Home Buses Riders Alliance: With Metrocard replacement, MTA may miss the boat on proof of payment

Riders Alliance: With Metrocard replacement, MTA may miss the boat on proof of payment

by Benjamin Kabak

How the MTA opts to replace the Metrocard could have an effect on bus riders for decades to come. (Photo: Benjamin Kabak)

Can the MTA get a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul its fare payment technology right? This is a question more important than many realize right now as the MTA finally gears up to usher in a replacement for the Metrocard and move its fare payment system into the 21st century. This is a question that plays more to buses rather than to subways, as subway riders will keep flocking to the system no matter how the fare payment technology works, and it’s a question that could solve the problem of declining bus ridership. It’s also a question one rider advocate group fears the wrong answer will emerge.

The story is simple: The MTA wants to replace the Metrocard with something leaner and meaner. The technology will likely rely on open payment standards popular in the payment card industry and will allow the MTA to shed the costs associated with running and maintaining a proprietary fare technology. It will be flexible enough to support pay-per-ride fares and bulk discounts (such as unlimited ride cards keyed to a time period). But will it support electronic proof of payment, a feature that could drastically improve bus service? The Riders Alliance is worried it won’t, and they’ve called upon the MTA to address this deficiency.

In a report released on Friday, the Riders Alliance laid out its case for electronic proof of payment. I’ll excerpt:

Right now the MTA’s RPF, with bids due July 13th, does not require “electronic proof of payment” technology, whereby users would have their payment validated electronically, rather that with a paper receipt…Why does it matter? Because one way to make buses faster and more reliable is to replace the current system, where everyone boards one by one at the front, with all-door boarding, where people could get on the bus through any available door. An all-door boarding system usually relies on inspectors who can board the bus and make sure riders have purchased tickets—today on Select Bus Service, by checking to see if the rider purchased a paper receipt at the bus stop. In the future, if the MTA is to consider rolling out all-door boarding to all bus lines citywide, a paper ticket system would likely be too onerous and expensive, making a digital system necessary. And if the MTA doesn’t require that the new fare payment system accommodate a digital inspection, bus riders could be stuck with a whole new generation of boarding slowly, one-by-one, at the front of the bus.

All-door boarding, facilitated by an electronic proof of payment system that allows for easy verification of payment, can significantly reduce bus travel times and save money—without increasing rates of fare evasion. A primary driver of delays at bus stops is the length of time required for all passengers to board…

The only buses in New York that allow all-door boarding are Select Bus Service routes, which require riders to pay at a machine before boarding the bus. SBS routes have seen speed increases from 16 to 22 percent and ridership gains between 10 and 20 percent in the first year after implementation. At the same time, enforcement from the NYPD’s Eagle Team have led to significant drops in fare evasion: in 2012, fare evasion on the Bx41 in the Bronx dropped by 74 percent and on the Bx12 by 80 percent after the deployment of SBS on those routes…The MTA estimates that off-board fare collection, combined with all-door boarding, is responsible for a 10 to 15 percent total improvement in travel time [for Select Bus Service routes].

We don’t currently have all-door boarding on buses because the MTA claims it would be far too expensive to install MetroCard readers throughout the city. The prices quoted often run into the low billions. Meanwhile, around North America, transit agencies in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and Montreal have introduced all-door boarding, and travel time reductions generally attributable to this improved boarding process run to around 15 percent across the board. It’s a no-brainer really.

For its part, the MTA has raised concerns over fare evasion. “We must balance convenience against the very real threat of fare evasion if ‘electronic proof of payment’ technology is ever to be viable,” agency spokesman Kevin Ortiz said to the Daily News. This, however, seems to be a symptom of Not-Invented-Here-itis, a frequent illness in NYC transit planning. As Streetsblog detailed on Tuesday, some targeted fare enforcement efforts on POP routes drive down fare evasion, and the economics dictate that faster bus service — which should drive up ridership — would pay for the cost of fare evasion. Creating a fare structure that incentivizes purchases of time-based fare cards could also help combat any concerns over fare evasion.

Ultimately, the MTA gets once chance to do this project right. Once they’ve locked in on a potential replacement for the Metrocard, making whole-sale changes will grow more difficult and costly. For the sake of a 21st century fare payment technology and, more importantly, for the sake of the city’s bus riders, electronic proof of payment should be a mandatory part of this next-gen solution.

