HOLD UP: All-Door Bus Boarding Won’t Happen Until 2021, MTA Says

New fare payment readers will soon be installed on every bus on Staten Island — but the MTA is is no hurry to expedite improvements to the boarding process.

New fare collection technology at Nevins Street. Photo: David Meyer
New fare collection technology at Nevins Street. Photo: David Meyer

All-door boarding on all city buses — a key benefit of the MTA’s forthcoming new fare payment system — won’t be available on most city buses for two more years, transit officials said Wednesday.

The MTA is already rolling out the fare-card tech, officially dubbed One Metro New York, or “OMNY,” as part of a small pilot on Staten Island buses and the 4/5/6 subway lines between Grand Central Terminal and Atlantic Avenue.

Riders on local buses will continue to have to pay one-by-one at the front of the bus until 2021, according to project lead Al Putre.

“All-door boarding probably comes sometime in 2021,” Putre said. “For now, the OMNY rollout is for the front of the bus.”

With OMNY, New Yorkers will be able to pay transit fares via contact-less credit card, mobile application, or digital wallet service like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. OMNY will coexist with Metrocards until 2023.

Transit advocates tout the impending fare payment transition as an opportunity for the MTA to speed up bus service by reducing the amount of time it takes for riders to get on and off the bus.

At present, riders on local buses must enter at the front of the bus and insert their Metrocards one-by-one. In the last decade, the MTA has introduced all-door boarding on Select Bus Service routes, but with off-board fare collection that requires costly vending machines. But the result has been faster bus speeds and increased ridership.

If NYC had citywide all-door boarding and proof-of-payment, these bus riders would be moving already. Photo: Bus Turnaround Coalition
If NYC had citywide all-door boarding, these bus riders would be moving already. Photo: Bus Turnaround Coalition

With “tap-and-go” capabilities, the MTA could put OMNY readers at all bus doors, allowing for faster boarding times.

But the agency is taking things slowly. Next year, it will install OMNY readers only on SBS routes as part of an initial pilot.

Putre pegged the timeline, in part, to “additional work on [the] back-end.” He also said the number of passengers paying in coins had to be near-zero in order for all-door boarding to be viable.

“As long as we’re still accepting coin on buses, all-door boarding is still on the back-burner,” he said.

In addition to all-door boarding, the new fare payment system should also enable fare-capping, which allows riders to pay per-trip until they’ve spent the equivalent cost of a weekly or monthly pass. Cities like Portland and London have enacted such policies, but the MTA has not indicated any plans to introduce the practice in New York City.

The conservative approach frustrates advocates, who argue that New Yorkers need solid evidence of bus service improvements before congestion pricing goes into effect around the start of 2021.

“Now that congestion pricing has passed, it would really make sense to get this in as soon as possible,” said TransitCenter Deputy Executive Director Tabitha Decker. “You want to give people an incentive to get back on the bus.”

  • Andrew

    I’d love all-door boarding on all buses tomorrow, but as long as OMNY and MetroCard coexist, I can’t see how it’s practical. The moment the MetroCard system is retired for good, the boarding policy can be changed.

  • Danny G

    I’d love to see an analysis comparing the lost revenue from people sneaking on the back door of the bus against the travel time saved by speeding up the bus boarding process by using both doors.

  • Urbanely

    “In the last decade, the MTA has introduced all-door boarding on Select Bus Service routes, but with off-board fare collection that requires costly vending machines. But the result has been faster bus speeds and increased ridership.”

    Do we know that all door boarding is the reason for increased ridership on SBS? Curious about the actual cause since bus ridership seems to generally be declining.

  • Fool

    Actually it is an extremely simple change inside the vehicle, utilizing network cable paths inside the bus that are already routinely opened for Public Address system maintenance.

    This is just useless bureaucrats in a useless organization not being able to determine whose job such a revolutionary change this is.

  • Fool

    It is extremely easy to place signage on the bus “OMNY PASS ONLY”

    It is not as if the current boarding procedure has a impact on fare evasion rates.

  • iSkyscraper

    Definitely needed, but part of the problem remains that MTA buses only have two doors. A third door at the rear is needed to really speed boarding and spread distribution of passengers inside the bus. (How many buses have you been on where the rear section was virtually empty while the front half was a sardine can?) People won’t move very far from a door because of a fear of being stuck when crowded.

    Three door buses could be critical to speeding buses if combined with all-door boarding.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cb74fc66da1680b5138a8003385595aded6ff4f9f5cf414752384a58bcd609f2.jpg

  • kevd

    some of the new ones have 3 sets of doors

  • kevd

    “Putre pegged the timeline, in part, to “additional work on [the] back-end.” He also said the number of passengers paying in coins had to be near-zero in order for all-door boarding to be viable.”

    Why?
    I paid in coins in spain while nearly every other rider walked on and taped in (you could tap in several places on the bus – not just at the doors.) The 95% of riders using tap cards still made everyone’s trip much quicker – including the American tourist paying with coins.

  • kevd
  • iSkyscraper

    The articulated buses need four sets of doors – those things are a disaster with only three.

    I’m talking about three doors on a regular length bus.

  • kevd

    On the one I ride everyone can exit pretty quickly.
    but boarding is still a problem.

  • AMH

    Exactly, the number of people paying with coins is already near zero on many (most?) routes. All-door boarding is a no-brainer.

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