By Olivia Scheck and Jennifer Glickel
EAST SIDE — The rush hour debut of the East Side's new "Select Bus Service" on Tuesday morning had many riders selecting to complain.
Politicians and transit advocates gathered at 68th Street and Second Avenue around 9 a.m. to ride the new "efficiency-optimized" M15 Select Bus Service (SBS) on its first day serving rush hour commuters.
The bus line, which runs along the normal M15 line but makes fewer stops, is intended to speed up bus service on the East Side by incorporating several timesaving measures, including curbside fare payments, dedicated bus lanes and an extra door for getting on and off. It cost $60 million to implement, according to DOT spokesman Monty Dean,
But not everything went according to plan.
As officials posed for pictures, about a dozen riders complained that they'd been waiting 20 minutes for the bus, which was supposed to be running at five-minute intervals.
When the bus finally did arrive, it was quickly packed to capacity, leaving Upper East Side Assemblyman Jonathan Bing behind. Luckily for Bing, another bus arrived in less than a minute.
But riders say that's just the problem.
"For 50 years, I've been riding the bus and it's always been the same problem — you wait and wait and then four buses come at one time," explained Vincent Colon, 62, who was riding the new bus line from his home on East 28th Street to his office on the Lower East Side.
SBS may get riders where there going faster, by making fewer stops, but Colon said he believes the biggest problem slowing down bus service is buses "bunching" together.
MTA spokesman Charles Seaton disagreed.
"[Bunching is] not the real problem." Seaton said.
"[It's] the result of the problem – of having to share the lanes with automobiles and people taking a long time to board the buses. And that's what SBS addresses."
Still, Select Bus rider, Rob G., said he didn't believe the problem would be solved by SBS efficiency measures.
"If you go up to [the beginning of the line], you see four buses double parked and the drivers are all having coffee," Rob, who lives on East 84th Street, claimed.
"There's no question that's why [the bunching] happens."
Assemblyman Bing supported the view that the new efficiency measures would improve bunching, attributing the morning's snafu to riders' lack of familiarity with the new system.
But as the Bing spoke, a third M15 Select bus drove directly behind the one he was riding.
"It's the first rush hour," the Assemblyman pointed out.