2003-11-28 / Community

MTA Bus Takeover Of Private Buses Hits Mayoral Snag

By Howard Schwach
MTA Bus Takeover Of Private Buses Hits Mayoral Snag By Howard Schwach

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to sign the end of this week a contract that would keep private bus lines such as Green Bus, Jamaica Bus and Triboro Coach running for at least six months.

The contracts, which cost city taxpayers in excess of $190 million a year in subsidies, were due to expire on December 31 and officials for all of the three lines which impact Rockaway commuters, said earlier that they would cease operations on January 1 if they did not have a new and more lucrative contract.

The seven private bus lines covered by the contract carry in excess of 350,000 riders each day.

Early last year, the mayor and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) began talks for the state agency to take over the troubled private lines. The owners of the companies, however, were excluded from the talks, angering them and prompting them to file a $10 million lawsuit against the city late last month for failure to pay adequate subsidies.

Bloomberg now admits that the takeover by the MTA would be "difficult" at best.

At a recent press conference, the mayor stated that there were several major stumbling blocks to the government takeover, including liability, pension issues, and the economics of running under-utilized routes.

"There isn’t enough money," the mayor told reporters late this week. "There are liability issues and pension issues that are very substantial."

Bloomberg promised that, in any case, the service would continue.

"Whether the service is taken over by the city or the state, or continues in its present form, it will continue to serve the riders," the mayor said.

The operators of the seven companies, many of them with interlocking directorates say, however, that they may not continue operating for the six month extension.

"I will continue to operate as long as I can without the money running out," Jerry Cooper, the owner of Green Bus and the president of an owner’s alliance told reporters.

A spokesperson for the alliance said that he believe that the city wants to bankrupt the seven lines in order to make a easier takeover, but city officials deny that claim.

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