By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo News Editor
UPPER EAST SIDE — As some riders continue to grumble, the MTA continues to tweak its Select Bus Service sidewalk ticketing system two months after it unveiled its $60 million plan to speed mass transit along First and Second avenues.
The agency will be adding two new machines at 14 Street and First Avenue because of the long lines there. It will also be moving the machines at two other stops — at 14th and 34th streets along Second Avenue — where they had been installed too close to the curb making it difficult for wheelchair users, Joseph Chiarmonte, of the MTA’s Division of Operations Planning, told residents at a Community Board 6 transportation committee meeting Monday night.
The minor changes will only cost a few thousand dollars, an MTA spokesman said.
Several East Siders had other complaints about using the sidewalk machines. Many said that poor night lighting made using them challenging. A man recounted how one evening, three people were struggling to see the coin slots to no avail until a smoker helped them with his lighter.
One woman worried that it was difficult to pull the receipts out of the machines, especially for elderly people who are less facile with their fingers. Getting caught riding on an M15 bus without a receipt is punishable with a $100 fine.
Robert Marino, of the MTA’s Government and Community Relations department, told residents he had heard about the difficulty extracting receipts and said they’re looking into the issue with the machine manufacturer. Officials also said that 99 percent of the fare machines were fully functional, despite some residents' concerns about machine breakdowns.
A few bus users also complained about the long distances between where the SBS boards and where the local stops on the same block. What if a local comes first when you’re waiting for the express?
"We have to run from one to the other," said Loren Ross, of the Kips Bay Towers Condo Association. "You may not be up to running." People pointed out that the bus line serves many going to East Side hospitals.
Marino said the MTA always envisioned the local and SBS as separate services with different ways to pay — though bus drivers on the local are now required to accept receipts if you’ve already used your MetroCard or bought a ticket at an SBS machine.
Ross didn’t understand the need for off-bus ticketing and said he would have preferred no change at all.
But John Marsh, of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, praised the speedier boarding into the bus's three doors, saying, "You don’t have to wait behind someone fishing out their MetroCard."
MTA officials said that SBS service has sped up that route’s travel by 10 to 20 percent. The M15’s average weekday ridership for mid-November saw a 10 percent jump from the year before.