Part of the problem I see with privatization, is that the company is not really accountable to the people and can slash service and raise fares to the point where it's dead.
I completely agree, and I don't think that basic service should ever be dependent on the profit motive. I am not suggesting privatizing existing routes; my suggestion is to allow the private sector to supplement existing routes with new routes and new service.
In many parts of the region there are parasitic "dollar van" services. In Brooklyn many people seem unhappy with them; in New Jersey they are overall well-appreciated. I don't know the Brooklyn version, but here's what I know about the New Jersey vans. By "parasitic" I mean that they use existing facilities, including the Lincoln Tunnel bus lane and the New Jersey Transit bus stops (although they have their own terminals in Manhattan). They operate on a strict cash basis and even make change. Many of them seem to be individually owned and operated, but with a central dispatcher.
There is no fixed schedule. In the afternoons and evenings, they wait in Manhattan until they are full, and then leave. In the mornings and weekends, they go slowly through Jersey until they have enough passengers, sometimes waiting at a stop if they're not full enough, and then head straight for the tunnel. They can get crowded, but not by Third World standards. I've heard complaints about the driving, but in general they seem well-driven.
These are not privatized routes. The vans approximately follow preexisting New Jersey Transit routes. The NJ Transit buses also run on these routes, but they are less frequent and slightly more expensive. Some people will only take NJ Transit buses, some will choose a NJ Transit bus if it shows up at the same time as a private van, and some will take whatever comes first. This means that if the van drivers all go out of business, there will still be a government-run minimum service.
In Brooklyn there have been complaints about private vans unfairly competing with NYC Transit buses. They offered a substantially lower price ($1 per ride in the 90s when the fare was $1.25 or $1.50). In part, they were able to offer that low price because they were under-licensed, underinsured and under-maintained. The NJ vans are well-regulated, and their fares are very close to the NJ Transit fares. If the fares are close, riders are indifferent to who operates the bus, and all operators get ridership.
The MTA seems to be pretty good at adding buses when there's crowding on a route, but if that's not true, I think that private operators should be allowed to start running vans on that route, using the bus stops installed by the DOT.
There are also private bus operators that have started their own routes, such as the local Chinatown buses connecting Canal Street with Flushing and Sunset Park, and the Hasidic buses connecting Williamsburgh with Borough Park. I think that entrepreneurs should be able to set up new routes with a minimum of hassle, and run them for as long as they can afford to.
In the "supplementation" case, the government provides the minimum service. In all cases, the government should regulate the safety of the private carriers, and provide and maintain infrastructure such as bus stops and Quickways. Since Pan mentions the airlines, I should say that I think the situation is very similar (except, I hope, for the disastrous state of the current airlines).