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Stephen Smith June 21, 2016 - 11:31 pm

I will be very, very surprised if the new system doesn’t support PoP any more gracefully than the MetroCard, since they’re obviously going to continue with it on the SBS routes. The real question is, will they take the opportunity to actually implement it citywide, or maintain the current good bus/shitty bus tiered system?

Another question is about commuter rail. If they’re wavering on rolling it out on buses, where labor is presumably in support of it (bus drivers are always complaining about confrontations related to fare evasion), I can’t imagine they’re even considering it for commuter rail, where the conductors’ unions will be staunchly against it.

Larry Littlefield June 22, 2016 - 6:23 am

Right the big test is commuter rail. That’s where we find out who Cuomo really is.

A different kind of progressive, one who realizes that serving the average guy and the future is different in a place that already has the highest tax burden in the country?

Or a careerist, who knows the route to the top means pandering to the already privileged and the entitled?

BenW June 22, 2016 - 4:48 pm

Please. It’s abundantly clear who Cuomo is.

Larry Littlefield June 22, 2016 - 6:25 am

On the bus, the key is a camera pointed at the back door, to record who taps the fare media and the reader and who does not. That would allow counts of paid vs. not paid.

Some of those not paying will have monthlies, and some will transfer anyway. But a sweep can confirm this.

eo June 22, 2016 - 7:27 am

PoP does not work well in poor countries in Europe. In my experience, fare evasion is rampant in south and east Europe unless they practically have a fare enforcer on every vehicle. In many of those places only about 50-60% of the people pay. I doubt whether the MTA can afford to go that low without extra money from the state. Of course, PoP works quite well in Germany and the Nordic countries. There is no disagreement about that. However, for example, I wonder how well it works in the poorer districts of Paris.

Craig June 22, 2016 - 11:08 am

Do you have sources to support the 50–60% number?

Not sure what cities you are referring to, but also may be worth noting that inspection can also be more efficient in cities with denser transit networks

Stephen Smith June 22, 2016 - 11:37 am

My limited experience with this in Rome and Bucharest is that indeed, many people don’t pay. But I also didn’t notice any fare inspectors at all. In any case, I think NYC’s successful experience on the B44, Bx12, etc. is infinitely more relevant than the experience of a post-communist country an ocean away.

tacony June 22, 2016 - 12:00 pm

The exotic locale of San Francisco, California has had proof-of-payment on all buses for 4 years now, and its fare evasion rate hasn’t gone up, as per the Streetsblog article below. Light rail systems in affluent Nordic and German cities such as Baltimore, Newark, and Jersey City use proof-of-payment. Unfortunately, the wealthy, upstanding, morally superior residents of these cities are more trustworthy than New Yorkers would apparently be.


M[aryland]TA officials said in 2014 it conducted approximately 1.9 million Light Rail fare inspections; with about 2.2 percent of those inspected found to have evaded a fare. Those with the MTA said that is below the national average of 4 percent. Last year MTA Police issued over 2,400 citations for fare evasion.

“The perception of a high fare evasion rate on the Light Rail doesn’t match up with the reality that the rate is actually pretty low. Part of that is driven by the fact that 74 percent of our customers have already paid their fare and use multi-fare passes or flash passes,” said MTA Administrator Paul W. Comfort in a statement. “So, many customers who ride paying for single fares may notice other people getting on the train without going to a ticket machine first.”

Your own “experience” of 50% fare evasion in Eastern Europe and South America is less convincing to me. The idea that reducing fare evasion to 0% is more important than ensuring that transit actually does its job of moving people efficiently is bordering on neurosis.

Christopher June 22, 2016 - 12:41 pm

SF has had POP and all door boarding on its rail system for at 2 decades. Was there fare evasion? Probably. The bus system… Well it all door boarding mostly because it was such an over used system and there was little stopping people from cramming into every door possible. If you took the bus in the 90s in SF during rush hour, you’ve seen this. POP and payment readers at other doors, just allowed those who collecting fares from those who used to evade fares from just trying to board efficiently rather than out of malice. SF is much better also at not letting people exit through front doors that was always worse offense than cramming into the back door.

webster June 22, 2016 - 7:33 am

…don’t they have methods (counting or weighing) of actually calculating passenger loads?

