Yo! Bus Gives Up on Chinatown While Industry as a Whole Thrives

Pike Street, December 2012.

Pike Street, December 2012.

CityLab (a publication of The Atlantic) takes a look at a new study showing that the intercity (“Chinatown”) bus business is once again booming. More about that in a moment. Within the story there’s a tidbit of special interest locally.

It turns out Yo! Bus, which was launched by Greyhound and Peter Pan in 2012, is kaput. It seems the service went out of business last month after three years of apparently stiff competition trying to gain an upper hand against scrappy Chinatown-based operators.

Here’s what you see if you try to go to Yo! website:

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The two national bus companies started Yo! Bus after the federal government shut down a large number of Chinatown operators in 2012 for safety violations. Greyhound and Peter Pan sensed an opportunity, while many local operators saw a scheme to crush small competitors who pioneered the discount bus industry in the early 2000s. On the Lower East Side, there was an outcry when Yo! tried to establish a mini-bus terminal alongside Seward Park. The company was forced to set up its operation on Pike Street instead.

As for the larger story, CityLab relied on a report conducted by Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University and spoke with the study author:

“We think the sector contracted 25 to 30 percent after the crackdowns,” says Joseph Schwieterman, director of the Chaddick Institute… “They were written off as yesterday’s mode.” Far from dead, turns out the Chinatown bus is alive and better than ever. In a new report, the Chaddick Institute finds that the sector rebounded from a post-crackdown ridership decline in 2013 to tally an estimated 5.3 million passenger-trips a year in 2015. Chinatown buses now operate 48.5 million annual miles of service—up 14 percent from a 2013 dip to 42.6 million, and up 26 percent since 2008.

Interestingly, the report found that much of the growth is not occurring in New York and other urban centers, but in smaller towns. You can read the entire CityLab story here.

Followup: Yo! Bus Expands Service, New Permits

Pike Street between Division Street and Canal.

Pike Street between Division Street and Canal.

On Tuesday night, Community Board 3’s transportation committee dealt with several issues related to “Chinatown bus” permits.  We weren’t able to attend but spoke with CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer following the hearing.

First off, she gave committee members an update concerning Yo! Bus’s permit for a loading and unloading operation being run from Pike Street near Canal.  On Monday, Yo! announced it would be adding service to Boston from the Lower East Side/Chinatown location.  The company, owned by Greyhound and Peter Pan, began offering New York/Philadelphia service late last year.  A Community Board 3 resolution approved in November allows Yo! to operate up to 14 round trips from Pike Street.  Earlier this week, there was confusion about the new route and fears that Greyhound might be going beyond the number of trips CB3 and the city’s Department of Transportation approved.

Yo! Adds New York-Boston Round Trip Service From Pike Street (Updated)

Yo! Bus began service on Pike Street December 18, 2012.

The New York Times reported today that Yo! Bus is “rushing to fill the void left by the shutdown of Fung Wah,” the Chinatown bus company which was forced out of service by the federal government last week due to safety concerns.   Yo!, a joint operation of Greyhound and Peter Pan, began service from Pike Street last December.  The company was forced to move from a proposed location in front of Seward Park after a neighborhood uproar.

Following the Times report, YO! put out a press release today announcing six daily round trips between New York and Boston, a route previously served by Fung Wah.  The new service begins on Thursday from the same Pike Street location, near East Broadway.  As the Times story indicated, the Department of Transportation “updated (Yo!’s permit)” to allow the additional stops.

Yo! Bus Began Chinatown Service This Morning

Yo! Bus began service on Pike Street December 18, 2012.

Yo! Bus, the Greyhound/Peter Pan discount service that hasn’t exactly been welcomed with open arms, began operating from Pike Street this morning.  After residents rejected the company’s first proposed bus stop on Essex Street, Yo! settled on a location along Pike, just above East Broadway.  There have been concerns about crowds gathering on the sidewalk and about traffic problems, but it’s safe to say all was quiet this morning at around 10:15 when we stopped by.  Greyhound staffers were on site to handle crowd control but there were no crowds to control.

Yo! Bus, a service meant to capture the Chinatown discount market, has eight departures and eight arrivals to/from Philadelphia each day.  The first departure is at 7 a.m.  The final drop-off is at 7:45 p.m.  There’s a ticket office at 98 East Broadway, which is just a few steps from the bus stop.


Yo! Bus Begins Service From Pike Street Starting December 18

Pike Street between East Broadway and Division streets.

This morning Greyhound announced that its discount  Yo! Bus Service, offering service between New York and Chinatown, will begin operating December 18.  Last month, Community Board 3 approved an application from the company for a bus stop on the west side of Pike Street, between East Broadway and Division Street.  The Department of Transportation then made it official.

As you probably recall, the DOT was forced to back away from an earlier proposal to put the bus stop on Essex Street in front of Seward Park after residents, backed by elected officials, complained.  Last week, members of Asian Americans for Equality asked the board to postpone the decision on the latest application, citing the prospect of large crowds and congestion outside their offices (located just across the street).  But CB3 members said Greyhound had agreed to operating restrictions (crowd control agents, trash pick-up, anti-pollution devices) to alleviate the concerns.  It’s a nine month permit; the community board will have the opportunity to review Yo! operations in six months.

