Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The wacky anti-bus campaign

I'm really starting to get sick of this shit.

Look, transit is good, right? The easier and cheaper it is to get to Boston or DC by bus or train, the less likely people are to rent or own cars. And buses are good; what I've been complaining about recently isn't buses, but people telling me that we should only have buses and not trains.

Private transit is a very good sign. If you follow transit advocates from the hinterlands like Sheryl Gross-Glaser or Helen Bushnell, they have a hard enough time trying to convince governments to provide transit to their citizens as a public service, as opposed to some charity for the desperately poor and disabled. The idea that it might ever be a profitable business is completely off their radar. But here in New York City we have so many people who want to ride buses that private operators are flooding in. Isn't that great?

Well, some people look at this and all they see are problems. In September 2008 it was Councilmember Alan Gerson and Manhattan Community Board 3. In October 2008 it was CHEKPEDS and Assemblymember Dick Gottfried. In May 2009 it was Gerson again, Borough President Scott Stringer and CB1, and again I proposed a solution. In April 2011 it was Gerson's successor Margaret Chin, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Assemblymember Dan Garodnick, and a raft of studies.

Now Silver, Squadron and Chin have gotten together with Commissioner Sadik-Khan and agreed on a bill to allow the city to regulate the buses. Fortunately they don't have a Republican sponsor in the Senate, which means that they probably won't pass a bill this year.

Okay, remind me why we need a bill? Well... everyone just ...kinda wants one. The complaints are actually pretty incoherent. Let's take a look.
  1. The buses often idle. "Some neighbors believe" they can make residents' asthma worse (Gotham Gazette).
  2. The buses make it "difficult to maintain a steady flow of ... pedestrian traffic" (Gotham Gazette).
  3. "and automobile traffic" (Gotham Gazette)
  4. and "to regulate trash and parking" (Gotham Gazette).
  5. Competition also creates "the possibility of accidents and even violence" (Gotham Gazette).
  6. Parked buses "could tie up deliveries, and other businesses in the area will be affected as well" (Tribeca Trib).
  7. "Noise" is a problem, according to Council Speaker Quinn. (Greg Mocker).
  8. The buses park in local bus stops. (Tri-State).
  9. "People's homes and businesses are being blocked by buses, commercial areas, residential areas," says Senator Squadron. Whatever that means (Metro).
Many of these things are already against the law. We have laws against littering, idling, double-parking, and parking in bus stops. Do we really need a permit system to enforce them? Others are just vague and bizarre, like the city should create a pre-crime unit to arrest people before they commit violence. But the biggest complaint people seem to have, according to last year's press release, is that they're messy. Squadron's favorite phrase is that Chinatown is "like the wild west." It's "chaos," Chinatown is being "overrun" with "no clear rules." The proposal would "create a clearer system" that would allow the bus companies to operate "in harmony with the local community."

That part also makes no sense. To me, everything about Chinatown is chaotic and overrun, with no clear rules. Sometimes I really like that. Are they going to make laws against durian, fish and those little beckoning cat sculptures too?

The remaining concerns speak to a deeper issue: the allocation of street space. As with much of what goes on in New York, that's the real issue; the rest is just smoke. But it'll have to wait for another post.

1 comment:

jazumah said...

They can dream up whatever they want. The feds allow private companies to operate into NYC under federal law. The companies can ignore DOT if they don't cooperate with the appropriate space.