DOT Announces New Buses For Private Lines
By Miriam Rosenberg
The Department of Transportation (DOT) said they would purchase 450 new buses for the seven private bus companies that currently serve Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Those private lines include three that service Rockaway: The Green Bus Line, Jamaica Bus and Triboro Coach.
Iris Weinshall, the commissioner of the DOT, made the announcement at a City Council Transportation Commit tee budget hearing on March 18.
It will take approximately two years for the new buses to be put into service, in the meantime the city plans to buy 25 out-of-commission buses from the MTA for $7,000 each. The money for new buses comes from $156 million of non-city funding allocated for buying new the buses.
Queens City Councilman John Liu (Chair of the Transportation committee), whose committee has held several hearings on the possible MTA takeover of the private bus companies, welcomed the long overdue news from the DOT.
"I am pleased that the city is finally addressing the longstanding needs of 400,000 private bus riders by purchasing these new buses," said Liu. "The plain truth is that these buses should have been ordered two years ago. Since then, service has gone down the tubes and hundreds of buses are out of commission. Until the new buses are in service, the city must dedicate funding to replace parts and maintain a level of comfort for our riders."
City Council Speaker Gifford Miller was also pleased to hear those who ride the private lines will get new bus es.
"With nearly $160 million for better bus service in the budget, it’s past time that the administration put this mon ey to use by making better commutes for so many New Yorkers," said Miller.
Jerome Cooper the Chairman of the Transit Alliance, which includes Green Bus Lines, Jamaica Buses and Triboro Bus, commented on the DOTs’ an nounce ment.
"It’s about time they face the issue," Cooper told the New York Times. "You can’t operate 18 year-old buses that need constant repair and expect to have first-class service."
Cooper said other issues must be addressed to ensure the riding public has the type of bus service they deserve. Jamie Bramer, a spokesman for Cooper, explained these issues to The Wave.
"The companies’ operating authority expires on June 30, and we have no indication as to what the city’s plans are regarding service after that point," said Bramer. "We still have not been brought to the table to offer our input on any of the complicated issues involved in the proposed transfer of our routes to the MTA, and we still have no contracts with our labor unions and no ability to negotiate any (since we don’t have any long-term operating authority). "
The decision to spend the money for new buses is a turn-around for the Bloomberg administration, which has been in negotiations for the MTA to take over the private bus companies for over two years.
On March 4, Miller, Liu, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and other elected officials from Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx call ed on Mayor Bloomberg to release the $156 million to replace the run down buses the private lines currently have on the road.
Jordan Barowitz a spokesman for the mayor explained, at that time, that the money was being withheld because the private lines and the MTA use different types of buses. If new buses were bought, the MTA would run the risk of acquiring buses it would not be able to use.
Weinshall said that the new buses would be fitted to MTA specifications in anticipation of a MTA takeover.
Cooper, of the Transit Alliance, said earlier this month, that "we gladly would have accepted equipment fitting the MTA requirements if that would have helped improve our operations."
Of the $156 million, $70.3 million is slated for fiscal year 2005 for 368 diesel buses and 95 alternate fuel buses.
When the 450 new buses replace those now on the road, riders will see a 35 percent increase from the size of the current fleet.