Photo: Taggart for the Daily News
Last night the Wall Street Journal and the Daily News reported that Joel Azumah, an occasional commenter and subject of discussion on this blog, would begin running buses on the X25 and X90 routes abandoned by the MTA. Today, the Village Voice and WCBS said that the service was up and running with "10 bootleg buses and two vans." Somehow he turned into an Italian guy named Joe Lazuma, at least according to WCBS reporter Mike Sierra Nax.
Joel was a bit disappointed with ridership today, telling the Voice, "Suffice it to say, the numbers were a lot lower than I expected." However, he's already expanded his services to include the X29 route to Coney Island and the QM22 to Jackson Heights. And these are no jitneys: he is running a schedule that is very close to the old MTA schedule.
So how is Azumah getting around the city's anti-competitive laws that essentially make it impossible for anyone to start a bus service without being Hasidic, and extremely difficult for Hasids? How does he pick up passengers from the street without having to "go through the process the right way and explain their routes, business plan, information on their bus fleet," as a city official told the Journal?
Joel has a cute solution: he's not picking up just anyone, only members of the "Apple Core Transportation Club." How do you become a member of this elite cadre? You print out a PDF like this one from his website. Apparently there's a similar system for people who don't have internet access.
DOT staff have made noises to the media that indicate they may try to go after Joel. I hope that Goldsmith and Sadik-Khan rein them in and let Joel go ahead. What kind of government fails to provide an essential service, and then prevents anyone else from doing it?
In terms of ridership, I hope that Joel is prepared for a rocky start. He has tried to provide service before, on Staten Island and in New Haven, and wound up having to pull out. A new business, even if it's a field you've been in for years, often loses money for the first six months or more. It's by sticking in there and showing people that you're dependable that you gain their trust and loyalty. If he can keep running the buses for months, I think ridership will gradually grow. Oh, and a little on-board wifi probably wouldn't hurt.