Teens Turned Away From A City Bus

A trip for two teenage girls trying to pick up their report cards turned into more than they bargained for on Friday. The teens were going to pick up their report cards from Bishop Kearney High School when they ran into problems due to their student MetroCards expiring. Pete Donohue & Carrie Melago of the New York Daily News has the full story:

A group of Brooklyn schoolgirls heading to pick up their report cards was turned away from a city bus Friday because their student Metrocards had expired – by one day.

The students from Bishop Kearney High School in Bensonhurst were ordered off two buses and ended up trekking 2 miles home.

“They should have understood that we had to get our report cards. They should have been more lenient,” said Christina Hiltunen, 16, who said one driver told her to “take it up with the MTA.”

When their student Metrocards came up “expired” yesterday morning, Hiltunen and three friends pleaded with a sympathetic B3 bus driver to take them on first leg of their 5-mile trip.

But when they tried to transfer to the B9 near Kings Plaza, the driver made them get off.

While waiting about a half-hour for the next bus, the girls pulled together enough change for two fares, used a regular Metrocard for one of the girls and convinced the next driver to let the fourth student on for free.

The girls fared worse going home. The B9 driver let them on, but the B3 turned them away, forcing them to hike 2 miles.

Kevin Hiltunen, Christina’s dad, was outraged, particularly since the Daily News exposed that so many MTA executives have been receiving free Metrocards and E-ZPasses.

“In light of what’s been going on with the MTA in the last couple of weeks, those idiots fighting for free E-ZPasses, this is bull,” he said. “It’s a small word, but it means a lot – it’s common sense.”

Private and parochial school students are eligible for MetroCards for either full or partial fare, but the cards follow the city school calendar. And Thursday was the last day for city schools.

The MTA stood by the drivers telling the kids to leave the buses.

“This not a case of common sense. It’s a case where the MetroCard was expired,” said Charles Seaton, NYC Transit spokesman. “The bus operator has no way knowing if there are extenuating circumstances and acted correctly.”

I have to side with the bus drivers in this case. While it is understandable why someone would feel bad for the kids, the drivers were doing their job. How are they supposed to know where the teens were going? A bus driver would have no idea of where these or any kids or teens would be going. If the card says it is expired, then he is trained to follow certain procedures. I admit I wouldn’t be surprised if the tone was harsh with the “take it up with the MTA” comment but either way it still doesn’t change my opinion.

As far as Christina’s dad is concerned, he is within his rights to be outraged. However comparing his daughter’s situation to the free perk scandal & common sense is misguided. It is not “common sense” for the bus driver to let his daughter technically ride for free illegally which is what he would have been doing if she was allowed to stay on.

I do wonder about something though, did the girls know when the cards expired? I would imagine that all students would be notified as to when their MetroCards would cease to work due to the school year being over. If they were notified, I do not feel sorry for them. However if they were not, I could be more understanding of their frustration.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Students are not notified of the date when their metrocards end. As someone who was a student receiving one not too long ago and as someone who works in a public high school, there is no ‘notice’ of when they end. There is a date printed on the back but there is never any form of announcement or notice that the cards will expire (in fact, it’s quite common knowledge that the cards do not expire on the date on the back). Although Bishop Kearney High School is a private school and they may carry different standards, I’m sure it’s a similar situation.

Personally, I can’t stand behind these bus drivers like you said you’d be able to. I take several buses every day (with two jobs that keep different hours on different days, the number differs every day as to how many exactly) and during rush hour–daily–at least one of the bus drivers will allow people in through the back exit without charging any fare. Along the Queens College Q88 route, more people get on the bus through the back door without paying any fare than do through the front. I’ve seen many a people “not know” that the buses don’t accept dollars and the driver let them through without fare several times a week. I’ve seen people go “oh no, where is my card” and get on the bus to find it and never pay the fare. I’ve seen it on most bus routes I’ve been on and being in NY for my whole life–I’ve been on a heavy majority of bus routes. This is not a case of several exceptionally nice drivers–this is the norm. But several different bus drivers couldn’t let a few girls on to a bus for free, knowing that they’re cards expired without their knowledge? I’ve seen a man before go “I don’t have any money” with a brown paper bag beer in his hand get on to a bus for free before.

Also, I can see the comparison to the budget plight: the board members themselves can ride whatever and wherever they please for free and will be most likely voting to increase fares for riders yet again (which obviously doesn’t harm them since they’ll be riding for free notwithstanding…) but a group of girls with the best of intentions who had a genuine lapse in their cards are continually screwed? We’re not talking of a business man whose Transit Check expired–we’re talking girls who obviously didn’t have the money.

Maybe if the MTA could stop accumulating bad press and get all of the drivers I spoke of before who let passengers on for free to do their jobs and not, we wouldn’t be looking at a fare hike.

Hello Katherine,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Let me thank you for informing me about the process of these student MetroCards. When I was in school, the process of phasing out Bus/Train passes was happening. I never had a student MetroCard to use so I was not sure about the complete policy behind them.

I have seen many drivers do exactly what you explained. Some drivers I know do it because they don’t want to open themselves to possible harassment down the line. Other drivers I know do this during rush hour as it speeds up the loading process.

When it comes to bus drivers, some are more lenient than others in terms of letting someone slide. If they all followed policy, they would not allow someone to get by. Some drivers watch out for people who try to make a habit out of getting a free ride & come down harder on them.

In this case the drivers were technically following policy & are not wrong for doing so. I feel comparing these drivers to others who are more lenient is unfair because they are only doing their job. As I mentioned, how is the driver supposed to know the girl’s intentions? A high percentage of students abuse drivers & come up with excuses throughout the school year, how can a driver differentiate between the truth & lies?

While it would be nice for all drivers to enforce the rules, it wouldn’t make that much of a difference in terms of the MTA’s finances. If fare collection was the sole source of money to run our system, it would be impossible to keep it running.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts & never hesitate to do so. Have a wonderful day!

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