The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has started deploying its own police force onto its buses and is tapping NYPD to add more of its Boys in Blue to patrol the people movers, officials said Wednesday, Nov. 17.
While NYPD currently stations its officers from the Transit Bureau at subway stops and trains, the MTA is testing out ways to get cops onto its thousands of buses traversing the Five Boroughs.
“It’s a challenging piece of the equation, because there’s like 6,000 buses moving at any given time during the day,” said MTA Chief Safety Officer Pat Warren during the agency’s monthly board meeting. “We’re looking right now at those high-volume bus lines and times and day of location.”
Transit gurus are piloting moving some MTA PD officers on the buses and is in talks with NYPD to get street-level officers — not from the Transit Bureau — on board as well, along with more security agents, according to Warren.
Even though crime is down in the transit system, the move comes as part of an effort to entice more wary riders back, but also to enforce fare evasion as MTA plans to test back-door boarding with its new tap-and-go fare payment system OMNY across 10 bus lines next year.
“We have to deal with this, we’re about to go to all-door boarding,” said MTA acting Chairperson and CEO Janno Lieber. “We’re about to enter a new period of how fares are collected in the bus environment and we need, in fairness, to have some enforcement, we’re going on the European model.”
An MTA survey of 123,000 current and lapsed riders in September and October found that their perception of crime and harassment was the number one concern among those who have yet to return to public transit.
Despite some recent incidents of straphangers being shoved onto the tracks, the system has become safer, and after riders come back, late trains and other service disruptions become a bigger issue to them, said MTA Chief Customer Officer Sarah Meyer.
“The system has never been safer, so once they get into the system they recognize and feel that, but we need to get them into the system first, that’s where our focus is,” said Meyer. “Once we get them back, they will stay back and they will start to complain about the things they’ve complained about before.”
The latest stats from NYPD show crime is down 11.9% from January through October 2021, compared to the same time last year, with a decrease across all major felonies except for assaults, which are up 29.1%.
When Lieber was asked by a reporter about pushing a more positive message and instead highlighting that crime numbers actually are down, the transit bigwig said he wanted to heed riders’ concerns and partially blamed the press for amplifying the public’s fears.
“We have to deal with riders’ real perceptions, which you’re a part of the echo system in creating,” he said during a press conference after the board meeting. “I’m not going to argue with my riders and, frankly, I think they’re entitled to feel, if they feel vulnerable on a subway platform they’re entitled to attention and I want to provide them with that assurance of safety.”