The number of city bus riders is continuing to go up from the record lows during the pandemic, a good sign for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. What's not good news: The number of fare-beaters is also increasing.
An MTA survey showed that nearly 30 percent of riders avoid paying the fare, as many hop onto buses through the rear door.
"There's not one bus that everyone pays. There's always someone who either goes through the back door or passes by the bus driver without paying," said Bronx resident Kimberly Diaz.
The MTA issued a memo reminding drivers on regular bus routes to not to hit the toggle switch that puts the doors in Select Bus Service mode, or SBS. Doing so automatically opens all doors at each stop.
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Instead, the transit agency wants them to only the front door. Passengers looking to get off through the back door can open it themselves.
“The policy is intended to continue to offer customers easy exits while deterring fare evasion by reducing the time that rear doors are open while no one is exiting on local bus routes," MTA Spokesperson Aaron Donovan said.
"If they see a whole bunch of people, to not open the back door because people who don’t pay can camouflage themselves and enter through the back door," Diaz said. "It’s not a bad idea but people are going to try to do it anyways."
The transit workers union says the directive won’t help.
"Bus operators unlock the rear door at bus stops, so that exiting passengers can push the tape, open the door and get off. This memo does not change that practice. When passengers exit, fare-beaters take advantage of the open rear door and board through it," a official at the TWU Local 100 said.
Transit advocates believe activating an OMNY fare box by the rear doors could make a difference.
"The MTA needs to be doing more to get riders on through every door, and if the MTA can’t step up and keep its promise for all-door boarding, then Gov. Hochul needs to step in and make sure we’re doing everything possible to speed buses & boost ridership," said Danny Pearlstein, of the Riders Alliance.
Many buses already have an OMNY payment system by the back door, but are not functioning yet. When aske about a timeline to get them functioning, the MTA said they still don’t have one.