Earlier this week, city officials finally succeeded in putting some teeth in the state’s intercity bus law. This was the scene on Pike Street Wednesday evening. The city sheriff seized two buses operated by Yep Tours, a company that has been operating illegally from this area for a few years.
According to State Sen. Daniel Squadron, the seizure occurred because Yep had failed to pay $11,000 in fines. Squadron pushed through legislation in 2012 allowing New York City to regulate intercity buses (bus operators must apply for permits and only load passengers in approved locations). Even though police have gone on a ticket-writing frenzy, Yep has refused to pay. Since the company is based in Massachusetts, New York City and state officials have been somewhat limited in their ability to crack down on the rogue company.
— NYC SHERIFF (@NYCSHERIFF) January 13, 2017
It was quite a scene on Pike Street, we’re told. Yep actually owed $15,000 ($11,000 in fines and $4,000 in administrative fees). As the sheriff was seizing the buses, Yep employees came up with the entire amount in cash. The buses were then placed back in circulation.
In an interview this afternoon, Sen. Squadron said a “working group” has been meeting for several months to fix the enforcement issues with the bus law. Participants have included representatives from Community Board 3, the NYPD (including the 5th and 7th Precincts) and the city’s Department of Transportation. He praised the precincts for working diligently to ticket bus operators breaking the law.
Squadron called the enforcement action the “tip of the iceberg,” which will send a strong message to other bus operators that they must follow the rules. “There is a new sheriff in town,” said Squadron, “and it’s the same New York City Sheriff doing great work.” [He couldn’t help himself.] “It’s proof that a good law needs good enforcement.”
In October, Yep applied for a permit to operate from from the median on the west side of Pike Street, near East Broadway. The community board opposed the application, citing the company’s long history operating illegally on the Lower East Side. Today a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Transportation said the application is still under review.
The SPaCE Block Association has been instrumental in lobbying against a permit for Yep Tours. In an online petition, the group argued that approval of the application, “would make an unambiguous announcement to all other non-permitted intercity bus companies that if they create a massive presence, have zero regard for the highly residential community they operate within, while not paying their fines, then eventually, they too will get a permit.”
We have contacted Yep Tours and will update this story if the company responds.