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Select Bus ticket machine glitches frustrate riders

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gs Photo Credit: Stephen Reiss

Riders using rapid bus lines on the east side are getting rapidly frustrated.

Just three months after Select Bus Service was launched on First and Second avenues, express ticket machines – which riders use buy tickets before they board — are plagued with kinks that require daily fixes.

First, software problems were shutting them down, now the machines are regularly becoming unusable when they run out of receipt paper, because technicians only get a digital alert about it once they’re empty.

And once it runs out of paper, the machine is “useless,” said maintenance union official Pete Foley.

Riders must show receipts on board, or they could get a fine.

“We don’t have a way to know beforehand it will run out of paper, which is a big flaw,” Foley said.

MTA spokesman Charles Seaton said the agency is testing software that clears paper jams and alert technicians about low paper rolls, but it’s still unclear if they are working better.

"A lot of times with new equipment you have to do improvements," he said.

The MTA reportedly spent $10 million in 2009 on 200 Select Bus ticket machines. The agency says it makes the bus trip faster, but riders say the malfunctioning machines have caused them to wait on long lines, miss their buses, or get hit with a fine.

One morning last month Kate Riley, 28, of Stuyvesant Town, raced to the 14th Street stop on First Avenue and found a large crowd and five out of six ticket machines not working.
 

Riley, who said she had an unlimited MetroCard, hopped on the bus anyway, only to be pulled off at the next stop by fare checkers and issued a $100 fine.

“I told them I didn’t have a receipt because I was late and because the machine wasn’t working,” said Riley, who plans to fight the fine. “It seemed a little ridiculous.”

Though two machines were added last month to deal with the large number of people from the L train, riders at that stop said it hasn’t been enough.

Select bus riders have also complained the machines were installed facing the street and too close to curbs.

The Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA said transit officials are looking at turning some machines away from the street.

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