Friday, April 23, 2010

Us, them and their dollar vans

I recently noted the disconnect in Maspeth between the agenda of "community" groups who want to crack down on jitneys and the interests of community members who want a cheap, convenient - and, incidentally, safer and greener - way to get to work or shopping. I didn't realize how sharp this disconnect was, or how deep it went.

There were clues, however: a photo of one of the vans on the Comet website shows Chinese characters printed on the side, and a couple of very nasty comments on the News article (the worst of which has been deleted) expressed hatred towards immigrants.

A tip from a Maspeth resident helped complete the puzzle: not only are the van drivers Chinese, but most of the passengers are Asian as well. Judging by their names and at least one photo, Roe Daraio and the other Comet leaders are not Asian.


byrd said...

With transit fares approaching, and perhaps exceeding, $2 a pop in many major cities, the time has come for "dollar vans" and other alternatives to the big buses to spring up everywhere.

Yet government regulations, in many cases at least, are so excessive as to keep such alternatives off the roads and keep the fares [and costs of providing the services] high.

Queens Crapper said...

So are we to assume that Cap'n Transit agrees with:

1) Poaching mass transit customers
2) Unlicensed vans with no insurance
3) Fraud perpetrated by the owners of these companies who purport that their vehicles are small than they are which allows them to pay lower insurance and registration rates
4) Livery services picking up passengers that hail them on the street instead of calling ahead, which is against TLC regulations
5) Discrimination by drivers of these vans against anyone who is not Asian
6) Vans operating outside of their approved zones, without required community board approval.

Because that is what is going on. And you sound like a gigantic dunce for saying COMET or any other group that has complained about this should just close their eyes and keep their mouths shut.

Educate yourself and you'll be singing a different tune.

Queens Crapper said...

Since you're assuming there are no Asian members of COMET based on one photo of Ms. Daraio, I thought you might like to see a photo a newspaper took at one of their meetings.

How's this?

Cap'n Transit said...

Aha, welcome, Crapper! Since you posted the same comment on both this post and the previous one, I will post the same reply.

Thank you for letting me know that Daraio doesn't own a car. That makes it all the more unfortunate that her crusade against the commuter vans is based, as she describes it, on the driving experiences of her neighbors.

As with any violation of the law, I think it's important to distinguish between good laws and bad laws. I don't approve of vans violating laws requiring specific levels of insurance, licensing and fees. But I don't think that the laws about street hails are appropriate, and I certainly don't support laws requiring community board approval to operate a van.

A Maspeth resident that I know, who is white, told me that she has regularly commuted in the vans and never felt discriminated against. If there is discrimination, it is inconsistent, but I would like to hear about it.

"Poaching" implies that the MTA owns the customers. By that argument, the LIE also poaches customers from the MTA.

I am not recommending that Comet or anyone else close their eyes and keep their mouths shut. But I don't think that they should be trying to harass the vans out of the neighborhood, either.

Instead, I would like to see them work with the van drivers and owners to ensure compliance with the law, and to change the law as necessary to provide adequate transit to Maspeth residents. Anyone who does that in good faith has my support, and I would be happy to work with them and publicize their efforts.

Cap'n Transit said...

I'm also glad to hear that there are Asian members of Comet. It's a start, and hopefully there will be Asian officers as well. What would make me really happy is if there are commuter van customers who are active in Comet.