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Proposed Permit System for Chinatown Buses Unveiled Today

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Later today, the neighborhood’s elected officials will announce proposed legislation setting up a permit system for those inter-city Chinatown buses.  We got word of the long awaited move in a late night email message from Senator Daniel Squadron.

The Chinatown bus business has exploded in recent years. The service provides a cheap and convenient alternative for people needing to travel to and from cities like Washington D.C. and Boston. But at the same time, the buses and their passengers have caused serious gridlock in Chinatown and the Lower East Side.  Residents have complained loudly about sidewalk and street congestion, noise and exhaust emanating from the buses. There have also been a number of serious accidents, in which buses have struck pedestrians.

For the past year or so, city and state lawmakers have been working on proposed legislation setting up a permit system for bus operators.  Today they’ll detail those plans, which apparently have the approval of the city’s Department of Transportation. While the NYPD periodically tickets and tows privately operated buses, city officials have said federal interstate commerce laws tie their hands to effectively deal with the bus problem.

One of the biggest issues has been where the buses should park during layovers. A lot of people think there should be a central downtown bus depot, but officials have said there’s no obvious location for such a facility.

More in this morning’s New York Times:

The bill, if approved, would open the door for the city to establish designated pick-up and drop-off locations for the buses and require a permit to operate in the city. Any proposed locations would face review by community boards and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The bill will be sponsored in the State Assembly by that body’s speaker, Sheldon Silver, all but ensuring its passage. Mr. Silver’s Manhattan district includes a dense area of Chinatown that is a home base for many discount bus companies started in the past decade. “They put themselves near crosswalks,” Mr. Silver said in an interview on Thursday. “They double-park, and it’s all hours of the day and night. We want to bring some order to this chaotic situation.”

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