New Bus Service Hits A Few Bumps

M15Laura Kuhn Isaac Lankin prepares to board the new M15 Select Service. Some riders have complained about the new payment system.

The M15 bus line that runs up First Avenue and down Second Avenue started its Select Service on Sunday with much fanfare from the MTA and an equal degree of anticipation from customers.

But if the early days of the new service are any indication, the new system is a long way from offering the easy use that transit officials predicted.

With the new service, riders now pay fares – using coins or a Metrocard – at street machines. Instead of swiping Metrocards while boarding the bus, riders present receipts to the driver.

The idea is to save time not only by pre-collecting the fares but also by making fewer stops (only two each way in the East Village) and using an express lane.

But the system has already hit a few bumps. Despite the intermittent presence of MTA officials on the street, some riders were having trouble using the machines.

On Sunday, one man, who declined to give his name, had to insert his payment into the machines three times before receiving his receipt, only to realize the bus had left without him at 14th and Second. He stood muttering on the sidewalk while the bus heaved down the street without him.

Other riders were furious about confusing rules regarding transfers. Some worried about stops that had apparently been moved (“They changed my stop,” said one rider, Gwen Trombley, as she stood at First Avenue and 14th Street Tuesday afternoon. “I was waiting at Houston and the stop moved up to Second.”)

And already some riders were trying to figure out a way to manipulate the receipt process, which largely relies on an honor system (as one rider, Syd Lazarus, put it, “This is New York”).

Despite the $150 fine for fare jumpers, riders noted that it would be easy not to pay, especially because they can also enter at the back of the bus. “You just show your receipt,” said another rider, Isaac Lankin, as he waited for the local line at a stop on 14th Street and Second Avenue. “You could keep it for a week.”

Regardless of the complaints, some riders saw parallels between the learning curve for the new system and another new process implemented by the MTA not long ago. “It’s exactly like the Metrocard,” said rider David Lukomnik, a neighborhood resident since the 1960s. “At first everybody was still using change and it would take 20 minutes to get on the bus. But, eventually they all learned.”

What do you think of the new M15 bus service?