City Schedules Community Workshop on Intercity Bus Permits

A “Chinatown” bus on Allen Street.

it’s been a few weeks since the great Essex Street bus stop debacle — in which the city approved and then rescinded a permit for Greyhound to operate an intercity bus route from a location in front of Seward Park.  While residents may have beaten back this particular proposal, we can expect a lot more applications like it in the months ahead.

Coming up on November 1, the city’s Department of Transportation is holding a “community workshop” to solicit feedback concerning policies and procedures for granting so-called “Chinatown buses” permits to operate in Manhattan. The permit system was mandated by a state law signed by Governor Cuomo in August.

 

It will be held at the Hotel Pennsylvania, 401 7th Avenue (32nd Street), beginning at 6 p.m.  The DOT has until next April to come up with new rules.  There will be a series of public hearings leading up to the implementation of the system.

The law gives community boards an advisory role in deciding where bus stops should be located.  City officials have asked local boards to send along any guidance they might have about proposed procedures.  During a recent meeting, members of CB3’s transportation committee discussed the need to lay out operating restrictions for companies being granted permits.  These agreements would require bus operators to use pollution-control devices, to develop crowd control plans, to refrain from idling, etc.

In the past, some residents have questioned why the neighborhood must endure the presence of intercity buses at all.  David Crane, CB3’s transportation committee chair, said he understood this sentiment, observing that “corporations (bus companies) are essentially using the public domain (city sidewalks and roadways) for their own profit (rather than paying to build bus depots).”  But federal law protecting interstate commerce, he added, gives them this right.  Crane said the new state law, regulating the buses in the name of public safety, at least gives communities a small amount of control.

Typically, the DOT has asked applicants to submit several proposed locations for bus stops. The agency then studies each spot to determine which ones are feasible.  Wellington Chen of the Chinatown Partnership asked if it might make more sense for the community boards to identify locations, rather than leaving bus companies to their own devices.   Community board members were skeptical of this idea, suggesting that it would create an unreasonable burden on the all-volunteer board.

CB3 is continuing to work on the recommendations it will send to the DOT.

 

8 comments to City Schedules Community Workshop on Intercity Bus Permits

  • Rima Finzi-Strauss

    Why is it assumed that CB3 should be the destination of most of the new curbside bus locations? Is it fair that only the LES should bear this burden? Since most of the passengers of the current Chinatown/LES buses are from Brooklyn, why can’t many of the new bus stops be located there?

    Meanwhile, a minimum requirement for curbside buses should be shelter for passengers. How inhumane to make passengers wait outside in the broiling heat, the pouring rain, and the freezing cold! And how inhumane to burden local neighborhoods and businesses with hoards of passengers crowding sidewalks! Even the Chinatown bus companies had the sense to provide shelter to their passengers with their storefront offices.

  • At the meeting, there was some discussion whether the city can legally create boundaries in which the buses are allowed or tell operators which neighborhoods they can or cannot use for loading/unloading. The suggestion was that placing these kinds of restrictions on bus companies might violate federal law. We’re going to be looking into this issue. As for the bus-shelter issue, some transportation committee members agreed bus companies should be encouraged/compelled (perhaps through operating agreements) to provide indoor facilities for passengers. Again, it’s not completely clear what the DOT will be able to require under the law.

  • Rima Finzi-Strauss

    Please provide info on the Federal law you made reference to. Local governments do have the right to decide where buses can have bus stops. In fact, NYCDOT is able to choose exactly where stops can be located in NYC. They can certainly decide that there are too many stops in one neighborhood, and that the burden should therefore be shared to other areas. Bus companies do not get to stop in the neighborhood of their choosing without local government agreement.

  • The Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

  • Chinatown had a great indoor waiting area on allen st. and also on east b’way. I do not understand all the vicious opposition to these buses only that they cut into the business of greyhound/peterpan. Perhaps Chinatown buses got a bit sloppy, but I can’t help but think that these bigger companies egged on the complaints and now they- petergreyhound- have started thier own chinatown bus.

  • anon

    A bit sloppy? People are dead due to the way the operate. You call that “…a bit sloppy”?

  • Rima Finzi-Strauss

    The relevant Federal legislation on interstate transportation (49 USC Section 14501) only prevents States from interfering with transportation scheduling, rates, or crossing into a State to do business. Happily, there is nothing that remotely addresses localities choice of permitted loading and unloading curbside passengers locations.

  • anon

    So in other words, it might be possible to sue the bastards out of existence.