Home Buses Report cards coming to bus lines soon too

Report cards coming to bus lines soon too

by Benjamin Kabak

nycbus.jpg Here’s an idea that should have been left on the drawing board: Howard Roberts, president of New York City Transit, wants the city’s bus riders to fill out rider report cards as well. With over 200 bus lines servicing the city, this seems like a colossal waste of money and resources.

“We plan to begin distribution of our report cards to the bus system sometime in the spring,” Roberts said at last Thursday’s City Council hearing.

I can understand why the MTA may want to have report cards for the subway lines. As the City Council noted, it certainly looks good as a PR move, and it helps the MTA prioritize the perceived problems with the system. But do we really need to grade the bus lines?

In an effort to save the MTA time and money, let me help them out with the New York City bus system: The New York City buses aren’t very good because they’re not reliable. Since the city hasn’t figured out that dedicated bus lanes are the way to go, buses are subjected to the whims of traffic. Right off the bat — and this is the number-one problem — they don’t really stick to the schedules posted in stations.

Next, they stop way too frequently. I can understand the idea that buses should provide transport for those who may not be able to walk to the subway, but is it really necessary for some buses in Brooklyn to stop four times in seven blocks? Is it really necessary for the M104 to stop at 82nd, 84th, 86th, 88th, 91st and 93rd Sts.? Buses seem to take forever because they stop everywhere. The MTA should either implement more express bus services along every north-south avenue in Manhattan or cut out half of the bus stops.

Third, buses seem to bunch. Waiting ten minutes for a bus to arrive only to find two of them at once, as is common on Madison and Fifth Aves. where multiple bus routes roam the streets, is annoying and inefficient. Loading passengers on buses should be more efficient, and bus spacing should be better maintained.

Finally, the MetroCard readers on buses are pretty confusing. Many people, used to swiping in the subways, don’t know what to do when confronted with a bus reader, and their inability to follow directions slows up the loading process. With a pre-board payment set up and dedicated bus lanes, the MTA could avoid this problem. With contactless smart card technology, as the buses in Washington, D.C., use, paying and board is as easy as a wave of the hand.

So there you go. I guarantee that every bus rider report card will come out with similar complaints. Does the MTA really need to spend more cash on a program that will just return results that we all know already?

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lillied January 15, 2008 - 1:21 pm

You may be right, but your comments also may be somewhat subway-centric. I’m sure most bus riders do fine with the MetroCard reader because they ride the bus every day. Tourists and people coming into the city for the day generally use the subway or cabs, I think. Not buses.

Also, you probably have a point about buses stopping too often and having overlapping routes in busy areas, but what about all the areas that have way less traffic and are served only by buses? Those people probably would say on a report card that they want *more* bus stops. Especially old or disabled riders who have trouble transporting themselves even a few blocks. Those riders might say the same thing even if they had a subway stop on their block, because there’d be a good chance it would not have an elevator for them.

Tania Katherine January 15, 2008 - 2:36 pm

Well that’s just a terrible idea; I could save the MTA 360, 000 dollars or more & just say that the buses are a lot worse off than the subways (since a good deal of the bus lines go places that no subways are and that they must contend with traffic).

However, in response to buses stopping far too often…I feel like you have to be talking about buses in the city. I live towards Forest Hills over by Queens Mall and there are several spans of time where the bus stops are few and far in between. There are certain buses that go out further towards the Rockaways that literally have several miles in between their stops. Frequent stops on the M 104 make sense only because the area is largely populated and it’s a ‘fast paced’ area. People don’t expect to have to walk five blocks for a bus. However, I’ve been on that bus at times where every single stop it’s made has had more people than the capacity of the bus board.

Personally, I think that it’s really clear that one of the bigger problems with the bus system is that they don’t know their ‘market,’ if you will. You know when you take a bus often enough that you can go ‘oh okay, this stop is coming up–everyone will get off and I will get a seat’ ? The MTA doesn’t know this. Subways have express stops for a reason and the bus system never thought of that apparently. Take the Q88; yes, the bus has ‘school hour’ extra bus service (at least on the chart they do). However, the bus stops at Queens College (which is a commuter college in the middle of nowhere) and a skirt of high schools right before QC on it’s way towards Queens Center. More often than not, there is the bunching up of buses that you talked about. However, it’s rarely used the way it needs to be. The area is as a whole unavailable to subways for miles upon miles. However, the MTA must not be aware of this. The buses that supposedly run quicker during school hours do, in fact, not. There is often a line at the Queens College stop that goes over 100 people along the block and develops very quickly. Twenty minutes to a half hour later, three buses will stop. One will let on half of the group and of the other two, one will only let people off and the other one will hesitate before leaving (never opening its doors). This happens so consistently. Even on the Q60, a similar situation happens. However, past 5 o clock….we’d be rather lucky to so much as see one bus every hour on either of those lines. Apparently, people never use buses after school lets out.

Kevin January 15, 2008 - 9:58 pm

On a sidenote, where did you get that logo for New York City Bus, since that’s not technically an MTA division.

Tomás January 16, 2008 - 5:02 am

Kevin, that logo was available on the MTA site ten years ago or so, when they opened their web site. I think it’s also available on the Wikipedia, but not sure for now.

For the report cards maybe it could be an idea to do them borough by borough, instead of doing one of each of the more than 200 lines in the system. Then, let the riders state on the cards in which line they use to ride.


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