MTA bus operators have joined transit advocates in calling for the authority to institute all-door boarding on city buses to speed up service and boost safety.
By allowing commuters to board buses at both the front and back doors, the time operators spend at the curb would be reduced, improving notoriously unreliable service, advocates said. The union representing operators — Transport Workers Local 100 — agrees and believes the policy will also improve safety by further removing operators from mediating fare evasion.
“First of all, 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, getting coffee thrown on them; those days got to be over with,” said newly elected TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano on Thursday. “Our people got to come to work and be able to drive these buses in a safe manner.”
The focus on all-door boarding comes with expectations that the MTA will update its board next week on efforts to replace the MetroCard with a more modern, app-based system. The new fare technology should make implementing all-door boarding more feasible, said Tabitha Decker, deputy director of TransitCenter.
“Right now the way that we board our buses in New York City is outdated. Riders are lining up in a single file and boarding one-by-one through the front door. New technology would make it possible for us to allow riders to enter through all doors,” Decker said. “This is a very timely opportunity.”
New York City buses spend 22 percent of their time idling at bus stops, according to city and MTA data. All-door boarding has proven to cut down on that time in cities like San Fransisco and as well as on NYC Select Bus Service routes. When the B44 in Brooklyn was converted to SBS, the amount of time buses spent at stops was cut by about 40 percent, according to a city report.
The MTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In the recent past, the agency has cautioned that implementing such a policy across all routes could lead to an uptick in fare beating. Despite those concerns, fare evasion on Select Bus Service routes with all-door boarding actually decreased when paired with enforcement teams, according an MTA report.
The MTA plans to introduce new fare payment technology through a limited roll-out next year. Advocates want the authority to pledge to pair that roll-out with a new, universal all-door boarding policy for buses. New boarding policies would require the installation of scanners at back doors, but both advocates and the union believe retrofitting buses would be relatively cheap.
The primary cost would stem from paying enforcement teams to ride buses and catch fare beaters; however, improved bus speeds would be worth the price, decker said.
“The fare box is the sticking point for all operators because it is part of our job. Not only do we have to transport passengers in a safe courteous manner, but we also have to monitor that fare box,” said MTA bus operator James Fuller, 67, from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “I have been assaulted, I’ve been spit on; I have been beaten up to the point we’re I’ve had to have multiple stitches in my face….95 percent of the conflicts were about the fare box.”