This Angry Dude in Queens Is Reason #283 the MTA Needs Electronic Proof-of-Payment Yesterday

Man vs. off-board fare machine.

Pounding on these off-board fare machines probably didn't make them work better.
Pounding on these off-board fare machines probably didn't make them work better.

Off-board fare payment is a huge time saver for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who ride the city’s Select Bus Service routes. It cuts out one of the biggest sources of delay for bus service — the time-consuming process of each passenger dipping a MetroCard or paying cash one by one.

But the technology that off-board payment relies on could be better. Riders have to get receipts from ticket vending machines on the sidewalk. Without a receipt, you could get fined for fare evasion by inspectors. Few things are more frustrating than when the vending machines malfunction.

Watch — with the volume up — as this gentleman on Main Street in Flushing completely loses it trying to pay his fare for the Q44 (hat tip to Gothamist):

With the current fare payment technology, the MTA has to install and maintain these machines at every Select Bus Service stop. During busy times of day, riders have to line up to use them. It doesn’t have to be this way.

As the MTA phases in its next-generation fare payment system, a process the agency says it will begin next year, off-board fare collection could be scaled up with electronic proof-of-payment. A modern tap-and-go payment system would eliminate the hassle of the off-board machines — and speed up more buses.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Or, as an intermittent step (which would reduce the load on those machines), don’t require people with unlimited cards to get the receipt. Give the inspectors mobile terminals so they can check validity of the unlimited cards, on the rare cases that a bus actually gets inspected.

  • bolwerk

    Having vending machines on at least the longer articulated buses would reduce the harm of out of service curb vending machines. And having them on buses makes them easier to maintain anyway, because all buses eventually go home to a bus depot.

  • Albert

    Free public transit would help even more.

  • mfs

    This is entirely possible with current MTA technology for all cards, unlimited and cash balance. It’s the same device that is at all subway booths and balance-checking machines. It shows where the last place the card was swiped was.

  • Vooch

    wanted to do that a few times myself

  • J

    YES! It’s about time we started to run our transit system intelligently. Can New Starts money be put towards off-board fare collection in big cities. Might have a WAY bigger impact than, say, another mixed-traffic streetcar.

  • HamTech87

    If my experience in Philadelphia with SEPTAKey is any indication, tapping the card is not that quick. The scanner on the bus took a bit of time to recognize it. Let’s hope we still have all-door boarding, and then scanners not near the door like I’ve seen on buses in Vancouver, British Columbia. Otherwise, NYC will not have gained much in terms of boarding speed.

  • bolwerk

    I’m not sure that has anything to do with the fare media. SEPTA also seems to have really slow swiping with their MetroCard-like transit passes when you board rapid transit. Buses are quite fast to swipe onto though, and the only indication you successfully swiped is a faint beep it seems. I feel like if NYC rapid transit swipes worked like Philly’s, some stations would have lines up to the street.

    (I’m a regular traveler to Philly, and often use a colleague’s pass when I’m down there.)

  • ohnonononono

    Tap cards have been in place for a while all over the world including many US cities. SEPTA is bad at literally everything and should not be your standard for anything.


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