My Pro Bono Case v. the MTA for SBS Bus Fare Evasion

Discussion in 'Use of the Law Forum & News' started by Michael Wechsler, May 12, 2016.

  1. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Law Topic Starter Administrator Staff Member

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    The following article doesn't even describe the full set of events, which had me disgusted earlier today.

    Pro Bono: My MTA Select Bus Service Fare Evasion Case

    In short, a scared woman who barely understands English was confused by the absurd, incompetent and non-existent instructions on how to simply pay for a New York City bus - one that differs from 99% of all other bus lines. This confusion issue went on for so long that the MTA transit organization had people manning stations to explain to riders why on earth they'd need to use their Metro Cards to obtain a paper receipt to ride one type of bus. So this first time rider had a near zero percent chance of knowing or understanding why she couldn't pay the bus fare after boarding. And one disgraceful officer decided to make an example out of her.

    I'm a huge supporter of our NYPD and our transit officers. Most of them are just regular people who enjoy helping others. And then there are officers like this. And his ability to act inappropriately and terrorize a confused woman wouldn't even happen if there was even a modicum of competence from those running the SBS Select Bus Service at the MTA. How can you have a transit system that has absolutely no instructions whatsoever on the reason and process of riding special buses that look like every other bus in New York City?

    Thanks for reading. I founded this site on the notion that the little people could be afforded with the justice and legal protections which they deserve and which would be otherwise unavailable to them. I hope that most of you feel the same way and are willing to help others truly in need when you can.
     
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  2. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Kudos, Sir Michael.
    Pitiful tale of misuse of our tax dollars, as well as our talented law enforcement personnel.
    That sworn LEO should have been protecting and serving, yet he's assigned by his superiors to scalping and citing duty.
    As for the lady, and other citizenry, why does government keep gouging taxpayers?
    Every story I read like that saddens me.
    On the other and, each time a champion appears to defend the oppressed, I'm renewed.
    Your efforts exhibit why many of us went to law school, to help our fellow citizens navigate their way through a maze, we call "the law".
    Heck, I'm willing to cough up the $100 if you're kindness is thwarted.
    Please, keep us informed, as you obtain justice for the "damsel in distress", Sir Michael.
     
  3. Highwayman

    Highwayman Well-Known Member

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    I hope to get to the article in the next few days but I've never seen NYPD doing this enforcement. The MTA has "agents" (most of whom are retired police officers) who issue the notices of violation for the Select Buses.
     
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  4. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Thanks for the clarification.
    It's good to know the hacks that run the MTA aren't dispatching sworn LEOs to add to the money the hacks are already wasting.
     
  5. Highwayman

    Highwayman Well-Known Member

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    Again, I didn't read the article yet, but generally people are caught for non-payment of fare on the Select buses via random checks on board the buses. The drivers don't know anything about who paid and who did not since no fare media is presented on the bus. So no calls would be made for police to respond.

    The "agents" (I don't know their actual title off the top of my head) do these checks and issue notices of violation to offenders. I believe these are civil violations returnable to the Transit Adjudication Bureau.
     
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  6. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Law Topic Starter Administrator Staff Member

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    Not sure who they are but they do have shields that greatly resemble police shields. They are transit officers of some sort and will change the description as appropriate in the article. The agent threatened to call the police and have her arrested because she didn't immediately provide ID.

    Given it's the Internet, I'm leaving out one detail that should result in a quick dismissal, but it's more of the same. There aren't any instructions at these bus stops - not even a full text message worth. The MTA taped up the fare boxes on the bus so most who don't ride that line often would believe it's broken and get on as is typical.

    Now here is the kick in the pants, if true. I'll find out in June. I read elsewhere that they regularly dismiss these tickets in the Brooklyn Transit Adjudication Bureau. People who have unlimited ride Metro Cards are frequently unsure or don't know that they must get a paper ticket. When they get to the Bureau, the Metro Card is read to determine whether the rider was entitled to ride the bus at the time of the offense and dismiss if it is the case. Question - why can't the agents confirm the same thing at these transit kiosks which will show proof that the metro card would have provided a free ride or transfer? The cynical part of me wonders whether someone thought it would be more profitable to just issue tickets knowing that innocent people would find it difficult to travel for hours to court only to wait around until it's their turn to see an ALJ to get it dismissed.
     
  7. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    I read the article. Mike, you are a mensch. ;)
     
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  8. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Law Topic Starter Administrator Staff Member

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    Thanks... kind of you to say. I can't imagine anyone thinking or feeling differently.
     
  9. Highwayman

    Highwayman Well-Known Member

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    Since the Select Bus thing started I never looked at those fare kiosks and never realized that the instructions are so inadequate. My big problem was always those annoying and illegal blue flashing lights that they originally installed on those buses. I am surprised that they finally got rid of them - I still wonder what made them do that.

    The cynical part of me wonders whether someone thought it would be more profitable to just issue tickets...

    No, counselor. As someone who has very close ties to the MTA I can say with a high level of confidence that it is incompetence, pure and simple. I could tell you some stories that would amaze you.
     
