Seriously. I feel like I’m trying to enter another country when I’m riding the new, supposedly improved SBS service. If you’re not familiar with these SBS service buses, they’re supposedly a great new way to get around town that will be faster than a normal limited bus. They also supposedly save the city money. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, that’s just bullshit.
These buses use their own, special bus stops. In addition to these new bus stops needing to be built, new machines had to be installed outside, adjacent to these bus stops. You see, even though these new buses are equipped with MetroCard readers, they want you to buy a ‘ticket’ before getting on the bus. That means the city spent extra money on these ‘ticket’ machines as well. It’s not really a ticket. You just get a receipt showing your MetroCard has been debited for the fare required to ride the bus. By the way, that’s more dead trees. Was that really necessary? How is it saving money to have to supply all of these ‘ticket’ machines with paper? Shouldn’t we be moving towards being a paperless society, rather than finding new ways to deforest and kill our planet? Not that I’m an eco-nut, but this just seems like a blatant waste of resources and money, which doesn’t make sense when everyone is screaming about budget cuts. I wonder how many people’s jobs got cut so MTA could afford to print thousands, or tens of thousands, of paper tickets every day?
Now, in addition to the complete waste of resources these ticket machines cause, and the fact that instead of lining up to get on the bus you instead line up to get a ticket, there’s an additional problem. This system creates another opportunity for you to be hassled by the man. Today, I rode one of these SBS buses from 14th street up to 116th street and the bus was stopped twice and left idling while cops searched everyone on the bus for ‘tickets’. Idling. Isn’t that what the new system was supposed to prevent?
Why do they have to do this? Well, the answer is easy. They’re relying on a trust system, that people will pay before boarding, but … seriously? Do they really think this is going to work? What world are they living in? Even on a bus system where people only board at the front, there are people who slip on and try to ride for free, and often pull it off. If you set things up so that people can board at any door and you’re just supposed to trust that they have a ticket, there will always be people trying to sneak on. People were pulled off and ticketed both times our bus was searched, and unless teams of police are set up to stop these buses and search them randomly, all day every day, it will continue. These searches slow down the bus and they’re really not any faster than the regular limited buses they replaced in the first place.
You know what? There’s an easier system than this, and it’s one I learned in Singapore. For a first world country, we sure are doing things real stupid over here in the US. We need to model our transit system off of Singapore’s. Instead of having these flimsy, crap cards we use for our buses and trains, they have cards with chips in them that can be read like the Visa PayWave cards. You don’t even have to take them out of your wallet or purse. You just slide them over a scanner as you enter and exit the bus or train station. That would save time. Not having paper tickets would save time. Not requiring the bus to be stopped and all the passengers to be checked like Nazis searching for Jews would be faster.
And, if you’re going to have cops constantly searching people on the bus, do it smart, not stupid. I mean, really, you want to stop the whole bus and have us sitting there while everyone is checked for tickets? Here’s a better idea. Have cops get on the bus, have the doors close and the bus continue on its route while the cops check tickets. Have the cops get off at the next stop and either get on the following bus, or cross the street and go back the way they came on the next bus. That would allow them to continue writing tickets and providing the city government with this new revenue stream (because that’s what this is all about), and it wouldn’t increase people’s commute times. And hey, since I mentioned Singapore’s system earlier, here’s another spot where it could come in handy. They have people that randomly get on and ride with the bus. These people carry handheld card readers that can read your card and show when you last scanned it. Oh, and they don’t stop the whole bus while they do it. That’s pretty easy, and it’s smart. I wonder why they didn’t think of it?
This whole thing with the tickets was done to supposedly save money on the fuel the buses use while idling at bus stops, and to make things faster and more convenient for riders. The MTA/SBS built a bunch of new bus stops, built new ‘ticket’ machines, are printing paper tickets that aren’t free to produce, and then have the buses idle for police checks, but somehow this is cheaper and faster than just running a normal limited bus. I totally see the logic here.