Commuter Vans Authorized to Run on Discontinued Bus Routes

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(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) UPDATED New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission has licensed five commuter van operators to pick up riders along bus routes that were discontinued June 27th, when New York's transit system made its most extensive service cuts since the days depicted in the movie "Taxi Driver."

The use of so-called dollar vans has been called "a cowards way out" by the Transport Workers Union. Former Chicago Transit Authority Chief and current interim President of City College Robert "Buzz" Paaswell says the transit cuts are a "tragedy of the first order," and shakes his head that the city has come to rely on dollar vans as a means of transit.

But for riders in Eastern Queens who have few subway options, and those in Brownstone and other areas of Brooklyn that otherwise have no transit connectivity, the vans are bound to provide some relief. Riders can board at designated stops, disembark anywhere, and can't use metrocards. The TLC says it is unsure how many riders a day will use the service, though it says anywhere from 650 to 2100 riders a day used the old bus routes.

The routes covered include the former B23, B71, B39, Q74, and Q79. Here's the press release:

For Immediate Release July 15, 2010


Proposed Service Locations Announced

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) today voted unanimously to authorize a pilot program that would create a framework for livery van group ride service in certain areas throughout the city that are either underserved by mass transit or impacted by recent MTA service cuts. The program was announced by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, TLC Commissioner David Yassky and Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn on June 22, 2010.

The new service will allow point-to-point, shared ride service among specified pick up and drop off locations, with initial service areas based around MTA bus routes that have been eliminated or significantly reduced. It is anticipated that passengers will pay a flat fare of $2. Vehicles will be clearly marked (both outside and inside) for identification as participating in the pilot. Pick up and drop off locations will be marked with DOT-provided signage. Drop-offs can occur at the fixed stops or at other locations passengers negotiate with drivers.

“The TLC’s action today paves the road for a new form of service that we believe will be of great benefit to people affected by the MTA’s service reductions,” said Commissioner Yassky. “One of the great advantages of having a comprehensive transportation network as we do in New York City is that it sometimes has the flexibility to serve people in new and better ways that never before existed, and this van program is a perfect example of this.”

Bases, commuter van authorities, and other businesses capable of providing the service can participate by responding to a Notice of Solicitation that will be distributed shortly. The program is limited to vehicles that can hold 6 to 20 passengers. Drivers, vehicles, and bases/commuter van authorities will apply for a new license specific to the piloted service. Insurance and licensing requirements for the pilot will be similar to existing van/livery service requirements. TLC will select operators for the pilot and enter into MOU agreements with them. We anticipate the service being available to the public on or around August 16, 2010.

The following are five service locations that have been initially chosen. Several others will follow. (Specific pick-up and drop-off locations will be announced once MOU agreements have been finalized.):

1. Former B23 Borough Park, Kensington, Flatbush

1,580 weekday customers

2. Former B71 Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Prospect Heights

1,080 weekday customers

3. Former B39 Williamsburg, Manhattan

1,180 weekday customers

4. Former Q74 Kew Gardens, Queens College

2,100 weekday customers

5. Former Q79 Little Neck, Glen Oaks, Bellerose

650 weekday customers

The program, which will be implemented in close coordination with members of the New York City Council and other elected officials, will include a strong enforcement component in conjunction with the NYPD.

The program, which will be implemented in close coordination with members of the New York City Council and other elected officials, will include a strong enforcement component in conjunction with the NYPD.