Our Town: Lappin Issues SBS Report Card
By Sherrina Navani
February 10, 2011
If the Select Bus Service were a high school student it might be told to go back to its room and study some more.
Council Member Jessica Lappin issued her first report card Feb. 7 on how the SBS has performed since it launched in October, giving it an overall grade of B-. The bus service was created to cut down on travel time from uptown to downtown along First Avenue, providing specially designated bus lanes for riders to travel in. It’s also supposed to speed travel by allowing riders to pay their fares in advance at off-board payment machines.
However, according to Lappin’s review, the buses may be currently causing more havoc then help.
“I have heard almost unanimously that things are not working exactly as they could or as we hoped that they would,” said Lappin, at a SBS stop between 67th and 68th streets, where she unveiled the results of the report card.
The review was broken down into four subcategories: Speed, Accessibility, Tickets/Ease of Use and Enforcement.
Lappin’s review did give the MTA an A- for improving travel time, saying that the bus service saves riders an average of two minutes for every mile that they ride. The report card also highlighted where the bus service desperately needs improving.
“Accessibility was our biggest concern and that is why we gave it a C-,” said Lappin.
“More than half of available seats on the busses may be difficult or impossible for a disabled or elderly passenger to use since of 54 seats available, a full 30 require the passengers to go up one or two steps,” she said.
That was not the only poor grade on the report card. Lappin said that her office has received hundreds of complaints regarding the off-board payment system, earning the ticket sales section a C on the report card.
“We had done an informal spot check of all the machines in my district and found that 10 percent of the machines were either not working or had run out of paper,” she said.
Non-sympathetic fare enforcement officers added to the lackluster review. According to the Council Member, riders complained about being issued $100 summonses even when ticket machines malfunctioned and purchasing a ticket was impossible.
“You could have an unlimited MetroCard and jump on the bus if the machine is not working and boom, get hit with a $100 ticket,” Lappin said.
Despite the overall B- grade, New Yorkers who were waiting for the M15 were generally pleased with the new service and preferred taking the bus over walking long blocks to the Lexington Avenue subway line.
Kim Chauncy, a graduate student at Hunter College, said she loves her 15-minute ride from 27th Street to 68th Street. “It’s great, I don’t have to worry about taking the subway, going up and down the stairs. It gives me an extra half an hour to sleep.”
Claudia Farieri, 14, travels to school on the new busses. Her usual 25-minute commute was drastically reduced when the new bus service was introduced. “It takes me like 10 minutes now to get from 68th Street to Yorkville, and I don’t have to walk as much anymore.”
Although most riders were pleased by the reduced travel time and increased convenience, some wondered if the off-board paying system was completely thought out before being implemented.
Priscilla Carrillo, 58, was taking her first ride on the M15 select bus and had a very difficult time using the machines.
“I am kind of visually impaired and if I had to take this bus at night it wouldn’t be easy for me at all, I cannot see anything on the machine,” she said.
“I wish we could refill our MetroCards at the machines,” said Shamika Green, 27, an employee at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “The problem is that the bus does not take bills and if your MetroCard doesn’t have enough money on it then you cannot ride the bus.”