MTA bus drivers can no longer open the back doors due to fare evasion
The MTA is ordering bus drivers not to automatically open their cars’ rear and middle doors to customers — to try to thwart free-load dropouts, The Post has learned.
“Effective immediately, to deter fare evasion,” agency drivers “cannot use the tailgate switch to automatically open the rear/middle section, unless necessary due to an emergency,” according to a May 6 memo sent to all MTA bus operators.
Ideally, the new directive would force a potential fare hitter to enter through the front doors of a bus – and face them if they didn’t pay.
This also means that bus riders will have to manually activate the rear doors and middle doors if they want to exit through them.
The memo said rear and center doors on MTA’s “Select Bus Service” expressways will continue to open automatically at all stations.
“The policy is to continue offering customers easy exits while deterring fare evasion by reducing the time back doors are open while no one is out on local bus lines,” MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan said in a statement to The Post.
MTA CEO Janu Lieber pledged last month to tackle escalating subway crime in part by creating a review panel to find out how to curb fare evasion, which has jumped on both buses and subways during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly 30 percent of city bus riders do not pay their salaries, according to the latest MTA survey of fare evasion — up from more than 20 percent at the end of 2019.
But JP Batavio, vice president of the Brooklyn Bus Division for the Local 100 Transportation Workers, called the memo “ridiculous” because drivers rarely open the back doors of buses themselves, anyway.
He said he hoped the implication would not be that bus operators have to haggle over fares, which has led to assaults on drivers in the past.
“If someone is coming in through the back door, it’s usually because a lot of people got off the bus,” he said. “The job of a bus driver is really difficult, and we already know that charging leads to bus assault and fighting.”
The MTA’s new directive challenges its long-term goal of implementing entry-all-doors and fare-charging on all of its buses. OMNY Tap-and-go card payment readers are installed on all buses but are currently only operated for Select Bus routes.
Lieber told reporters last month that it’s too soon for OMNY tailgate readers to be operational because the vast majority of bus passengers are still paying with MetroCards or cash.
“I think we only have 10 to 15 percent of OMNY penetration in buses,” he said. “It wouldn’t really be fair to try to manage a tailgate bus ride and limit it to OMNY customers.”