Permit System for Intercity Buses Backfires

Shop owners are complaining that buses are littering the road and making deliveries difficult. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

The implementation of a permit system for intercity buses, a new regulation initiated by state Sen. Daniel Squadron and passed with the help of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Councilwoman Margaret Chin, is causing more and more troubles. It not only puts bus companies under pressure and stirs criticism from residents, it also leaves community board members in a dilemma since they have said they wouldn’t feel comfortable picking either side.

(The legislation,  signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last August, requires intercity buses in Chinatown to apply for pick up and drop off locations. Before the legislation, there were few officially designated bus stops for intercity buses and they often lingered anywhere they liked and played a cat and mouse game with the police.)

In the past few months, applications from several intercity bus companies, including Lucky Star, Yo! Bus (an affiliate of Greyhound), Eastern Travel and Tour Inc. and No. 1 Bus Tour, for pick up and drop off locations have been approved by Community Board 3. On April 9, more companies came to the meeting of the transportation committee of CB3 to apply, including General Bus Inc., which runs between Christie Street in Chinatown and North Carolina, Virginia Seagull Travel which runs between New York and Virginia, and Victoria’s Tour & Co. which heads to the casinos in Atlantic City.

But to their surprise, before their applications were reviewed, representatives from at least four shops along Christie Street came to complain. Julia Huang, who runs a restaurant supplies business, said that since Lucky Star got the permit to have a stop there, passengers often litter the road side in front of her store. She had to clean it for them. Even so, she still got ticketed by the Department of Sanitation.

Diane Ngyuen, whose shop provides nail salon supplies, said that the buses have already taken over her roadside loading space. And if more buses join in, she would not be able to conduct any deliveries.

Lucky Star, which runs between New York and Boston, is the first bus company that got a designated pick up and drop off location (along Christie Street). David Crain, the head of the transportation committee of the community board said that Lucky Star has to come to the board for a second review in six months, and that the shops can come to complain then if they wish.

Among the three new applicants, General Bus Inc. is also seeking to have a stop on Christie Street. The company’s owner, Shuiming Zheng, said his company has no relationship with Lucky Star and they have their own office and waiting room.

Still, the arguments kept going and got quite heated. One of the board members, Chad Marlow, pointed out the implementation of the new legislation has been causing more and more problems. He said, “Both sides sound reasonable. But what should we do if someone else comes to the next meeting to complain about other items we passed in the recent months? This has put the board members in a dilemma. It is unfair to the board members and it is unfair to the parties in the argument as well.”

Other board members agreed, saying they feel uncomfortable voting and suggested postponing the vote o

n the applications. But Susan Stetzer, district manager of CB3, said the bus stops have been pre-approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and for the community board, doing nothing would be interpreted as supporting them. She suggested the board add some conditions in the regulation.

In the end, the applications were approved. And the conditions added in are somewhat vague. They request the DOT to assess the loading space before it approves a bus stop and to report to the community board of its efforts to address the concerns of the shops.

So far, the DOT still hasn’t announced the rules of the implementation of the new legislation. Stetzer said it is a difficult process because the DOT is also learning during the implementation. City government will hold a major town hall meeting on April 30, with details to be announced later. It calls for public participation.

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