The only thing that’s certain about the MTA’s Select Bus is that people are being taken for a ride by the setup through which passengers have to buy tickets before boarding. The city has handed out more than $1 million in summonses to riders, so the Select Bus “has increasingly become a cash cow for the money-strapped agency,” as the Post puts it.
East Village teacher Michelle O’Neal, a native New Yorker, has a $100 ticket from the MTA cops to prove her own personal frustration. It was stressful enough that O’Neal was trying to go to her oncologist for a biopsy on a recent day. Then she stepped on the M15.
A veteran bus rider but ignorant of the new Select Bus service, she was standing at her normal bus stop when she boarded the M15, she tells us. “When I got on, there was a cardboard over the fare box. So I get on, and I ask the bus driver, ‘Excuse me, is the fare box broken?’ And he doesn’t say anything.”
O’Neal had already paid her fare on another bus and had a transfer receipt and her MetroCard. She was confused until she sat down and other passengers started to explain to her that she was on a Select Bus and had to have already purchased a special ticket from a nearby kiosk. She’d never heard anything about it, which she quickly regretted.
“The police got on at the next stop,” O’Neal says. “They started yelling, ‘Show us your tickets!’ ” When she didn’t have the right one, she was ordered immediately off the bus. “I felt like Rosa Parks,” she says, being led off “like a criminal.”
Then, of course, an MTA cop wrote her a $100 summons. She says he yelled at her that the MTA been promoting the Select buses for three months and that it was her responsibility to know.
When the officer was done writing her up, he told her to go to a kiosk and pay the fare and get back on the M15. She says she ignored him and decided to use her MetroCard to get on one of the three other normal buses that leave from the same stop.
By the time O’Neal got to her doctor’s office, she says, she was crying and her nose had started bleeding.
Eventually, O’Neal went to Transit Court to fight her case. She thought if she explained the situation they might be lenient. She explained, and the lawyer who served as judge and jury let the $100 fine stand. She paid the fine but is appealing, hoping for a refund.
Things could be much worse for O’Brien. Her biopsy results were great, she says, adding, ‘At least I don’t have cancer again!’
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 22, 2010