By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo News Editor
EAST SIDE — It cost an estimated $60 million to turn the M15 bus line into a "Select Bus Service" with off-bus ticketing for speedier boarding and a designated lane to hasten travel along First and Second avenues.
How's it doing since hitting the streets in October?
The new bus service received a B- grade from City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, based on constituent complaints and staff visits to a stop in her district where feedback included such descriptors as "miserable," "disgrace" and "appalling."
Lappin, who unveiled her grading system on Monday, wants to see improvements made for the 16.5 million riders along Manhattan's East Side. She graded the service based on four categories, including speed, accessibility, tickets/ease of use and enforcement.
The worst grade, a C-, went to accessibility. More than half of the buses' 54 seats can only be reached by climbing one or two steps — a problem for elderly or disabled riders, she said.
"It's great if people can get on the bus, but it's not that helpful if they can't get a seat," Lappin said.
The ticketing machines scored only a C because of frequent breakdowns and paper shortages. Some riders have complained about being ticketed unfairly because of machine problems, which is why the bus service only received a B from the Councilwoman in the enforcement category.
She believes the MTA can do a better job with servicing the ticket machines and criticized the agency for the lack of accessibility, which she believed was "not unforeseen."
On the bright side, she gave an A- to the service in terms of speed, noting that it has sped up travel times by 19 percent, which equals two minutes saved per every mile.
"I've been advocating for Select Bus Service for many years," Lappin said. "I'm still a strong supporter, but it's not quite living up to its potential."
An MTA spokesman noted that every bus in the agency's fleet has priority seating for disabled riders and said, "In the rare occurrence that a fare machine is not working, members of NYC Transit's Eagle Team will ask them to pay at another stop."
Straphanger Christine Kenny, 27, recalled one time when the machine "jammed up" on her and other customers. They got on the bus anyway and huddled together in case of a surprise ticket check, which never happened.
"At first the service was a disaster because no one knew what was going on," said the Upper East Side teacher. "Now it's working better."
She commended the quicker trip, but said the wait for a bus has gotten longer. During particularly long waits, Kenny has hopped a cab with other would-be passengers. "But once you've already paid," she said of the off-board fare, "you're usually stuck waiting."
Shamika Green, 27, who takes the bus between 68th and 125th streets, enjoys a shorter commute. "Boarding is much faster," she said, "but it's still just as crowded."