Bus Takeover On Hold, Still ‘Month Or Two Away’
While passengers contend with buses without air conditioning, and wheelchair-bound riders wait hours for a bus with a working lift, the mayor’s office has asked for yet another operating extension in a long line of extensions to keep the last of the four private bus companies running as takeover negotiations continue.
An agreement in April called for the MTA Bus Company to take control of Jamaica Bus, Green Bus Lines, Triboro Coach and Command Bus on July 31.
A spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg, Jordan Barowitz, talked to The Wave about the sticking points of the negotiations.
“The negotiations over the takeover are complicated – pension, labor, transfer of real property…crafting details of the takeover is time consuming,” said Barowitz, who hopes that a final agreement could occur in the next month or two. “We’re working diligently [to get it done].”
Meanwhile, City Councilman John Liu, chair of the Transportation Committee, chided the mayor for not getting the job done.
“At the risk – no, certainty – of sounding like a broken record, it’s unconscionable that the administration has missed yet another deadline for transferring these operations to the MTA,” said Liu about the request for an operating extension for the companies.
Jerome Cooper, who heads the Transit Alliance that includes the four bus lines still in negotiations, agreed with Barowitz.
“It is not really a delay,” said Cooper, who explained that all parties are working to get the job done. “It’s a very complex matter. The four companies are equivalent to the size of a mid-size city like Buffalo or Cincinnati, and runs 700 buses.”
Cooper said they are working to iron out the language in the agreement with respect to pension plans, health plans and agreements for leases.
Cooper added, “We’re not going to sign something that is not good for our shareholders, and I’m sure the city isn’t going to sign something that is not good for the city.”
Three other private bus companies have already been taken over by the MTA Bus Co.
On January 3 of this year Liberty Lines Express, followed by Queens Surface Corporation on February 27 and – more recently – New York Bus Service on July 1 became part of MTA Bus Co.
According to the MTA website, the new bus company formed for the takeover of the private lines, purchased 125 new buses which are now being used on the routes once served by Liberty Lines, Queens Surface and New York Bus.
While riders of the three companies that are already in the MTA fold enjoy new buses that are more accessible to the handicapped, environmentally friendly and fuel efficient, passengers for the four remaining lines are not that lucky.
“The 250,000 New Yorkers who ride these lines [Green Bus, Jamaica Bus, Triboro Coach and Command] will continue to suffer bus service [that is] decrepit, largely because the administration refuses to provide new buses to replace those broken down – even though they have promised to do so.”
Barowitz said that once an agreement is reached, the four companies would begin to receive new buses.
“The sooner the MTA begins to operate the lines we can begin to invest…work to improve service,” explained Barowitz. “New buses are in the pipeline.”
In the meantime, Cooper said that Green Lines has “about 30 to 35 buses [that are off the road] on any one day”, or about 20 percent of the fleet. For Triboro around 20 percent of that company’s buses are in the garage on any day, while all of the fleet for Jamaica Buses are in operation.
Cooper concluded by saying “We’re working as hard as we can to go out of business.”