Pay-at-curbside bus route raises ridership, draws raves
Updated Thursday, September 4th 2008, 10:03 PM
Commuters quickly hop on the the Bx12, which runs from Inwood to Co-op City in the Bronx.
The Bx12 route, where riders pay at curbside machines before boarding to shorten loading times, is slated for expansion, according to NYC Transit.
"It's working out better than we planned," said Joseph Smith, NYC Transit's vice president in charge of buses.
Approximately 26,565 weekday riders are taking the new Select Bus Service, compared with 21,700 passengers who took the limited-bus service it replaced, officials said.
Bus trips during peak travel periods are 20% quicker since the service began and other fast-track strategies were launched in June, the agency said.
Although there were a few complainers, several riders on the Fordham Road stretch of the route, which extends from Inwood to Co-Op City, gave rave reviews Thursday.
"It's definitely faster. I like it much more," said home health aide Seneida Tavarez, 50.
Jesse Rosen's only gripe was that it took so long for NYC Transit and the city Transportation Department to make such "obvious" improvements to bus travel.
"You no longer have endless lines to get on the bus," said Rosen, 62, a university professor. "You can get on the front or back. The theory of buses coming more frequently seems to be working."
Since mid-July, NYC Transit's EAGLE team, mostly retired NYPD veterans now working as agency security inspectors, have issued 632 farebeating tickets to riders lacking proof-of-payment receipts. Inspectors spent several weeks explaining the new payment scheme to riders before enforcement began and still can give warnings, not tickets, when they deem it appropriate, said Vincent DeMarino, NYC Transit vice president of security.
Travel times also have been shortened along the Bx12 route by wireless technology on buses that communicate with traffic signal controls and give buses priority: red light periods are shortened and green lights extended for approaching buses. Police have issued about 4,000 tickets to drivers for encroaching on bus-only lanes and other violations.
The city Transportation Department and the MTA hoped to use congestion pricing funds to implement bus rapid transit routes across the city but the new toll proposal was not authorized by the state Legislature this year.
Not everyone on Fordham Road Thursday was in love with the program. Critics said trips are slowed by riders who attempt to pay the fare on board and must be directed back outside to payment machines by drivers who sometimes wait for them to make the transactions before departing.
"There's confusion and a lot of aggravation," said accountant Charles Borges, 48. He said payment machines are sometimes out of service, compounding problems.