By Scott Etkin
Commuters who take the M116 bus to and from the Upper West Side and East Harlem get to ride for free starting Sunday, September 24th, thanks to the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s “Fare Free” pilot program. The program eliminates the need for a MetroCard swipe or OMNY tap on five bus routes, one in each borough, for the next six to 12 months.
The M116 route travels in both directions between West 106th Street (at Broadway) and East 120th Street (at Pleasant Avenue). The bus goes north/south primarily along Manhattan Avenue and crosstown at 116th Street. Buses and bus stops along the route will be marked with “Fare Free” signage to indicate that riders don’t have to pay.
The M116 route and the four others – Bx18 A/B, B60, Q4 LCL/LTD, and S46/96 – that are included in the program were chosen based on “their minimum overlap with other bus and subway routes to limit riders’ confusion, and whether those routes were served by buses equipped with automatic passenger counters to monitor ridership effectively,” the MTA wrote in an announcement. “Other determining factors included fare evasion, service frequency, available capacity to address potential ridership increases, equity for low-income and economically disadvantaged communities, and access to employment and commercial activity.”
Elected officals quoted in the announcement highlighted how the program will bring relief to low-income New Yorkers who are struggling with the high cost of living in the city. In total, nearly 44,000 commuters use the five routes that are included in the program during weekdays.
The MTA temporarily made buses free during the height of the pandemic, but since then the agency has begun exploring more ways to limit fare evasion, such as by installing new turnstiles and keeping attendants in front of the gates at subway stations.
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