March 3, 2014
By ATU 1056 President Mark Henry
Queens, NY – Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1056 opposed an application for a commuter van service from Rosedale to the Parsons/ Archer Subway at a City hearing in Queens at Borough Hall. The ATU testimony questioned any need for a private van service when the MTA already operates three bus routes that service the community and a fourth route that connects residents with another subway route.
ATU 1056 members – bus operators and mechanics – work for MTA New York City Transit's Queens bus division and serve the riding public. ATU 1056 executive board member Will Moorer from our Jamaica Depot presented the testimony at a NYC Department of Transportation hearing at Queens Borough Hall, Friday, February 21, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. In addition to NYDOT, the City's Taxi and Limousine Commission also attended the hearing.
The vans – based in Nassau County – would duplicate existing bus service provided by the MTA – particularly the Q85, Q111 and Q113 routes. These so-called commuter vans prey on existing bus routes, picking up and discharging passengers at MTA bus stops.
Rather than consider new van services, New Yorkers need New York City (and State) agencies to work together address the scourge of vans that operate illegally and unsafely in many City communities including southeast Queens.
Whether or not vans get licensed remains a small part of the equation. Vans licensed and unlicensed operate illegally and unsafely operate along bus routes and deprive the MTA of revenue that it can re-invest in bus service.
In particular, NYPD, the Taxi and Limousine Commission and the MTA really need to coordinate their activities at such transit bus hubs as Parsons Archer and 179th Street Hillside.
Just as the MTA and NYPD have focused on farebeating by some who ride our buses, these agencies need to work with the TLC to address the outright theft of fares by these vans.
These hearings really need to include the MTA because vans directly impact revenues at time when communities seek bus service restorations and enhancement. DOT's responsibility in determining bus stops with the MTA and the safe flow of traffic and overall pedestrian safety also must be part of any deliberations.”
So-called commuter vans, unreliable, often unsafe and many more times than not operating illegally, offer straphangers a dangerous alternative to MTA bus service. The City's woefully inadequate response to illegal, unregulated and unsafe vans allows these unsafe vans to ply bus routes, pick up passengers at bus stops and the subways, deprives the MTA of revenue and reduces passenger counts that the MTA uses to cut service. Their operation de facto recreates the two-fare zones we fought to eliminate.
Unlike the drivers such as 1056 members who operate MTA buses in Queens, these van drivers do not get recurrent training, do not find themselves subject to drug testing and periodic medical evaluations while they race along city streets putting all at risk.
If a van has an operating license but operates along a bus route and picks up and discharges passengers at bus stops, it operates ILLEGALLY. Few vans follow ANY rules.
The MTA must work with NYPD and TLC, and not just intermittently, to address this safety issue. And the City Council should look at legislation to restore its review, oversight and approval of any privatization of transit services, including these vans.