Getting across town in Manhattan is something of a nightmare. While buses run down the major thoroughfares fairly frequently, it’s often faster to walk from one end of the island to the other than it is to sit in crushing traffic while on a bus.
To that end, the Regional Plan Association thinks they have a solution: Eliminate fares on crosstown buses. The logic is really quite simple. Most riders on crosstown buses will eventually pay for a connecting subway ride, and by eliminating the fare, the MTA would speed up travel times to the point that the agency wouldn’t really be losing money.
Pete Donohue first reported on this proposal in the Daily News last week:
Eliminate [the fare] process on routes like the M34 and the M42, on 34th and 42nd Sts., and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority still might not absorb a big loss, according to the Regional Plan Association…
For most crosstown bus riders, the trip is just one leg of a larger one that includes the subway. Transfers between the buses and subway trains are free. So, bus riders can simply get on without paying, according to an association report on possible mass transit upgrades.
“Most of the people riding those buses are taking the train, so you capture the revenue anyway,” said Jeffrey Zupan, senior transportation fellow at the association. Any revenue losses probably would be offset by improved efficiency, Zupan said. Bus trips would become quicker, meaning fewer buses would be needed.
I’d have to see the numbers, but it sounds like a good plan. Of course, with money tight and a fare hike on tap for 2009, the MTA probably won’t institute a measure that would, in the short term, result in less revenue for the agency. The authority is more likely to explore pre-boarding fare payment options.
Still, ideas like these could help improve surface transit in the five boroughs. Until New York can adequately enforce bus-only lanes, proposals from the RPA and other like-minded organizations should get their days in the sun.