Couldn’t they simply have a system that does this (presenting the information for riders’ convenience – i.e. “the next bus arriving in 5 minutes is 90% full. The next bus in 8 minutes is 75% full”) and compare the fares paid vs what a quick calculation says should have been paid?

It might mean expensive sensors, but it would save on having to pay [for so many] fare inspectors, and make system-wide roll out, simpler.

The main advantage, I think, is that it would make the bus more attractive for both the direct (passenger information) and indirect (lower fare evasion) reasons.

Heck, why not give fare incentives for people to wait and take the less full bus? Why not use this data to extrapolate passenger loading/trends during specific periods of the day and make service planning a bit “smarter”/quicker?

I mean, they’re buying new buses, anyways.

Craig June 22, 2016 - 11:10 am

Is there a way to reliably and cost-effectively do this?

I imagine a scene where the sensors aren’t working accurately and passengers get a lot of misinformation, which is almost more frustrating than no information at all.

GregK June 22, 2016 - 9:06 am

Couldn’t agree more. I’m a frequent bus rider and the difference between boarding time on SBS vs standard is unbelievable.

Joel N. Weber II June 22, 2016 - 9:22 am

Why not abolish fares and pay for it with an income tax increase?

Preston June 22, 2016 - 1:18 pm

Because a lot of people riding the system aren’t from NYC. Think how many millions of tourists there are everyday in the city, or people commuting from Jersey/LI/Connecticut that wouldn’t be factored into that tax. I’d personally like the transit to be tree for city residents and be incorporated into our taxes, but that doesn’t solve the problem of ticketing for non-residents, which is the issue here.

Adirondacker12800 June 22, 2016 - 2:47 pm

People who work in the city pay city income taxes.
…. and then go home to the suburbs and use services there.

eo June 22, 2016 - 2:54 pm

Not exactly correct. Commuters do not pay city taxes, only state. Of course, newjerseans pay NY state taxes and use services back in NJ.

Joel N. Weber II June 22, 2016 - 9:34 pm

What if federal income taxes paid for transit operating costs, then? Is forcing international tourists to pay their fair share of fares really all that important / valuable to justify all of the time wasted by the locals?

Also, don’t tourists indirectly contribute towards income taxes when they spend their money in New York City and the employees serving them pay their taxes?

Is trying to make sure that international tourists who spend the day in Central Park and stay in a hotel in New Jersey end up paying something to New York really important enough to justify making the bus experience slower and less convenient for those who work in NYC? I’m a little skeptical that there are enough of those tourists to make up for all of the time that is wasted by all of the bus passengers waiting for other passengers to pay the fares in the existing system, if we look at the amount of fare revenue from those tourists and the amount of time wasted times the hourly rate those bus riders can earn.

Or what if some way was found to convince NY, NJ, and CT to all collect income taxes to help fund the NYC subway? Are there going to be a significant number of tourists who don’t end up paying something for a place to sleep in one of those states, and could a hotel night stay tax be an effective way to help collect money to fund the subway for those riders?

And we could also consider whether property taxes could help to fund operating costs; that would mean that people who live in CT/NJ and work in the city would have their employer contributing something, and if someone really is concerned that such workers are not paying their share, maybe we could look at whether NYC has zoning rules that are preventing enough housing from getting built in the city if some of these workers might prefer to live in the city but end up having to live further out to find an available home that is affordable enough.

Philip McManus June 22, 2016 - 10:56 am

Bus ridership is not lower. Fare evasion is getting worse. I’ve never seen a bus rider get arrested or get a ticket for fare evasion. Never. That’s why we have fare evasion. No or little enforcement. We need to eliminate tolls and fares that separate and divide people. We need to stop waste and corruption and use our current tax structure to pay for transportation. We need to hold our government accountable. Get rid of the bums and create more private sector jobs, freedom and opportunities. Join the Queens Public Transit Committee at http://www.qptc.org. Faster and safer transportation for everyone. Bus and bike lanes and speeding cameras create more gridlock and tickets. Support the QueensRail and more transportation options. We need more buses not tickets and gridlock.

VLM June 22, 2016 - 11:05 am

Besides the fact that you’re wrong on fare evasion, QPTC is a joke of an organization and you spam countless public forums promoting it. Until you ditch relying on people like Allen Rosen and get over the fact that better public transportation may mean policies that inconvenience a few drivers for the betterment of everyone else, no one should ever heed QPTC. And give it up with the opposition to better bus service and/or the idea that you could run a bus on the Rockaway Beach Branch and solve everyone’s problems is absurd.

