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Posts from the Dollar Vans Category


Questions Linger About Bloomberg’s New Livery Van Service

Commuter_Van.jpgCommuter vans, like this one in Sunset Park, could become a more common sight on New York's streets. Image: The Brooklyn Ink.
On Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg announced a new pilot program to provide livery van service for transit-starved neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, a proposal stemming from his 2009 campaign transit platform. The push to provide more mobility options in the wake of MTA service cuts is to be applauded, as is the administration's willingness to experiment with something new. But the jury is still out on this one. In particular, how livery vans will be integrated with the transit system remains a big question mark. 

To clarify what's in the works, livery vans are going to be a completely new service, not an expansion of the existing commuter van program. Currently-licensed commuter vans operate within specific geographic areas, but lack defined routes, according to a spokesperson for the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Livery vans, in contrast, would travel between fixed pick-up and drop-off spots, though drivers would be able to take any route they choose between them. Drivers would also be allowed to drop off passengers at locations of their choice, he said, not just at fixed stops. 

The fares are likely to be $2, with longer rides costing up to $4, according to media reports, and there won't be free transfers to MTA subways and buses. "The issue here is not whether it’s more expensive or less expensive; it’s whether the service exists or not," said Bloomberg at Tuesday's press conference.

Transit advocates expressed guarded praise for the plan, noting that a detailed proposal was still forthcoming. "Providing new options like this is part of providing for a car-free lifestyle," said Transportation Alternatives' Noah Budnick. The Straphangers Campaign's Gene Russianoff also believed that livery vans could help improve mobility for New Yorkers, if implemented appropriately. 

In order to make the livery van pilot successful, it's being accompanied by a major enforcement push. The TLC will target unlicensed vans, unlicensed drivers, and licensed vehicles working outside the the bounds of authorized activities, said the agency spokesperson. The idea is that illegal vans, not subject to safety and insurance requirements, would undercut the more tightly regulated livery service. 

But from there, the picture becomes less clear.


Transit Service Shrinking? Get Ready for the Rise of the Dollar Van.

Dollar Van Demos, the unlikely union of transportation needs and musical dreams that has entranced New York bloggers, is giving private transit operators in Brooklyn and Queens some of the best press they've ever received. But that isn't the only reason it's worth taking a fresh look at dollar vans. If the state legislature can't avert the MTA's doomsday scenario, the vans may soon see a surge in ridership -- perhaps big enough to launch a few recording careers.

Dollar vans are the unmarked and often unregulated 15-passenger vehicles that cruise Flatbush and Utica Avenues in Brooklyn, Jamaica Avenue in Queens, and other outer-borough thoroughfares picking up bus passengers and commuters. Service cuts and fare hikes would make their routes increasingly attractive to transit riders.

While that's a convenient fail-safe for residents of the transit-poor neighborhoods that dollar vans serve, it's problematic for the MTA and potentially dangerous for passengers.

It stands to reason that many dollar van trips (now priced at $1.50 or $2.00) would be New York City Transit trips if riders were satisfied with the level of service provided by area buses, so some trips lost to dollar vans not only represent dissatisfied transit customers, but also lost fare-box revenue at a time when the MTA needs every cent.

Furthermore, because many dollar vans are unlicensed and unregulated, and thus uninsured to operate as livery vehicles, passengers can expect little recourse in the event of a crash and little consistency from van to van and driver to driver.