Fate of Bus Lines Remains In Limbo
Riders of the seven private bus lines serving New York City remain in limbo after the MTA and the Mayor’s office failed to send representatives to app ear at a City Council Transport ation Committee oversight hearing on Feb ruary 24.
The fate of the seven subsidized bus lines (including Jamaica Bus Lines, Green Bus Lines and Triboro) took place at the hearing. Last year, the private lines were given a six-month extension in their operating authority to allow negotiations for a MTA take over. The extension expires in June.
"I was very disappointed, but not sur prised at all that there are no representatives of the MTA, no representatives of the governor’s office, which essentially controls the MTA, and no representatives of the mayoral administration who will be appearing before us today to testify on this issue of extreme importance to the working men and women of New York City," said Councilman John Liu, Chairman of the Transportation Committee.
"Their position has been, and re mains, that because there are negotiations between the city, the state and the MTA , they feel it would be inappropriate to comment publicly on the negotiations. This position is wholly unacceptable to, both, the City Council and the public."
Other members of the committee shared the outrage of the lack of information on the private bus takeover.
"It is unfortunate, Mr. Chair, that we are trying to help the general public – the ridership of the city, and the only way we can help is by getting information, and if we don’t have that information to get down to the ridership we’re at a lost," said Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Jr. "It’s a vicious triangle. Almost like a Bermuda Triangle. The administration and the private companies are all trying to work things out, and the victim of that Bermuda Tri angle is the ridership."
Jerry D’Amore, President and CEO of Liberty Bus Lines and the only bus company owner to testify, suggested possible alternatives to a complete MTA takeover of the bus lines.
"Perhaps a better approach, rather than a one size fits all approach, would be to take a look at a specific plan for each particular operator," said D’Amore. "Then the MTA can make a decision on whether or not they should contract with the operator or whether or not they should attempt to run the service themselves."
D’Amore also suggested that the MTA should talk about quality of service concerns with the owners.
"[The MTA] should sit down with us and negotiate contracts that set forth the criteria that they feel are necessary in order to have acceptable service," D’Amore told the committee members.
Patrick Centolanzi, an engineer for over 20 years, testified before the committee. As a transit advocate, he has spent four years researching a MTA takeover of the private lines.
Centolanzi suggested that Mayor Bloomberg offer the MTA a subsidy of $75 to $100 million a year as a way to solve the takeover problem. According to Centolanzi, the city would still save $50 to $75 million a year.
Liu does not believe that the MTA has met its mandate.
"The legal mandate is for the MTA to develop and implement a unified mass transit policy for the region," explained Liu. "It clearly has not [met that mandate].
"These seven lines stand in stark contrast to the MTA’s mandate. They should be run, or at least be managed by the MTA, as stated in the Public Authorities Law.
"The MTA should count itself lucky that the City of New York, through the private bus lines, has been magnanimous and generous in paying for, and managing, these seven private bus lines for the better part of the last century. The job legally, by statue, belongs to the MTA. It is time that it assumed the responsibility for which it was created and which it has successfully ducked."
The private companies, the unions, the City Council and the general public have yet to be consulted on the issue of the MTA takeover of the bus lines.
Liu summed up the committee’s frustration over the private bus situation.
"At this point, I honestly don’t know if the discussions concerning the fate of these private bus lines are being negotiated in deep secret and very heavily closed doors, or whether there is no progress and no discussion taking place," he said.
Liu told The Wave that the City Council would keep the pressure on the MTA and the city to get a settlement of the situation.