(New York, NY - Jim Colgan, WNYC) If you think you’re seeing more people on scooters this summer, you’re probably right. The number of two-wheeled vehicles registered in New York State continues to increase each year at a higher rate than in most other big states. That's according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Scooter users say it’s the easiest way to navigate the city, and it burns far less gas than a car. But while the two-wheelers may turn heads on city streets, riders say they don’t get much respect.
(New York, NY – Lisa Chow, WNYC) This week presented a turning point for a New York industry that has operated largely underground. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky want private commuter vans, also known as dollar vans, to start picking up passengers along bus routes that will be eliminated this weekend because of the MTA’s financial woes.
The commuter van industry has thrived in the shadows for a number of reasons. (Listen to Lisa Chow's audio segment here.)
There’s strong demand. People are constantly looking for easier ways to get around the city, and unlike the public transit system, private vans can respond quickly to that demand. Heavy government regulation of passenger vehicles like commuter vans has pushed the industry underground, but light enforcement of that regulation means doing business underground is often less costly than following the rules.
“It's like the Wild Wild West,” says Juan Perez, CEO of Highbrid Outdoor, a company that sells advertising in the vans.
(Matthew Schuerman, WNYC) The MTA has been paying more overtime since it laid off 260 station agents earlier this month.
The MTA originally wanted to lay off 475 agents because of budget pressures but settled for 260 after a judge blocked the authority's plan to close some station booths open.
Maurice Jenkins, a vice president with the Transport Workers Union Local 100, says that turned out to be too many. He says overtime for the remaining station agents has increased to 140 shifts a day throughout the system, about three times what it was before. He says agents typically get 24 dollars an hour straight time, and 36 dollars an hour for overtime.