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  10. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Law Topic Starter Administrator Staff Member

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    I noticed it because the first time I stepped on the bus I always transfer to visiting Queens, I was told to get off the bus because I didn't have a ticket. I thought the machines at the stop were Metro Card vending machines - a brilliant idea . After finding out that they were paper based and SBS Select Bus only, I couldn't understand why anyone would spend millions of dollars breaking ground and installing at least hundreds of these machines without the ability to dispense Metro Cards.


    Thanks for the insight. You are a wise and experienced man. :)

    This article and especially the comments suggest that incompetence at the MTA is probably responsible. They knew about all these issues at least 4-5 years ago when they rolled out this system in other boroughs. (Funny to read that back then riders were wondering why anyone would install an out of date paper system.) I never was aware of the Select Bus System in Manhattan because north - south everyone takes the subway, which is always much quicker. The only time I'd want to take the bus is east - west to go through Central Park and save time. And I was completely dumbfounded to see absolutely no competent instructions or rules whatsoever on Queens SBS stations. Somehow they expect everyone to know what to do by osmosis - or handing out $100 summonses requiring newbies to take a day off of work to travel to Brooklyn to learn what should have been solved with a sign on the bus stop pole, for heaven's sake. Anyway, I'll be contacting our councilmen to see what they can do about the incompetence.
     
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  11. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Law Topic Starter Administrator Staff Member

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  12. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    It has been a very long time when I had to spend any time in a borough other than Manhattan.

    We spent a fair amount of time on the old Coast Guard Base GI (The Rock).

    I became friends with a couple civilian employees who commuted from Queens, even one from Far Rockaway.

    I was told there were several privately owned bus lines that the MTA was trying to drive out of business.

    This new bus scheme sounds as if the SDS buses were created to try to compete with the many Queens express buses.

    The Rock was and is a great place.

    Sorry to see it was closed.
    Glad to see it is open to the citizenry in the summertime.
     
  13. Highwayman

    Highwayman Well-Known Member

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    As far as I know, all of those private bus companies are now gone. Can't remember any names right now, but I believe they were taken over by the MTA. The Beeline bus system in Westchester was supposed to be taken over by the MTA as well - that was several years ago and it never happened. Maybe SOMEONE somewhere wised up and realized that it wouldn't be an ideal situation for the ridership.
     
  14. Highwayman

    Highwayman Well-Known Member

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    That's probably a great place to start, although the MTA machine is a monster that is difficult to fight.
     
  15. Highwayman

    Highwayman Well-Known Member

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    Oh, and by the way the incompetence is not limited to the NYC Transit part of the MTA. It extends to ALL sub-agencies.

    Quick example... I was at the Larchmont Metro-North station in Westchester one very cold night. Apparently some work was being done there at the time and ALL of the doors had been removed from the station overpass, which is heated.

    Of course, the cold wind was blowing through the overpass and it was very uncomfortable to say the least - BUT the ceiling mounted electric heaters were chugging away and were absolutely useless. Some brain surgeon had forgotten to shut them down when the doors were removed.

    The doors remained missing for about a month yet the heaters were going 24 x 7. I often wondered what the monthly electric bill was for the station.
     
  16. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Well, it seems as if the MTA did succeed at something. LOL
     
  17. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Law Topic Starter Administrator Staff Member

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    I just received back the decision from the Transit Adjudication Bureau. The ALJ ruled against us - and you will not believe why. I'm going to have to pay the woman's ticket and appeal. The reasoning is shocking and shows either a complete lack of knowledge of basic MTA rules as well as making things up in order to justify the fine. Some tidbits:
    • The ALJ claims that the rules are posted on the kiosk at the station. How does she know? The fact is that there aren't any kiosks within 20+ feet from the station pole and approximately 20- 30 feet from where the bus actually stops, as per the photos. Not only aren't they seen by someone who doesn't know what the SBS bus system is, none have the instructions.
    • The ALJ claims that instructions are posted on the side of the SBS select buses. Perhaps the ALJ is confused with another state or dimension or is from the future. There are no rules posted on the buses! Ridiculous!
    • The ALJ claims the rules are posted in Spanish. Of course they aren't since they aren't even clear in English.
    • The ALJ stated that the bus started to move and it's the respondent's fault that she didn't ask the driver about the fare. It's hard to believe the ALJ works for the MTA and has never ridden a bus. That's because everyone who rides one sees the large letters that say "do not speak to driver while bus is in motion."
    • Ignorance of the SBS Select Bus rules is no excuse. Apparently the MTA has made it a strict liability fine for them to just have New Yorkers just "know" what a Select Bus is and how it works.
    The irony of all of this is that it involves a woman who got on the wrong bus which is at the same stop and not clearly marked, WANTED TO PAY, and HAD HER PAYMENT OUT WHEN SHE ENTERED THE BUS! But the complete inadequacy of the MTA is what caused the problem. And further, when she got on the bus, she had no opportunity to even do anything because the only remedy would be to get off the bus at the next stop -- which is where she was ticketed!!!
     
  18. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Sad, but true.
    This is another example of a government that sees us as peasants to be ruled and controlled, rather than respected and protected.

    Bernie and Trump had their finger on one of the major things wrong with a bureaucratic, autocratic, establishment class that sees themselves as an aristocracy.

    Noblesse oblige and divine right don't begin to describe our "betters" who rule over us, "unwashed, filthy, ignorant, peasants".
     
  19. Betty3

    Betty3 Super Moderator

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    :(