Mobilizing the Region
Issue 286 September 18, 2000

Around NYC: Private Buses Get Theirs

* Last week, Councilwoman Kathryn Freed introduced a bill to the NYC City Council that would require all operating double-decker tour buses to meet current federal emissions standards. At an earlier press conference, Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jane Hoffman said that 70 of the 110 tour buses on city streets don't meet these standards and that most of these aged buses emit 25 times more diesel particulate pollution than the average NYC Transit buses. The worst of the four offenders is New York Apple Tours, which admitted to defrauding the federal government regarding the age of its vehicles (MTR #249). The company also had its operating permit unilaterally suspended for four weeks by Governor Pataki last summer after inspections unearthed hundreds of safety violations.

* In her first week on the job, NYC's new Department of Transportation Chief Iris Weinshall told reporters she will open up the city's private bus routes to competitive bidding when the franchise leases come up for renewal early next year, according to the Daily News. Currently seven private bus companies, including Liberty Lines, New York Bus Tours, and Green Bus Lines, receive $150 million in taxpayer subsidies to serve 91 routes in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. At least 325,000 riders, 12% of NYC Transit's daily bus riders, are served by these companies. All seven operators in have fallen below city standards for cleanliness, on-time service, and access for the disabled, some repeatedly, yet their contracts have been renewed without competition for over a decade (MTR #36, 252). A city survey five years ago found twenty-two other companies interested in serving the routes.

- Transit Tracking Bus-ted -

The Daily News reported Friday that the MTA has issued a notice of termination to Orbital Sciences Corp., the company it contracted to develop a global positioning system to track NYC Transit buses. A consultant hired by the agency to investigate the company's product concluded that the satellite technology "could never be implemented system-wide". But an MTA spokesperson told the newspaper that the agency has not yet given up on the concept and may contract with another company. The agency and advocates both hope a locator system would reduce bus bunching by letting both riders, drivers, and dispatchers know where buses are along a route at all times The Port Authority recently inaugurated a similar system at JFK for its airport shuttles' six routes. The Port Authority's success suggests that southeastern Queens, one of the city's most bus reliant neighborhoods, rather than Manhattan, would be a better place for the MTA to test and implement the new technology (MTR #259).

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