectors working on the Newark light rail. They always seem to be in groups of 3, and they have law enforcement-type uniforms. Some times they are in the company of police. (I’m not sure if the inspectors are “police”–i.e., what police powers they have. I haven’t noticed if they’re armed.)

    But 3 inspectors on a bus would be a tight fit. If it’s one unarmed ticket inspector on a bus, a stabbing would be just as likely to happen, I would imagine.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Yeah, in Italy they work the trains in groups of two.

  • Rhywun

    Yeah, in NYC where passengers tend to be a bit more, uh, unruly than in Europe, I think the inspectors should *be* transit police.

  • The entire transit system (buses, metro and commuter trains) in Paris works on a combination proof-of-payment/gate system. The main control mechanism is that if you are stopped anywhere without a valid ticket or pass you have to pay a fine. “Controleurs” will stop a bus two or three at a time (one through the front, one or two through the back) and ask to see everyone’s tickets. On commuter trains they work their way from car to car.

    In the metro and RER they set up checkpoints in transfer corridors, usually around a corner so that they see everyone who sees them, and can run after people who turn around. Most metro corridors are one-way, possibly to help with this.

    Most transit users have monthly or weekly passes, but single-ride tickets are date-stamped in metro turnstiles. There are stamping machines in the buses (at both doors, allowing for front and rear access) and commuter rail stations, but no turnstiles.

    In Santo Domingo, the high-end buses have turnstiles at the front, operated by cashiers who make change. The independently-operated vans (“guaguas”) all have conductors who are responsible for announcing the route and stops, collecting fares and making change. I never saw anyone try to avoid paying, so I don’t know what would happen to them.

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