Home Asides Building a better M15 SBS

Building a better M15 SBS

by Benjamin Kabak

When Select Bus Service debuted along 1st and 2nd Aves. just last week, riders and the press were quick to deem it a disaster. People couldn’t figure out how to pay before boarding; the proof-of-payment slips for use on SBS buses but not the regular local M15s provided too confusing; and the route didn’t seem to have enough buses to meet demand. Well, the MTA and NYC’s Department of Transportation have listened to the complaints, and as the Daily News reports today, improvements are coming to the Select Bus Service route.

First, the MTA plans to add three additional buses to fill service gaps. This will bring the total number of SBS buses along the M15 to 40. More importantly, though, is the word that riders can use SBS proof-of-payment receipts to board local buses, a point of contention in the early goings. This way, if a local bus arrives before an Select Bus Service bus, those waiting can choose to board the local without paying another fare. “It’s common sense,” Gene Russianoff said. “Riders should be able to take whatever bus comes first if they want to get on the move.”

The MTA meanwhile noted that speeds have already improved along the route. Last week, the buses were averaging 98 minutes end-to-end while this week that time is down to 88 minutes. When the camera enforcement comes online next month and even more cars start moving out of bus lanes, the service should speed up then as well.

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Chris G October 20, 2010 - 12:18 pm

I read about the local service with SBS receipt over on streetblog. Very good news. This alone takes most of the legit complaints out of the picture.

Dan Lewis October 20, 2010 - 12:47 pm

I’ve been riding the local M15 for the last month, and it’s gone from bad to horrible. Riders were literally yelling at the driver this morning (who was being less-than-polite at inception).

Some problems:
* The 72nd St stop on 2nd is now local only, but that’s not been communicated well. So riders are asking drivers.

* The receipt-on-local buses issue, which it looks like will be resolved (yay!)

* Riders at SBS stops trying to board local buses via the back doors. Happened at three (!!) stops today (79th, 68th, 50th). I assume this is happening w/no malice intended.

* The SBS buses, when used for local transit, are suboptimal. The narrow on-bus pathway to the back gets clogged and because there’s only one entrance, it is hard to get people to move back. The middle exit actually makes matters worse because halfway though the bus, you have people walking the wrong direction, which brings people moving toward the back to a complete stop.

kvnbklyn October 20, 2010 - 12:53 pm

This is welcome news and I’m glad NYCT is finally going ahead and making sensible upgrades to the bus system to speed up trips.

One thing that bothers me: why do you need a paper receipt at all? Seems unnecessarily complicated with machines to print out the receipts, attendants to refill the paper, etc. Why can’t you just swipe your Metrocard at one of the stations, get a big green light telling you your fare is paid, and then use your Metrocard as the proof of payment itself? Fare inspectors could carry mobile card readers to check that your fare is paid.

Seth R October 20, 2010 - 3:32 pm


That’s actually a fantastic idea.

John October 20, 2010 - 3:37 pm

Yeah the paper receipts thing is insane. But maybe they need smart cards to really do that sort of proof of payment? (with the reader on the train)

Alon Levy October 20, 2010 - 4:03 pm

They don’t. Smartcards merely make that easier.

John October 20, 2010 - 5:33 pm

I figured as much. What’s their excuse for using paper receipts instead of metrocard readers?

Alon Levy October 20, 2010 - 11:45 pm

Not sure what the official excuse is. But Andrew, who’s pretty good at channeling the official positions, says it’s because the readers would be obsolete in a few years when the smartcard comes online. (As if card readers are some expensive long-term investment.)

Andrew October 25, 2010 - 11:05 pm

I don’t channel the official positions, but I do report what I read, and I try to think as a real life transit agency might think.

There are currently no portable MetroCard readers on the market. (That’s what the MTA gets for investing in a proprietary fare payment system in the 90’s.) The MetroCard system will be obsolete in a few years. Does it make sense, right now, to you to develop and procure portable MetroCard readers, only to throw them out a few years down the road?

Nabe News: October 20 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle October 20, 2010 - 1:52 pm

[…] additional Select Bus Service buses were added to the M15 fleet, bringing the total number to forty. Also, SBS receipts can now be used on the local [Second Avenue […]

Alon Levy October 20, 2010 - 2:20 pm

Great. All they need to do is have SBS and locals share stations, and the service would be mildly useful.

Aaron October 20, 2010 - 3:40 pm

Why share stations? Los Angeles intentionally has Rapids stop at opposite corners from locals intentionally in order to prevent bus bunching (one bus pulling up directly behind the other and unable to pull out before the front one does) and to encourage people to apportion themselves between two different stops to prevent a rush of people. There’s some criticism of it (idiots who try to sprint across the street when they see a Rapid coming and they’re at the local stop or vice versa), but on the whole I always thought it was pretty ingenious.

Alon Levy October 20, 2010 - 4:04 pm

Not sharing stations forces you to choose service ahead of time, which reduces the effective frequency. Coupled with a waiting time penalty, it cancels out most of the time benefit coming from faster buses.

ajedrez October 20, 2010 - 5:05 pm

But, even if the Rapid and local still pull up together, eventually, the Rapid will be able to get ahead.

Andrew October 25, 2010 - 11:07 pm

They effectively share stations. Most of them, from what I’ve seen, are half a block apart – usually at opposite ends of the same block, occasionally across the street. Walking back and forth between the two is trivial. (It’s a lot easier than walking between the local and express platforms at 34th and 8th or at 34th and 7th.)

ajedrez October 20, 2010 - 3:37 pm

Could they also do this on the Bx12, or is the +SBS+ already faster than the local?

AlexB October 21, 2010 - 10:29 am

It notes in the Daily News article that the trip time is now 88 minutes. That’s an improvement from the first few days, but the new SBS service was supposed to reduce the trip to 70 minutes. The limited took 90 minutes, so 88 minutes is not worth the trouble yet.

With additional improvements such as buses that extend green lights and physically protected lanes, I would think this bus should be able to make the entire trip in 50-60 minutes. It’s only about 9 miles, they should be able to get the average speed up to 10 mph.

JAzumah October 21, 2010 - 12:50 pm

The running time will never get to 70 minutes without good lane enforcement. The Limited was carded for 80 minutes and took 90 minutes. The SBS won’t drop below 80 minutes. It is a shame that the X90 no longer exists in any form because of the City of New York.

Edward October 21, 2010 - 2:31 pm

Yes, those 5 riders per trip who had the whole, big, gas-guzzling, $40-an-hour driver X90 bus all to themselves must be going crazy having to take the IRT like the rest of us. What did that bus cost, like $200 a trip, and took in $25?

Andrew October 25, 2010 - 11:13 pm

The X90 carried 620 riders per day (it was the busiest of the discontinued express routes). The direct operating cost per riderwas $10.02 and the total cost per rider was $19.04. That’s a bit worse than average by express bus standards ($8.64 direct operating cost per rider, $16.42 total cost per rider), but it’s still better than some of the remaining Staten Island and Queens express routes.

http://www.mta.info/mta/news/b.....0-nyct.pdf – page 14

And Another Thing October 24, 2010 - 2:31 pm

I took a crosstown cab trip, including a leg up 2nd ave. The bus lane was empty, yet the new super bus crawled like a sloth. The cab had traffic to contend with while the bus had a clear lane ahead, but the cab passed the bus by a 2:1 margin.

MTA loves their snail pacing – they “need” more equipment, staff, and budget to haul people the slower they move. People with no real desire to get somewhere also seem to like turtle transit.

Everyone else is disgusted, thus the budget cuts for the MTA.


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