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Riders and Bus Drivers Urge MTA to Bring All-Door Boarding to Every Route in the City

1:23 PM EDT on October 19, 2017

MTA bus operator James Fuller has been assaulted on the job several times, almost always because of conflicts related to fare collection. Photo: David Meyer

Bus riders and drivers gathered outside MTA headquarters this morning to demand citywide all-door boarding, which the agency can mandate in its upcoming contract for a new fare collection system.

All-door boarding is possible when fare collection doesn't depend on transactions at the front of the bus. In NYC, this is limited to Select Bus Service routes, but the results have been impressive. On the B44, for example, once passengers could pay before boarding and use any door, the boarding process took 40 percent less time [PDF].

For bus drivers, all-door boarding has the added appeal of reducing the potential for conflicts with passengers and enabling them to fully concentrate on operating the bus.

"I have been assaulted, I have been spit on, I have been beaten up to the point where I had to have multiple stitches on my face," said bus operator James Fuller, a member of TWU Local 100, which represents the bulk of the MTA's unionized workforce. "Ninety percent of the conflicts -- 95 percent -- were about the fare box."

The MTA put out a request for proposals for its next fare payment system last summer. Advocates flagged the RFP as a chance to guarantee the new platform supports electronic proof-of-payment, which enables all-door boarding without the costly and unreliable off-board fare machines currently used on SBS lines. This past May, 67 state legislators called on Governor Cuomo to make all-door boarding standard across the MTA's bus network.

MTA officials, however, have been reluctant to commit to citywide all-door boarding, arguing that fare evasion might increase. Evidence in San Francisco and on SBS routes here in New York, however, suggests that won't be an issue.

The coalition that organized today's presser says the MTA has reached an agreement with a vendor to implement the new fare-collection system, and that the contract could go before the MTA board for approval as soon as next week.

"It's very clear that all-door boarding just makes sense," said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Nick Sifuentes said. "What we need now is for the MTA to actually step up and do the right thing."

"It's going to move buses more efficiently, and our bus operators are not going to have to worry about arguing with passengers, getting spit on, getting assaulted, having coffee thrown on them," said TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano, who also called for all-door boarding implementation in the Daily News. "The bus operator can just worry about getting the passengers to where they want to go in a timely fashion."

Fuller, the bus driver, said he had already seen the benefits of all-door boarding while operating free shuttle along the M line in Queens during subway service closures. "People come in on all the doors. The bus is loaded in almost no time," he said. "If we can implement that throughout the system, it would be a wonderful advantage to the public, as well as to us."

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