Volume 20, Number 46 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March30 - April 5, 2011

Downtown Express photo by Aline Reynolds

Council Speaker Christine Quinn (at podium) held a press conference at the Emigrant Bank building last Wednesday, accompanied by Councilmember Margaret Chin (left).

Bill seeks to keep buses in check

BY Aline Reynolds

Two fatal bus crashes prompted the City to get behind a New York State law requiring permits of intercity buses for passenger drop-offs and pick-ups in Chinatown and citywide.

The intercity bus bill, introduced in the State Senate and Assembly last month, would improve safety for passengers and lessen noise, pollution and congestion in Chinatown, according to N.Y. State Senator Daniel Squadron.

“As last week’s tragic crash in the Bronx made clear, it is past time to impose reasonable regulations on the discount bus industry,” said the Senator. “I will continue to work with my colleagues and New York City to create reasonable regulations that make discount bus travel safer and more compatible with the community.”

The legislation is crucial, echoed Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “The recent tragic, fatal bus crashes underscore the urgent need to create real oversight of the industry and establish meaningful criteria for issuing permits to operators,” he said.

The New York City Council passed a “home-rule message” on Wednesday, March 23, asking that the State legislature ratify the municipal law, which applies to New York and other cities statewide with populations of one million or more.

“The functionality of the home-rule message is it gives the State authority to pass the law that only affects New York City,” explained Rob Newman, legislative director of the Council.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn held a press conference at the Emigrant Bank building last Wednesday, accompanied by Councilmember Margaret Chin, representing Chinatown.

Nowadays, intercity buses can stop anywhere they please, causing safety hazards, Quinn explained. The law, she said, would give the city regulatory authority over buses that it doesn’t currently have.

“Communities really have no power at all to deal with that… we’re constantly frustrated because of being told, there’s nothing the city can do, that these are in essence federal issues,” she said. “The point here is to find a nexus… that gives us the kind of foot in the door to begin better regulating buses beyond the [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] buses.”

While the proposed law doesn’t specifically address safety, Chin noted, City officials will be checking the bus companies’ safety records while monitoring their pick-ups and drop-offs. “By them coming in to apply for the permit, they’d have to give us all the information in terms of the company, owner, insurance and safety record,” she said.

On Saturday, March 12, a World Wide Tours bus headed to Chinatown from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut collided with a highway sign post on I-95 in the Bronx, killing 15 passengers. Bus driver Ophadell Williams, a convicted criminal who survived the accident, shouldn’t have been behind the wheel, authorities said, since he was carrying an invalid driver’s license.

Three days later, a bus that departed from Chinatown en route to Philadelphia crashed into a concrete pillar on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing the driver, a passenger and injuring dozens of others. The bus was operated by Super Luxury Tours.

The bus companies are now being scrutinized for safety violations.

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