Metro's new system to catch bus fare evaders appeared to be trapping some violators during its first day of operation yesterday while angering drivers and passengers who had to put up with longer bus rides as a result.
While the new system, in which passengers receive transfers upon boarding and then have to exit by the front door, worked relatively well in its first test yesterday morning, by the evening rush hour some bus drivers were openly disregarding the system because of the confusion they said it caused.
"This can't go on for more than a couple of days," said one frustrated bus driver during the morning rush hour. "I don't even have enough transfers (tickets) to give everyone."
The new check transfer system, designed by a committee of Metro bus drivers in cooperation with the Metro board, was created to help Metro collect from fare evaders the estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars they avoid paying each year.
Under the new system, which primarily affects suburban commuters, transfers now are given passengers showing where they boarded and how far they have paid to travel.
The back door is locked so that all passengers have to leave from the front door so the driver can see their transfers to verify that they have not paid to ride only one zone and then have ridden two or three zones.
But Metro officials said they will not be able to determine the success of the first day's efforts until today when they receive complete reports on the day's operations.
The confusion of the new system during the afternoon rush hour yesterday caused some drivers to simply not enforce it.
"This is my first rush hour trip today," said one young bus driver as he pulled out from the Rosslyn station yesterday afternoon. "I'm taking over from a guy who didn't collect the tickets so I can't do it either. They could have a better system."
All during the day there was some grumbling about the new system from both drivers and passengers.
Metro's community relations director, Cody Pfanstiehl, said the bus company had received about 1,000 calls from passengers asking question about the new system today. That represented about 20 percent of all customer calls received by Metro yesterday.
"It seemed to be just a minor irritation," he said of the program, adding that very few of the calls were complaints.
"It went off fairly smoothly for the first day without any major incidences," Pfanstiehl added.
He said it was possible that some drivers were disregarding the new system because they did not want to start fights with passengers who did not understand the new system, and because some of the drivers themselves did not understand it.
Both Pfanstiehl and George Davis, president of the local Amalgamated Transit workers union said they had no reports of drivers ignoring the
But throughout the day in interviews with reporters, drivers at both the Silver Spring and Rosslyn stations, where drivers end their shifts, criticized the new system. new system.
One driver in Virginia said that when four passengers refused to surrender their transfers, he left the bus to call his supervisor.
"Forget them," he said he was told. "So I just said I'll forget about it for everyone."
"It's a stupid system. It's too confusing," said one driver at the Rosslyn bus stop.
"Everybody at the garage was complaining about it," said a woman driver. "People didn't want to get off in the front and that slowed up the passengers and the drivers," she said. "I don't like it."
The Arlington bus division ran out of transfers yesterday morning and street supervisor Mack Reel said he picked up "a couple of thousand" for the evening rush, from the Southeast division in the District of Columbia.
While most passengers seemed to accept the system, there were some who were angry.
"It's too damned complicated," said one stockbroker on a Virginia bus. "It's going to take twice as long. Instead of making a transportation system as simple as possible they've got to make it as complicated as possible."
Louise Litwin of Bethesda said she liked it. She said her bus driver caught about 12 passengers on the bus she was riding from Washington to Silver Spring.
"They were trying to cheat and the bus driver caught them," she said.