Select Bus Service has become increasingly common since being introduced in 2008, with riders on some lines no longer having to pay fares at the front door. But, a new report from the MTA Inspector General points out that the fare-payment system comes with a few bugs. Transit Reporter Jose Martinez explains.
There are now 543 machines like this one around the city, part of the MTA's Select Bus Service Program.
Riders slip in a MetroCard, grab a receipt and then board at any door.
There are now 10 Select Bus Service lines citywide, part of a push to speed trips on especially busy routes.
But a new report by the MTA Inspector General charges that the machines went on the blink thousands of times over the course of one year - 16 percent of the outages lasted at least four days.
"Over the year that we studied in 2015, total outages, there were over 9,000 outages," said Inspector General Barry Kluger. "Many of them of them being of a long term."
The report points out most problems were fixed within 12 hours — but one fare payment machine along the B44 route in Brooklyn was out for nearly three months.
This stop at 23rd Street and Second Avenue on the M34A line in Manhattan hasn't worked for two years. Transit officials told the Inspector General that restoring the power to a stop used by "few people" would require ripping up the sidewalk.
Then there was a Bronx bus stop for the Q44. Its machines had no power for weeks after last January's blizzard.
"We have to get on the bus and get off at the next stop to go get a ticket and that's a hassle," said one rider.
The MTA says it has ended its policy of requiring riders who encountered malfunctioning machines to disembark at the next stop and pay.
"So if you were getting on, let's say, at 79th Street going downtown on Second Avenue and the machines were out, according to the rules, you were supposed to be getting off at 68th Street and reinsert your MetroCard," Kluger said.
The MTA says its new rules are more "customer-focused" by allowing riders to stay on the bus longer.
"The customer can go to their destination and purchase their ticket there," said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.
The MTA doesn't have figures on how much money it's lost because of malfunctioning machines on Select Bus Service routes. It says MTA officers who board buses searching for fare-evaders are usually aware which ones are out of service.
The officers, the MTA says, are told to use their discretion, so as not to hit any rider affected by a malfunctioning machine with a hundred-dollar fine.