FOREST HILLS — Riders on a recently changed MTA bus route that shuttles passengers to a host of stores on Metropolitan Avenue are being asked to pay their fares twice in some cases due to confusion over a new layover on the line.
The Q23 route changed course last month, reversing the direction of the loop buses made near Union Turnpike so that riders traveling to Trader Joe’s and other businesses now have to wait it out at a layover point before getting to the shops.
The change has sparked confusion among straphangers and bus drivers, who have been charging riders for a another fare at the layover point, despite the MTA saying they are not supposed to.
The "loop privilege" — allowing riders to stay on the bus for the price of one fare — "has always been available to Q23 customers," the agency said.
However, a resident who lives across the street from the layover point said she recently saw a bus driver asking an elderly women to pay an additional fare before resuming her ride.
"I’ve been taking this bus my whole life and I’ve never once seen anybody pay again," explained Alyssa Brady, 28, who said she stepped in and talked to the driver.
“He said she has to pay again because this is the first and last stop. I looked at him and I laughed because I thought it was a joke. But he wasn’t joking.”
A reporter who rode the loop twice on two different buses this week was allowed to stay on the bus without paying an additional fare the first time. But the driver on the second trip told passengers to get off because he was not planning to resume the route right away.
When the reporter pointed out that boarding a different bus would mean paying another fare, the driver responded that the passenger would have to pay again anyway, since that is where the route begins.
After a Q23 rider posted a story about a similar experience on a community Facebook page about two weeks ago, more than a dozen residents chimed in to complain about the same issue, as well as the route change itself.
Community Board 6 said it had received multiple complaints about Q23 bus drivers asking riders for another fare.
“It’s a straight fare,” said CB6 chair Joseph Hennessy at a meeting last week. “If you are being charged an extra fare by any bus driver, notify the board.”
The board opposed the route change from the beginning, citing concerns that taking the bus to stores along Metropolitan Avenue would now take much longer because the trip includes the layover.
An MTA spokeswoman assured that riders "are allowed to remain on the bus during the bus operator’s recovery time at the end of the route, and will not be charged an additional fare to continue their ride unless they exit the bus."
"We have reminded bus operators of this loop privilege and will continue to reinforce the policy through this week, as well as monitor the route to ensure that bus operators comply," she added.
Double-charging marks yet another problems riders have faced since the Q23 route was changed.
The route was changed after the DOT opted to ban the left turn from southbound Woodhaven Boulevard to eastbound Union Turnpike as part of its plan to implement Select Bus Service along Woodhaven Boulevard this fall, the MTA said.