NYC Might Regulate Chinatown Buses

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(New York City--Alva French and Alex Goldmark, WNYC/Transportation Nation) The cheap intercity curbside pick-up buses--also known as Chinatown buses--may get regulated in New York City. That's if one politician gets his way.

State Senator Daniel Squadron is introducing a bill that would allow New York City to issue permits and designate official pick-up and drop-off points. Currently the buses use just about any open curb space. There is also a law allowing any bus to pick up or discharge passengers at any bus stop.

Speaking on a corner in New York's Chinatown where the buses often stop, Squadron said he wants lawmakers, the community, and bus companies to address the chaos and congestion on busy streets.

The current NY DOT policy on curbside buses is to manage the mayhem to maximize traffic flow with the view that more buses coming into the city means more tourist dollars for the city. Buses are the fastest growing mode of intercity transportation nationwide and other cities are addressing the growth with a mix of regulation and laissez-faire tolerance.

Representatives from the bus companies say ticket prices may go up in New York if Squadron's bill passes. Still, David Wang President of Eastern Coachways welcomes the proposed rules, "I think it's the best thing, if we have some space for loading and unloading people. It's good for everyone," he said.

Right now, some bus lines charge as little as $1 for discounted tickets to Washington D.C., but most seats are in the range of $15-$30 for a one-way trip between New York and and D.C. or New York and Boston.

Nobody knows how many Chinatown buses are in operation in New York. The city does work with bus operators on a case by case basis, even though it doesn't have the right to regulate them. In fact, the city will even put up a sign marking a bus stop at no cost to the company if the bus line requests it.