it’s been a few weeks since the great Essex Street bus stop debacle — in which the city approved and then rescinded a permit for Greyhound to operate an intercity bus route from a location in front of Seward Park.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.