Would Making Crosstown Buses Free Really Make Them Faster?

This picture implies a vastly greater rate of movement than is the actuality.

How many of you have engaged in that torturous New York ritual where you pile onto a crosstown bus in Manhattan and then crawl from stop to stop during rush hour? Often in these times, if you look out the window, you can pick out one person who is walking along the sidewalk at a brisk — but by no means frantic — pace, who catches up to the bus every time it stops. Frequently, that person is actually proceeding at a faster pace than you are in your giant, motor-powered people conveyor. Well, Mayor Bloomberg sees this problem, and as a campaign promise, he’s pledged to make crosstown bus service free for commuters. Which is a pretty good proposal because then buses could feel more like what they actually are: nice, air-conditioned lobbies where you can wait and read something before you get to work, rather than walking in the sweltering heat. But Bloomberg adds that this will make the buses travel faster, as all that MetroCard swiping and driver negotiating will be eliminated. We’re not sure we buy that part. Yeah, there’s a bit of that (find your MetroCard in your giant purse before you get to the machine, lady), but we’ve stood behind a lot of people waiting to get on those buses, and we’d argue it’s the ones who take their sweet g-d time going up the steps and finding a seat who slow buses down the most. Maybe we could charge only those people?

Bloomberg Calls for Free Crosstown Buses [City Room/NYT]