11 Days and Counting: Will Bus Law Enforcement Begin By August 15?

An Asian Express bus stops July 28, 2014 in front of 160 East Broadway.

An Asian Express bus stops July 28, 2014 in front of 160 East Broadway. The company does not have an approved permit at this location.

Local elected officials are still holding out hope that an intercity bus law signed by Governor Cuomo two years ago this month will finally be implemented 11 days from now.  Lower East Side and Chinatown residents, increasingly agitated by the bus onslaught in their neighborhood, would be forgiven for a healthy dose of skepticism that it will actually happen.

On July 14, State Senator Daniel Squadron, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Councilmember Margaret Chin, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Community Board 3 put out a statement that read, in part:

Today, DOT and the NYPD committed to enforcing intercity bus permit regulations no later than August 15… We are pleased that the city agencies and local precincts are committed to working as partners with us to take the challenge. Our offices look forward to working collaboratively with the local police precincts, DOT, Community Board 3, and local bus operators to ensure the permit system is enforced properly and within the time frame DOT and NYPD have committed to.

Local elected officials and city transportation officials hold press conference regarding bus bill in April of 2012.  Photo: Senator Squadron's website.

Local elected officials and city transportation officials hold press conference regarding bus bill in April of 2012. Photo: Senator Squadron’s website.

The state law, sponsored by Squadron and Silver, allowed the city to set up a permit system to regulate the rapidly expanding intercity bus industry.  Operators are only allowed to use curbside spots for which they have approved DOT permits.  The penalty for a first-offense is $500 and $2500 for repeat offenders.

But as the watchdog website Save LES Streets has found, there are at least 68 bus companies operating without permits in this neighborhood alone. Only 22 are properly licensed.  After the law officially took effect in November 2012, the DOT adopted rules for the permit system in July of 2013 and the city established a penalty schedule 5 months later.  Up until very recently, however, word about the new law never trickled down to local precincts, so enforcement was not occurring.  There was a grace period for companies to come into compliance, but that expired earlier this year.

Senator Squadron convened a meeting in an attempt to get everyone on the same page. Representatives from the Transportation Department as well as from the NYPD, including local precincts, were there. The news release announcing the August 15 enforcement date followed that meeting.

In the past week, we contacted the DOT press office and asked these questions:

  • Was the city on target to begin enforcing the bus law by August 15?
  • What steps were required in order for local precincts to begin enforcement?

A spokesperson replied via email that the agency is working closely with the police department and local elected officials to maintain “safe and legal intercity bus operations.”  The spokesperson noted that the NYPD is responsible for enforcement and referred us to the police department for further questions.  The Department of Transportation, we were told, is committed to “working closely with community boards and other local stakeholders” — and “welcomes their continued input.”

As for the police department, it’s our understanding that the intercity bus rules are still being reviewed by the NYPD’s lawyers. When that review is complete, they will be forwarded to neighborhood precincts.

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At the local level, there are signs that police are putting some resources behind bus enforcement, even as they wait for instructions regarding the new law.  Captain Tim Wilson, executive officer of the 7th Precinct, said last week that they conducted enforcement sweeps on the Lower East Side jointly with the state Department of Transportation on two separate dates last month.  About 10 buses were issued summonses, mostly for safety issues. Three buses were taken out of service for safety violations.  The operations, he said, were a direct result of resident complaints.

Meantime, residents are continuing to monitor the bus industry on their own.  In the past few days, SPaCE, a block association that mobilized against the bus industry several months ago and launched a petition drive, urged its members to help collect information and photos regarding “illegal bus activity” via the Save LES Streets site.  “If the governing bodies of NYC are unable to successfully surveil the private bus industry,” an email message read, “then we will do it for them. The DOT and the city must be made fully aware of the gravity of this situation and held accountable.”

  • chucklin72

    Thank you Ed and The Lo-Down for the continuing coverage of this very important issue.
    With hundreds of buses daily and tens of thousands of riders its a shame that DOT hasn’t taken the issue seriously until now.
    Every resident of LES has been affected by the constant bus traffic and the riders blocking up the sidewalks. Our quality of life has been severely diminished by unregulated interstate bus traffic.

    Did you know that Port Authority has 20 carriers while LES has 90?! Three of the carriers ( Greyhound, Peter Pan, Adirondack ) sued the Port Authority in 2012 and in the lawsuit they revealed that they paid a combined $10 million for the rights to use Port Authority.

    So three carriers are worth $10 million to Port Authority while 90 bus operators pay ZERO to operate from our streets. How is this fair?

  • RimaLES

    The responses LoDown received from NYCDOT were nothing short of mealy-mouthed and pathetic.

    Are we supposed to be satisfied with such PR-speak?

    I am now completely convinced that NYCDOT is simply unwilling to do its job. All they do is sign off on permits without any consideration or knowledge about the outrageous intercity bus situation here.

    So now they’re turfing the entire problem to the NYPD out of an abundance of laziness .

    NYCDOT can’t be bothered since ,after all, we are only the Lower East Side and Chinatown.

  • RimaLES

    Look how sneaky Greyhound Bus is: They have a new City approved sign which indicates that they will also run buses to Greensboro, North Carolina at 2 Pike.! Isn’t Boston, Philadelphia and Washington enough? Apparently, NYCDOT has approved all of this without going first to CB3 for community involvement!

  • RimaLES

    Yesterday’s Chinese World Journal reported about the Save LES Streets website. A Chinatown official criticized the website for not recognizing that bus company storefronts provide adequate space for waiting passengers. The Gallery of Shame on http://www.ourstreetsnewyork.org shows the exact opposite!