Advocates to MTA: No More Waffling on Citywide All-Door Bus Boarding

The MTA should roll out all-door boarding concurrently with its new fare payment system, advocates testified at an MTA Board hearing today.

With all-door boarding, buses move faster because riders don't have to pay one-by-one at the front of the bus. Photo: Ben Fried
With all-door boarding, buses move faster because riders don't have to pay one-by-one at the front of the bus. Photo: Ben Fried

With bus ridership in free-fall, the MTA must use the rollout of its new fare payment system to adopt all-door boarding citywide as soon as possible, advocates testified at today’s MTA board meeting.

“As an organizer, I get to speak to bus riders every single day who share their stories with me about how unreliable their bus commutes are,” testified Riders Alliance organizer Stephanie Burgos-Veras. “There is something that the MTA can do right now that doesn’t have to depend on Mayor de Blasio, and that’s all-door boarding.”

All-door boarding has proven to speed up trips on Select Bus Service routes, such as the B44 in Brooklyn, where it shaved 40 percent off the time consumed by boarding [PDF]. But there are barely a dozen SBS routes in the city, and on those routes, the current fare system depends on expensive ticket vending machines on the sidewalk that are often more of a hassle than a convenience.

New York is falling behind cities like London and San Francisco that have deployed all-door boarding on every route citywide.

The next-generation fare payment system, set to begin rollout sometime in 2019, could quickly enable tap-and-go payment and all-door boarding on every bus route. In addition to rider advocacy groups, the transition to citywide all-door boarding has the backing all three unions representing bus operators, who believe it improves driver safety by separating them from the process of fare collection.

Nevertheless, the MTA has been reluctant to commit to citywide all-door boarding. The procurement contract approved by its board in October only mentions “trials of on-board fare collection and all-door boarding” on some routes, sometime in late 2019 or later. There is no commitment to city-wide all-door boarding.

That’s not fast enough, TransitCenter Deputy Director Tabitha Decker told board members. To put riders first, the agency needs to adapt new fare technology to their needs faster than it did with the MetroCard.

“When the MetroCard was first introduced, it was little more than a plastic token,” she said. “Bus-to-subway transfers, [and] monthly and weekly fare cards came later, and that was thanks to outside pressure on the MTA.”

Decker and Burgos-Veras think the MTA can come up with a plan by the first half of 2018 for implementation of citywide all-door boarding, so that it rolls out concurrently with the new fare payment system.

“This time around, when the MetroCard is replaced, MTA leadership should put riders first from the start, and should introduce systemwide improvements that modern fare payment systems make possible,” Decker said. “All-door boarding is a proven strategy that we can use to turn the system around and attract riders back to the bus.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    The problem is, advocates also want to reduce enforcement of fare evasion. And they want more service.

  • AMH

    Reducing dwell time, and thereby cutting running times, should theoretically allow more frequent service with the same number of buses and drivers. The MTA should be held accountable for that. Enforcement of fare evasion can’t be eliminated, however.

  • We wouldn’t need fare-evasion enforcement — or newfangled fare-payments methods — if we funded our public transit entirely through taxes, as we do with other public services. And, on top of that, we certainly wouldn’t be experiencing dwindling ridership.

    You don’t have to pay a fare in order to receive sanitation services or firefighting services from the public agencies that are charged with delivering these services; neither should you have to pay a fare in order to receive transit services. We should be taxed enough to pay what it costs to provide all of these services, including the cost of good pay, benefits, and pensions for the people who make public service their career.

    Unfortunately, New Yorkers like all other Americans are unwilling to accept taxes at the level that would be required for the funding of necessary infrastructure. Contrary to the fantasy world inhabited by most Americans, who believe themselves to be paying exorbitant taxes, people in this country are scandalously undertaxed, carrying a tax burden that is about half of that of the French, and much smaller than anywhere else in the civilised world.

    Unless the irrational and counterproductive American resistance to appropriate taxation changes (which ain’t gonna happen), we will never have a public transit system that truly meets our needs.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Why is that a problem?

  • lockenload

    Even before a full roll-out of a New Fare Payment System the MTA can speed up bus service in two ways:
    1) Allow riders to pay before getting OFF the bus, not before getting ON the bus e.g. all door boarding, front door payment. This is already done on buses in Asia and while it involves an increase in enforcement, drivers have cameras that can help them monitor payment
    2) Work with the City to increase dedicated bus lanes. Too often, buses are spending time merging in and out of lanes to reach their bus stop, an inefficient waste of time and gas. Increase the number of bus lanes and move bus stops to center island platforms on large express roads so parking is minimally impacted.

  • 19cibaoman75

    the major problem that bus operators tell me is that travel times from the depot to the first stop haven’t been updated in 40+ years, so alot of them start the day late, plus the travel time from first to last stop is unrealistic. case in point q69 in western queens from 82st & astoria blvd to queens plaza south the operator is given 25 minutes to make the trip, impossible to do!!!!! now when the operator has to go back from queens plaza south to 82st & astoria blvd it’s now 22 minutes. this logic doesn’t make sense. if the schedules are balanced correctly then you will have better bus service citywide

  • Larry Littlefield

    If we accepted more taxes, they’d just put in a 20/50 pension for the TWU, or 20 and out. That’s what happened when we accepted more taxes for education — pension increases.

    “People in this country are scandalously undertaxed, carrying a tax burden that is about half of that of the French, and much smaller than anywhere else in the civilised world.”

    Public employee pension income is exempt from state and local income taxes in New York, and the unions are pushing to be exempted from property taxes as well.

  • Joe R.

    Your statement “people in this country are scandalously undertaxed” is only half true. Those who make very high incomes, say over a few hundred K annually, are scandalously undertaxed. We should have a 90% tax rate on any income over about $500K. And that rate should apply to all types of income over that amount, including capital gains. That would quickly end the practice of CEOs getting tens of millions or being paid in stock options to avoid higher income tax rates.

    Those who work for a living are generally either paying roughly the amount of taxes they should if they’re fairly high earners (say over $150K to $200K per year) or paying way more than they should if they’re the working poor. We really need a truly progressive tax system where those making under a living wage (i.e. ~$50K in NYC) pay no taxes whatsoever (no FICA or income taxes), while those making more pay progressively higher rates. Hong Kong has the best example of a progressive tax system:

    https://www.guidemehongkong.com/business-guides/staffing-your-business/hong-kong-salaries-tax-guide

    Maybe the rate on high incomes should be a lot higher, but at least this system is truly progressive. Those on the low to mid end of the wage scale pay little or nothing in taxes, which is how a progressive tax system should work.

  • That is a good point. The system should be far more progressive, with higher marginal rates for the top earners (such as the 90% that was in place at one time), with no loopholes to escape it.

    Still, we must acknowledge that there is amongst Americans an ugly ideological resistance to taxation in general; a shocking number of people in this country acutally believe that taxation is, in principle, theft. One might ask how these people reconcile this view with the expectation of services in the form of police, fire, sanitation, paved roads, maintained bridges, etc. The answer is: they don’t. They just ignore this contradiction, and retreat to their fantasy world. Thus there is literally no language that anyone can use to communicate with such people; and this is a far bigger problem than the details of our current tax system.

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