Call it No Public Transit Left Behind. After receiving grades for its subways and express buses, New York City Transit is now turning its attention toward the sluggish local bus service that dominates our roadways.
Beginning this morning, bus riders in Staten Island will have the opportunity to fill out rider report cards for their local buses. The program will eventually make its way to the other boroughs as well.
Similar to the subway report card process, riders will be asked to grade the buses along 19 different criteria and issue an overall grade. These topics are bus-specific, but upon a closer examination, I believe NYC Transit could eliminate most of the categories and still receive thorough evaluations. Take a look at the categories:
1 Reasonable wait times between buses
2 Seat availability
3 Smooth handling of buses
4 Clarity of bus destination sign
5 Current schedule information at bus stop
6 Bus operates according to schedule
7 Cleanliness of buses
8 Lack of graffiti on buses
9 Lack of scratchitti on buses
10 Courtesy of bus operators
11 Courtesy of bus dispatchers
12 Comfortable temperature in buses
13 Ease of paying your fare
14 Bus announcements routinely made
15 Bus announcements that are informative
16 Reliability of kneeling buses (front of bus)
17 Reliability of wheelchair lifts (rear of bus)
18 Bus personnel properly secure wheelchairs
19 Overall performance
A lot of these categories — wheelchair use especially — are redundant and obvious. In fact, I’d say these surveys are redundant and obvious. Ask any New Yorker to critique the bus system, and no one will be too concerned with scratchitti or graffiti. Rather, they will complain about slow speeds through the city streets and unreliable schedules. They will complain about bus bunching and gruff bus drivers. They’ll complain about inefficient boarding procedures and stops — particularly on north-south routes — that are just too close together.
Instead of investing time and energy into a rider report card program that is designed to cover hundreds of bus lines across five boroughs, the MTA could implement a few simple measures to speed up and improve bus service. They could work with DOT to figure out a dedicated bus lane system. They should implement pre-board fare processing. They should work to eliminate stops on avenues. Do buses really need to stop every two blocks? Every three or four blocks would be more than sufficient.
“This survey will measure your experience with our service and help us direct our resources to the areas where they are most needed,” NYC Transit President Howard Roberts said in an introductory letter to the surveys.
Your areas, Mr. Roberts, are right here, and these surveys will simply confirm this post. Mark my words: These rider report card results will not contain any surprises.