The MTA is ordering its bus drivers not to automatically open the rear and center doors of their vehicles to customers – in an attempt to prevent pranksters with free loading, The Post has learned.
“Immediately in effect, to prevent ticket evasion,” agency drivers cannot “use the rear door switch to automatically open the rear / middle door unless it is necessary due to an emergency,” a May 6 letter sent to all said. MTA bus operators.
The new directive will ideally force potential bidders to enter through the front door of a bus – and face the driver if they do not pay.
It also means that bus drivers will have to manually activate the rear and center doors themselves if they want to get out through them.
The rear and center doors on the MTA “Select Bus Service” express routes will continue to open automatically at all stations, the letter said.
“The intention is to continue to offer customers an easy exit while at the same time discouraging ticket avoidance by reducing the back door opening time until no one gets on local bus routes,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan told The Post.
MTA Executive Director Janno Lieber last month vowed to partially tackle growing subway crime by setting up a vetting commission to find out how to curb ticket evasion, which jumped on both buses and subways during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly 30 percent of city bus passengers do not pay for the trip, according to the latest MTA ticket avoidance survey – more than just over 20 percent at the end of 2019.
But JP Patafio, vice president of bus services at Brooklyn Local 100 Transport Workers, called the letter “stupid” because drivers rarely open the back door of a bus on their own anyway.
He said he hoped the implication would not be that bus operators should bargain for ticket prices, which has led to driver attacks in the past.
“If someone walks in the back door, it’s usually because a lot of people get off the bus,” he said. “The job of a bus driver is already very difficult, and we already know that enforcing ticket prices leads to attacks and fights on the bus.”
The new MTA directive defies its long-term goal of implementing entry to all doors and charging tickets on all its buses. OMNY tap-and-go payment card readers are installed on all buses, but are currently only included for selected bus routes.
Lieber told reporters last month that it was too early to turn on OMNY readers at the back door because the vast majority of bus drivers still pay with MetroCard cards or cash.
“I think we only have somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of OMNY penetration in buses,” he said. “It wouldn’t be fair to try to manage boarding the bus at the back door and limit it to OMNY customers.”