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.
The Times article mainly focused, however, on the city’s failure to quickly implement a new state law setting up a permit system for intercity buses. It was signed by Governor Cuomo last summer. DOT Spokesman Seth Solomonow declined to explain why it’s taking so long to write the rules bus companies will be required to follow, saying only, “We are still going through the rule-making process to establish the process going forward.”
The law requires the DOT to consult local community boards regarding proposed bus stops. The DOT chose to engage Community Board 3 on the Yo! application last year, even though implementation had not yet occurred. While city officials mentioned the new Boston route to CB3 representatives in the past week, they decided not to return to the board to officially amend the application. Yo! was originally approved for 14 daily round trips to Philadelphia; according to an online booking system 8 arrivals/departures are being utilized. The six new Boston departures are also listed, making a total of 14 daily round trips from Pike Street. This afternoon, Greyhound spokesman Tim Stokes confirmed that Yo! is, in fact, expanding the number of arrivals and departures to 14; there are no plans to cut back on Philadelphia service.
Also today, City Council member Margaret Chin released a letter she sent to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. The letter, also signed by Speaker Chris Quinn and Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca, reads, in part:
On August 17, 2012, Governor Cuomo signed into law Chapter 410, which was supported by the Council’s SLR1 (noted above), giving the City the power to monitor and regulate the intercity bus industry. This law took effect on November 15, 2012, and authorized the City to establish rules for a permit system for intercity buses that pick and drop off passengers within New York City and to designate specific pick-up and drop-off locations for these buses. Unfortunately, to date, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has not promulgated these important rules relating to the creation of this permit system. We therefore call on DOT to immediately promulgate the necessary rules so that the City can more effectively monitor the safety of the intercity bus industry.
One other related note. Tomorrow night CB3’s transportation committee is scheduled to consider bus permits for three companies: Fung Wah (at 139 Canal St.), No. 1 Bus Tour and Eastern Coach (both at 18 Allen St.). The community board deferred the Fung Wah decision last month and has suggested to the company that it hold off on returning to the transportation committee until its safety issues with the federal government are resolved. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at University Settlement’s Houston Street Center, 273 Bowery.
UPDATED 4:21 p.m. A DOT official tells Community Board 3 this afternoon that the agency has not authorized Yo! to increase the total number of trips from the Pike Street stop. According to the official, the company was not utilizing all of its approved arrivals and departures to Philadelphia previously approved by CB3. Yo! will apparently be using some of the “Philadelphia slots” for service to and from Boston. The city would come back to the community board if Yo! wants to increase the total number of trips at Pike Street, said Margaret Forgione, DOT’s Manhattan Borough commissioner.