New York Deal on Regulating Budget Bus Lines

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photo Alex Goldmark

(New York, NY -- Denise Blostein, WNYC) The Bloomberg administration is on board with proposed legislation that may eliminate the "Wild West" atmosphere of intercity buses that many officials say is wreaking havoc on city streets, especially in Chinatown.

State Senator Daniel Squadron and Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn said new permitting will require bus companies to seek approval for designated pick-up and drop-off locations. The city would consult local community boards as part of this application process.

Currently, the city designates locations for some curbside bus companies, but channeling these requests through the DOT isn’t mandatory. Sadik-Kahn said that nothing prevents bus companies from deciding on their own locations. The new law would also enable the city to take action and fine bus companies that don't comply with the new rules; bus lines would be fined $1,000 for a first offense and $2,500 for subsequent offenses.

George Lence, a spokesman for Megabus, one of the intercity bus companies operating out of Midtown Manhattan said, “We always work closely with the city when selecting workable bus locations for our customers and will continue to do so under this legislation."

City Council member Margaret Chin, who supports the legislation, said she has received complaints about the volume of buses and passengers loading in and out of Chinatown streets for the past two years. Chin noted that after a deadly accident involving a Chinatown bus company last March, “the need for legislation took on more urgency.”

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senator Squadron, who will introduce the bill in the Assembly and the Senate respectively, said that regulation is needed because both capacity issues at the Port Authority terminal and federal regulations requiring that curbside bus lines be allowed operate have turned the streets of New York City into bus depots.

“We’re real glad there’s a whole new low-cost bus industry” Squadron said. “It’s good for riders, it’s good for commerce, it’s good for the country. But an unregulated Wild West atmosphere is bad for everyone.”