Philip McManus June 22, 2016 - 1:23 pm

Dear VLM,

Ha ha ha. I think your funny and thank you for noticing my comments.

Absurd, spam, wrong, joke of an organization? That’s funny too. Sorry, my group upset you? Please help us stop the hate.

I don’t think you understand where I’m coming from. Try waiting 50 minutes for a bus that has bus lanes. It stinks. That’s why we fight.

My name is Philip McManus and I live in Rockaway, Queens. I take the Q 53 bus to work everyday. I stopped taking the Shuttle and A trains because they are unreliable. Bad service creates low ridership.

We started the Queens Public Transit Committee to address terrible, unreliable and unfair transportation alternatives in Queens and the region.

I think you need to be a little more positive and a little less divisive. Our policies don’t inconvenience anyone. Bike riders can still ride their bikes.

I think it’s unAmerican to force people to live with gridlock, tickets, accidents, poverty and crime just because we don’t live in the inner borough.

Do you know how many people have died with Zero Vision so far?

The Queens Public Transit Committee unites commuters while the Mayor divides commuters with Zero Vision, Select BS and bike lanes.

We have a right to speak and complain about unreliable service just like you.

I prefer a quiet train on the QueensRail any day that will help more people than an elitist park plan that continues to divide, separate and isolate people.

Let’s remember good people drive cars, trucks, emergency vehicles and buses because there’s no transportation alternatives.

Please call me at 718-679-5309 so we can understand each other and find common ground. Let’s get organized. Join the Queens Public Transit Committee at http://www.qptc.org. We encourage debate and free expression. We support all commuters.

We are grateful to know Allan Rosen. He’s is a smart, brave and honest man.

Alex June 22, 2016 - 1:42 pm

Not to be (too) sarcastic, but it is hard to take seriously an organization for public transit which says that “Bus lanes create more gridlock” and “we do not believe that improvements in one mode of transportation must be at the expense of another.”

Dedicated bus lanes would do wonders for somebody like you, a self-professed daily bus rider. So why the opposition tho those dedicated bus lanes?

Philip McManus June 22, 2016 - 2:25 pm

Dear Alex,

Bus lanes create gridlock for cars, trucks, emergency vehicles and other buses. Do you understand that if you take away traffic lanes you are causing more gridlock and tickets? What we need is more frequent buses, trains, ferries and shared roadways. Give us more transportation options including the QueensRail and people will leave their cars at home. Frequency is better than bus and bike lane gridlock. Think bigger and more inclusive. Queens Public Transit Committee supports all commuters. I’m a victim of bus and bike lane gridlock. We need more buses not Select BS. We need the QueensRail not divisive, elitist park plans.
I take the Q 53 bus. I see the gridlock. Gridlock hurts bus riders too. The city blames drivers and too many cars. I blame the city for not enough buses, trains, ferries and open roadways. Why did the city take away the QueensRail and the ferry to Rockaway? Why does the city spend billions of dollars for the inner borough and not the outer boroughs? Why is it that the LIRR closed stations in the city and have higher fares within the city? Why are spending billions of dollars for Long Island commuters with the East Side Access but not the outer boroughs? We need a lot more funding and expansion for the entire region. We support the Freedom Ticket plan too. It’s only fair.

Jeff June 22, 2016 - 3:18 pm

Isn’t the ferry to Rockaway coming back as one of De Blasio’s routes?

I guess if reliability and frequency of service is your issue though – that probably won’t satisfy you.

Rockaway IS a pretty bad situation though – the 20 minute wait for an A train during rush hour stinks, and the Q53 SBS isn’t exactly the ideal solution either.

Philip McManus June 22, 2016 - 4:40 pm

I know for a fact that we had the Ferry and Mayor Chaos took it away. Rockaway has been a dumping ground for the cities underserved for generations. They stole our time, freedom, safety and prosperity. The city ripped away hundreds of acres of homes, businesses and neighbors with urban renewal. The A train was a double fare for years. The Q 53 bus used to take 45 minutes to get to Woodside. Our roadways are closed because our bay seawalls are crumbling. The LIRR cost too much for people in Far Rockaway. The Rockaway Park A train was replaced by the infrequent Rockaway Park Shuttle. We have toll bridges that separates a small underserved community from Brooklyn and Queens. We have a train bridge and signals that need to be replaced. The A train is one of the most unreliable subway lines in the city. Rockaway has one of the longest commutes in the city but the “transit community” guys like VLM think we are a joke of an organization. He makes me laugh.