YO! Bus Stop Proposed on Pike Street, Near East Broadway

Proposed bus stop on Pike Street.

Community Board 3 is out with its November meeting agendas. One item of particular interest: the transportation committee’s November 14th hearing, which will include a proposal from Greyhound for a bus stop on Pike Street, between East Broadway and Division.   In September, residents beat back a plan from Greyhound’s new discount “YO! Bus” service for a stop in front of Seward Park on Essex Street.

The agenda indicates the stop would “would be on the small median (not the sidewalk directly adjacent to the former gas station).  The closest street address is 2 Pike Street.”

The meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. on November 14th at LaMama, 47 Great Jones Street.


On the LES, “Chinatown Bus” Battles Are Just Beginning

A “Chinatown” bus on Allen Street.

It’s been a week since the city’s Department of Transportation decided to rescind a “YO! Bus” permit for Essex Street, in front of Seward Park, following strong community opposition.  As previously reported, the DOT is working on alternative locations, which will be presented to Community Board 3.  Susan Stetzer, CB3’s district manager, tells us the city will not appear at this month’s transportation committee meeting with a new plan but will likely be on the November agenda.

Meanwhile, the community board will take up the broader issues surrounding bus permits next week.  As a result of a new state law setting up a permit system for interstate buses, the DOT is drawing up guidelines and procedures applicants will be required to follow.  A week from Wednesday (Oct. 10, 6:30 p.m., 59 East 4th Street),  CB3 will meet to decide what recommendations to forward to the Transportation Department about the criteria that should be used in evaluating permit applications.

In this month’s print magazine, we took an in-depth look at the “Chinatown bus,” issue. 

Breaking: City Rescinds YO! Bus Permit on Essex Street

Publicity photo provided by YO! Bus/Greyhound.

It’s back to square one for YO! Bus, the new service from Greyhound/Peter Pan that was to begin service to Philadelphia from a new bus stop on Essex Street on Thursday.   The Department of Transportation decided to grant the permit in front of Seward Park, in spite of strong community opposition.  On Friday, local elected officials sent a letter to the DOT, urging a reversal, and today they have gotten their wish.  Transportation officials have decided to rescind the permit and are now looking for alternative locations on the Lower East Side and Chinatown.

Word of the reversal comes not from the DOT, but from State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senator Daniel Squadron and City Council member Margaret Chin.  In a statement received moments ago, they write:

Silver, Squadron, Chin Urge City to Rescind Essex Street Bus Stop Permit

The following letter was sent today by State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senator Daniel Squadron and City Council member Margaret Chin to Transportation Department Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Greyhound President Dave Leach:

We are writing to express our disappointment at the approval of a temporary bus stop in front of 3 Essex Street, and to urge that the Department of Transportation (DOT) find another location. As you know, earlier this year, working with DOT, we passed legislation that will bring oversight to the growing and important low-cost bus industry. This legislation will help give stability to an important industry that caused a “Wild West” atmosphere in Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and around the city, while also greatly strengthening community consultation in the process of locating bus stops. The law was signed by Governor Cuomo on August 17, and will not become effective until ninety days after that. As such, this proposed location does not emerge from the process outlined in the bill.

City Approves Greyhound Peter Pan Bus Stop on Essex

The bus stop will be located at the southwest corner of Seward Park.

The Department of Transportation has decided to approve an application from Greyhound/Peter Pan for a new bus stop on Essex Street, alongside Seward Park.  Last week, Community Board 3’s transportation committee voted to oppose the application, following a contentious meeting in which many residents spoke out against the proposal.  A resolution urging the DOT to reconsider, and to come back to CB3 with alternatives, was forwarded to city officials.  But today, we’ve learned, the agency has signed off on the location across from 3 Essex Street, near Canal Street.  It’s a six-month permit that will be re-evaluated next spring.

Greyhound and Peter Pan are creating a new service to compete against already-existing Chinatown bus companies. “YO!” Bus will offer eight daily stops between New York and Philadelphia.  The service begins operating September 27; a ticket office will be located at 98 East Broadway.

CB3 Panel Rejects Greyhound at Essex Street Bus Stop

A large crowd gathered at University Settlement’s Speyer Hall last night for a contentious Community Board 3 meeting.

It was standing room only last night at University Settlement, where angry residents descended on Community Board 3’s transportation committee to fight Greyhound/Peter Pan’s proposal to establish a new bus stop on Essex Street in front of Seward Park.  When it was all over, the committee voted unanimously (5-0) to tell the city’s Transportation Department to find another spot for the stop, which would facilitate 16 arrivals and departures daily between New York and Philadelphia.  It remains to be seen how the DOT will respond.  No representative from the transportation agency was present last night.

In the past two weeks, outraged residents mobilized to oppose the plan to create the stop across from 3 Essex Street in front of the playground at Seward Park (at Canal Street).  They submitted letters, postcards and an online petition (with more than 1100 signatures).  More important, they came in large numbers to last night’s meeting to testify against a proposal they argued could destroy the fabric of the neighborhood.  It was one of the largest crowds assembled for a CB3 public hearing in many months.