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PCAC checks out the new SBS M15

PCAC staff members tried out the new SBS M15 service this week.  Complaints have been received from riders about long waits and confusion at the new “Proof of Payment” machines.  The SBS system requires the rider to pay at the curb side  machine before entering the bus.

Serving the East Side of Manhattan between E. 126th Street and South Ferry, the M15 carries more than 53,000 riders each day. SBS M15 service replaces the M15 limited, providing a significant upgrade in customers’ travel experience. SBS operates over a longer span of time than the M15 Limited. Riders pay their fares prior to boarding the bus, making it possible to enter through any of the three doors eliminating the jam that often occurs at the farebox. Rather than stopping every other block, SBS M15 buses stop approximately every half-mile, only at major intersections, connecting with subway lines and crosstown buses.

Supported jointly by MTA New York City Transit, the New York City Department of Transportation and the New York City Police Department, Select Bus Service is New York City’s version of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) — an increased-speed, high-performance bus system incorporating off-board fare collection, fewer stops, high-capacity low-floor articulated buses, a branded, easily identifiable service and attractive stations, including a new off-street terminal at South Ferry. Similar service changes have already brought a noticeable improvement in speed, reliability and ridership along the SBS Bx12 on Fordham Road in the Bronx.

SBS M15 service relies heavily on dedicated bus lanes. NYC Transit and the NYC DOT continue to work closely with the NYPD to keep other traffic from using the special lanes which are clearly identified with red terracotta paint and overhead highway-type signs alerting motorists that the lane is off limits. Starting in November, lane enforcement will be supplemented by video cameras, which will record bus lane violations. Last June, the State Legislature passed a bill allowing the NYC DOT and the MTA to use cameras as tools to enforce bus lane traffic regulations on designated SBS routes.

Staff boarded their bus at 42nd Street and 1st Avenue in front of the United Nations.  A representative from NYCT was there to help riders understand the payment machines (one for Metrocard and one for cash).  It took almost 20 minutes for the bus to arrive and it was extremely crowded.  The bus did make good time traveling up 1st Avenue, even with a wheelchair boarding and tie down.

On the return trip down 2nd Avenue from 88th Street the bus arrived quickly at the stop and the journey was smooth despite the 2nd Avenue Subway construction.  However, several passengers on the bus were confused about transfers.  There are informational flyers and timetables available at the SBS stops, at MTA Headquarters and on the website.  One other point of confusion is the fact that the SBS stops are for that service only.  Local M15 bus stops remain in their usual locations.

NYC Transit agrees that there have been some bumpy spots in the rollout, but say they are working hard to smooth operations and educate passengers about the payment system.