VLM June 22, 2016 - 5:04 pm

This is taken verbatim from your website which looks like something I could have designed on Geocities in 1995:

Pedestrian Safety is very important to members of the Queens Public Transportation Committee. But that is not to say that we are in agreement with the “Vision Zero” program. In fact, we believe that many aspects of the program are fundamentally flawed because it is a program of young urban planers and not mature traffic engineers.

No one is going to take you seriously nor should they. You oppose safe streets and you oppose bus improvements. What exactly are you for anyway besides complaining about living on the Rockaways? Do you have an advocacy arm? Donors? The ear of any officials in position to effect change? Besides a kook who was fired from his job for insubordination and rants about the primacy of drivers in obscure community newspapers, do you even have any transportation professionals advising the organization? That is what a joke organization is. Good day.

Rob June 28, 2016 - 10:32 am

I personally saw more fare evasion on a non-sbs route in The Bronx a few weeks ago during rush hour. People just entered every door of the bus and no one batted an eye.

Ted K. June 22, 2016 - 11:24 am

Greetings from San Francisco.

In addition to the Clipper (multi-agency farecard) readers at every door most SFMuni buses also have electric-eye counters that may (I don’t have confirmation) be doing exit counting. So, [1] put the farecard readers on the buses, not on the shelters and [2] maybe electric-eye counters might be a solution to the pax counting problem.

Some might wonder about vandalism and the reliability of on-board readers. In a bunch of years I’ve only seen a few readers that had been mildly defaced by removing or adding a sticker and a couple with minimal grafiti.

The Clipper readers are rugged little units about the size of a hardback novel. The main issue with reliability is making sure that the bus drivers have been properly trained to do startups and resets. Several times I’ve ridden buses where ALL of the readers were down and the driver didn’t know how to reset the system or didn’t want to take the several minutes that a reset requires. More commonly I’ve ridden buses with one down reader and was able to tag up by going to a different door’s reader.


Philip McManus June 22, 2016 - 11:24 am

Does Riders Alliance support the QueensRail? Do they support subway expansion in the outer boroughs? The Queens Public Transit Committee supports faster and safer transportation for all five boroughs and the region. I would rather have more frequency than bus and bike lanes that create more gridlock for bus riders. Yes, more gridlock for everyone else.

VLM June 22, 2016 - 11:58 am

Good job proving my point. You guys are a joke of an organization, and no one in the transit community takes you seriously (nor should they).

Philip McManus June 22, 2016 - 1:39 pm

Bummer dude. Stop the hate. What is the transit community? Is it the common man on a bus stuck in gridlock because of bus and bike lanes with speeding cameras and 25 mph speed limits? I’m a commuter and a victim of the so called “transit community.” Call me at 718-679-5309. Let’s have a dialogue. Thank you for your comments. Together we can make a positive difference. The Queens Public Transit Committee supports all commuters and communities including the outer boroughs.

Philip McManus June 22, 2016 - 1:49 pm

Who are you? Are you the Mayor or a city planner? Are you part of the secret transit community? Is it a secret society where people are afraid to identify themselves. My name is Philip McManus, I’m a commuter, call me at 718-679-5309. I started the Queens Public Transit Committee to help all commuters. Let’s talk. I’m not afraid.

Benjamin Kabak June 22, 2016 - 1:52 pm

Considering QPTC’s statements on bus lanes and other similar improvements, it’s not a stretch for anyone to claim that your organization opposes nearly every transit improvement other than one that would cost upwards of a billion dollars and would take years, if not decades, to implement. How is the QPTC helping any commuters, let alone all?

I ask you this too as someone who has been on the side of rail use for the RBBL for years.

