I took the bus from Manhattan to the Bronx this afternoon. The weather is getting pretty strange and I decided to work at home instead of the library. It's one of my regular buses and the route is something I know in my sleep.
We were just into the Bronx when the bus stopped at the first really popular stop. There are a couple of small stops where just a few people get on and off, and then this one that's near the subway stops and Yankee Stadium. It was not crowded and I was sitting near the middle but at this stop, roughly 30 or so new riders stepped up to board the bus.
One of the new riders was a man in full New York Giants gear - a Giants hat, jacket, and backpack to go with his grey sweats and black sneakers. He had gotten on first and taken a position near the back door which was still open after a handful of people got off.
I watched him as he leaned out the door to help an older woman board. She was dressed all in black and toting a "granny" cart; one of those metal grocery carts you can use to drag your shopping bags home. Hers was empty and it looked like she might just be on her way to the store.
Superficially, you could say, how nice he helped her on the bus, but that scene played out at the back door, which, in New York City buses, means you just got on without paying your fare. Nowhere in the city have I seen so many fare beaters as I do on this one bus line. There are only about 14 fares paid for any given 36 riders. And even though police are frequently in evidence, I have only once in the past three years seen anyone stopped for jumping on via the back door.
I know fares are high and I know that the service should be better, but what I notice is that the buses are frequently packed and I know that there is no hope of the MTA adding more buses or larger buses if they think there are only 14 people on every bus that carries 36.
I get off at the next stop and the Giants guy hops off ahead of me. And at nearly every stop going forward, there is probably someone waiting to board through that back door for a free ride.
And I should walk more.