Philip McManus June 22, 2016 - 5:53 pm

Dear Benjamin,

Improvements for who? We need more buses, trains, ferries and open roadways. Why is it ok for Manhattan to get billions of dollars in subway expansion and not Queens or the outer boroughs. We need buses and trains not tickets for driving our cars. Bus and bike lanes cause gridlock and tickets for outer borough commuters while the city uses our taxes and fines to pay for more transit expansion in Manhattan. DOT has the audacity to say Rockaway and Broad Channel will get better bus service while they take away 6 bus stops. We used to have a 45 minute ride on the Q 53 Bus. Now it’s 60 to 90 minutes within Queens. It’s horrible, that’s why people drive cars. No transportation alternatives. The outer boroughs are victims of city planners who don’t care about commuters. They care about global warming and bike lanes.

Michael549 June 23, 2016 - 5:16 am

There are some aspects of this discussion that I think is being over-looked. Transit buses play an extremely important role on Staten Island.

Some folks support an SBS-type operation allowing riders to use any door to board the bus, and when requested present proof of payment by some type of electronic card or device. These folks want to completely eliminate the ON-BOARD payment of bus fares. They suggest this method as a way to speed up persons entering the bus, and thus speeding up bus travel generally.

This is a perfectly reasonable argument to make. The “all-door” policy allows riders to quickly enter and exit the bus. I’ve rode the SBS-15 bus in Manhattan and agree with the claim of speedy boarding. I’ve have seen the Eagle teams checking riders for their tickets. I’ve boarded that bus at the Whitehall Ferry Terminal several times using the on-street fare equipment, the current technology. I also ride plenty of buses on Staten Island, and have done so for years.

On Staten Island there simply are not (and have not been for a long time) “plenty of places to obtain or update a Metro-Card.” The ability of riders to be able to pay their fare ON THE BUS – remains an important attribute when there are few places or times to obtain or update a Metro-Card. For example, seniors with half-fare cards can only add money to their cards at a Metro-Card machine, but they can pay their half-fare by simply showing the card, and obtain a transfer. It is also a hardship when the fare-card machines at the ferry terminal break down, and take a long time to be repaired.

There simply needs to be PLENTY OF PLACES for non-frequent riders, and on-island only bus riders to be able to pay their fares for the bus, update their cards, or purchase new fare cards. What ever the new medium of fare payment technology there would still need to be plenty of places and/or methods for fare payment.

On Staten Island, there are only three places where one can purchase or update their fare cards, and until 2010 there were only two places to do so. (At the St. George Ferry terminal, the Tompkinsville SIR station, and at the mid-island, Eltingville Transit Center.) Similar to other borough subway stations these places will be changed over the new technology when it is implemented.

The MTA claims plenty of stores also sell Metro-Cards on Staten Island. Even if true, such stores are of no help to those who want to put money on their existing cards, or when a card is needed and the store is closed. Regular riders to and from Manhattan (or the other boroughs) can easily up-date their Metro-Cards with a visit to a nearby subway station. While many Staten Islanders travel regularly “off-island”, many island residents do not – often making trips to simply add money to their Metro-Card a time consuming or round-about affair.

The MTA’s SBS-79 bus on Staten Island uses regular transit buses where riders pay their fares at the front of the bus. The MTA did not install any of the on-street fare equipment used in the other boroughs at the SBS bus stops. SBS-79 riders use their Metro-Cards or pay cash to board the bus as usual. The longer articulated SBS buses used in Manhattan and other places are not able to navigate certain streets on Staten Island. In the other boroughs, SBS bus riders can not pay for their rides ON the bus, and must use the on-street fare ticket equipment to obtain their proof of payment.

The MTA says it would be very expensive to install MetroCard readers throughout the city. This is a fair position given the possibility of changing over to a new technology payment system. It begs an answer to just how non-frequent or only bus riders will be able to pay their fares if on-board fare payment was eliminated with the new technology payment system.

On the question of fare evasion – just to be frank – it is a problem, and has been a problem for a while. Some folks want to suggest the reality of fare-evasion as being of little concern. Fare evasion has been and continues to be a problem in New York City. When riders do not pay their fares those riders are not counted even though they need the service. In this data driven age – attempts to increase or upgrade transit for the better often depends upon ridership measurements. It is very difficult to make a case for improvements if all one can say is – “Yeah this bus gets plenty of riders, but there’s no money in the till.”

Plenty of folks – often younger folks – simply walk past the bus drivers – not paying their fares – almost daring the bus driver to say something. Sometimes folks have simply appealed to the bus driver for a ride. While the concept of “capturing missed fares down the line” may work – here is an opportunity to design in preventative measures at the design stages. Plenty of folks have made a practice of fare-evasion on the LIRR given the huge crowds, and in-ability of LIRR conductors to actually check EVERY ticket during the rush hours.

In 2010, the Tompkinsville SIR station was upgraded with Metro-Card machines and a brand new $7 million dollar station entrance building because of a New York Times article that suggested SIR riders were beating the fare by getting off the SIR trains a half-mile from the terminal and walking the distance to the ferries. Given the infrequent schedule of the ferries, and the fact that the majority of SIR trains by-passed the station in both directions rush hours – the prospect of fare beating pushed the MTA to act. Now the only way to get a “free ride from the ferry terminal to/from the SIR is walk the 1.5 mile distance to Stapleton, oops! If there is a way folks will do it. Fare evasion within New York City is not some kind of myth, and it simply wrong to suggest that is of “no cause for concern.”

The new fare payment technology has to – among other things be plentiful and easy to obtain, and update – without requiring around-about to time-consuming trips to “transit centers”. The elimination of on-board bus fare payment is a worthy goal only when there is plentiful places and/or methods to pay one’s fare.

I agree that the MTA gets once chance to get the new fare payment technology project right, and to fix as many potential problems in the early design stages. One way to do that is to honestly consider the many, many opportunities for improvements and the concerns over problems that have to be considered within this massive city-wide undertaking.

Advocates for improvements saying that certain aspects or problems should be of “no cause for concern” does not help the debate or the exploration for solutions.


Stephen June 23, 2016 - 8:49 pm

The MTA has the EasyPay MetroCard –
This way you don’t have to worry about getting to an actual machine or finding a store.

Much like the EZPass it refills automatically.
Here’s a snip from the site:
“About EasyPay
EasyPay is for both full-fare and reduced-fare customers who want to enjoy the benefits of MetroCard that never runs out of rides.

The EasyPay MetroCard is linked to your credit or debit card, and refills automatically as you use it.”

Michael549 June 24, 2016 - 12:18 am


Thank you for the information.

I understand your point concerning the EasyPay MetroCard program as a way to easily re-fill one’s Metro-Card without having to visit Metro-Card vending machines, especially when such facilities are not “plentiful.” And also as a way to reduce the physical infra-structure problems for the MTA, while still enabling rider access.


Such an EasyPay MetroCard program easily works for those who can easily plan ahead, maintain sufficient amounts of money in their accounts, maintain their accounts in good standing, etc. I’m pretty sure that many of us would like to think that we fall within this group at all times, but that is another story. This method simply can at first present itself as another layer of complexity to just simply riding the subways or buses.

There are simply times, when a person just simply wants to get on the damn bus to go someplace. There are folks who are pushing for a “cash-less” economy – which is a debate for another time and place.


While usage of the EasyPay MetroCard program may work for some folks, there are plenty of folks who do not want or subscribe to direct deductions from their banking accounts or credit cards. Their reasons can range from wanting direct control of their money affairs, concerns over privacy, fears of identity theft, fears of government intrusion in their lives, to a host of reasons. I’m not debating people’s reasons for participating or not – just noting the existence of a variety of perspectives.

Again, some folks may indeed benefit from such an EasyPay MetroCard, for regular or non-regular trips. The “set it and forget it” aspects of this program also has an appeal.


If it is suggested that an “EasyPay MetroCard-type” operation becomes the main method of payment for riders to use the transit system under a new fare payment technology operation, such a program may not help tourists, or non-regular riders. Even on the highways there remains toll-boths for drivers to pay their tolls with cash.

I’m not sure if you are suggesting the city-wide adoption of an EasyPay MetroCard-like program as a way to enable the complete elimination of on-board payment of bus fares.

Such a contention is a very debatable point, with both positives and negatives to iron out.


AMH June 23, 2016 - 9:36 am

Ben, did you create that sliced/flipped MetroCard?

Benjamin Kabak June 23, 2016 - 10:55 am

I did not! It’s a photo I snapped at an art installation called Single Fare a few years back. They talked about doing another, but it never came to pass. Here’s the remnants of their Facebook page.

AMH June 23, 2016 - 11:23 am

I remember seeing something about those! Very cool.


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