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City seeks ‘dollar vans’ to operate on dead MTA routes

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The city wants dollar vans to fill a huge gap in Brownstone Brooklyn bus service that was created by MTA service cuts last month.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission quietly approved the privatization initiative that will allow livery vans to operate along bus routes eliminated by the cash-strapped state agency — including the B71 route that once journeyed from Columbia Street through tony Carroll Gardens and Park Slope on its way to Crown Heights.

Williamsburg’s former B39 line, which was popular with seniors and the handicapped because it went over the Williamsburg Bridge, is also included in the initiative.

Under the plan, the vans will only be allowed to pick up passengers at specified locations — but drop-offs can be at locations negotiated by the driver and commuter.

Where the rubber hits the road, not everyone is getting on board. The proposal is likely to be lambasted in neighborhoods such as Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, where the so-called “dollar vans” have not traditionally operated.

As such, civic leaders in those neighborhoods expressed fear and loathing.

“Oh my god, it’s insane!” said Maria Pagano, president of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association. “You’ll have guys dive-bombing in and out on Union Street between school buses.”

Roy Sloane, president of the Cobble Hill Association, added that the “public-private partnership” leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

“The government should be providing essential services that don’t necessarily make a profit,” he said. “The government and this administration seems to be keen on privatizing all the services that [they] used to provide.”

Even Michael Cairl, the president of the Park Slope Civic Council who was initially open to the idea, saw stepped-up van shuttles as the beginning of the end of public transportation.

“This is the beginning of a pared-down transit system, and that’s unfortunate,” he said.

The city insisted that it is not looking to privatize mass transit.

“The best outcome is a robust, healthy MTA that can provide bus service everywhere it is needed,” said David Yassky, commissioner of the Taxi and Limousine Commission. “Since we don’t have that at the moment, all we can try to do is give commuters the best set of options we can — we are not replacing the MTA.”

And van operators may not be interested in replacing the transit agency either.

“They are trying to use us, but there is nothing in it for us,” said Winston Williams, owner of Blackstreet Van Lines. “I think they’re full of it.”

Williams said the program will have too many restrictions to make it profitable, particularly the inability to pick up passengers where the driver sees fit.

Yassky insisted van companies would have plenty of reasons to participate in the program.

“Their incentive is that if they can make money transporting people, they will do it. Our market research tell us that there are providers willing and eager to serve the market.”

The buses will be able to transport up to 20 passengers, each paying a flat $2 fare — a quarter less than a city bus ride. Interestingly, the MTA applauded the assistance.

“The MTA welcomes the city’s independent efforts to promote livery van service in areas where funding is insufficient to support public transporta­tion,” spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.

Updated 5:19 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

j mork from p hts says:
"a quarter less than a city bus ride"

Unless you have an unlimited metrocard, in which case it's $2 more.
July 28, 2010, 9:11 am
x from x says:
Williamsburg bridge, not Manhattan bridge.
July 28, 2010, 9:19 am
Joey from Clinton Hill says:
c'mon city, which is it? everyone knows that dollar vans and bicycles don't mix.
July 28, 2010, 9:44 am
Dollar Van Demos from Flatbush says:
Dollar vans keep the money in the community rather than the funds being sent up state and the community gets dwindling service for a higher price in return. Or a needless stadium for billionaires.
July 28, 2010, 1:16 pm
J from KWT says:
Dollar vans are miserably unsafe -- terrible drivers, terrible double-parkers. To encourage their use is a peril to bikers, pedestrians, and other drivers. What a fiasco. The city should be cracking down on them much more, i.e., tickets for their multitude of driving and parking violations, rather than doing anything to perpetuate them further. What a joke.
July 28, 2010, 1:58 pm
Anne from Cobble Hill. says:
I'd love to see dollar vans on Union Street. I need a ride to my sister's place!
July 28, 2010, 3:53 pm
jooltman from Park Slope says:
Anyone who thinks the dollar vans provide a viable option to public transportation should talk to the 78th Precinct who can't keep up with ticketing them for their numerous traffic violations, including but not limited to running red lights, blocking intersections, using bike lanes as private van lanes, and failure to yield to pedestrians. This is a disaster waiting to happen.
July 28, 2010, 4:36 pm
Evan from Sunset says:
Do the dollar vans are ADA compliant.... I dont think so. King Bloomberg, making stupid decisions that people who voted for him.
July 28, 2010, 9:41 pm
BevD from RedHOOK/Carroll Gdns says:
HOW SHAMEFUL HAS OUR CITY GOTTEN- THAT THEY CAN NOW DECIDE TO SEEK DOLLAR VANS- jeopardize our lives-YES- WE THE PUBLIC LIVES TO TAKE TRANSPORTATION- THAT WE NEED TO DO- THAT IS TO GO OUT TO BUSINESS-TO EARN MONEY-TO PAY BILLS- TO STUDENTS WHO NEED TO TAKE TRANSPORTATION TO GO TO THEIR MUSEUMS OR THE BOTANICAL GARDEN- SENIORS- WHO NEED TO TAKE METRO- B71- TO GET TO THEIR DOCTORS WHO ARE IN PARK SLOPE- SHOPPING- RECREATION REASONS TO VISIT THEIR SENIOR CENTERS, TOURING.
THIS IS NONSENSE- ITS A JOKE- WE WILL WAKE UP TO THIS FANTASY. WAKE UP- CITY-
WE WILL DROP OUT- PICKET- RALLY- WE WILL SIT BACK - THERE WILL BE NO ONE TAKING YOUR ONE DOLLAR OR YOUR SUBSTITUTE BUSES.
July 28, 2010, 11:08 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
lets see, the TLC asks vans that it regulates to replace low traveled routes on routes that the MTA has abandoned and people complain. Yes the city provides ADA compliant rides to all on access-a-ride. The TLC regulates both the drivers and owners of the dollar vans(including insurance).

So lets see do you want your taxes raised to provide more money to the MTA? didn't think so.BTW the dollar vans cost $2.00
July 29, 2010, 10:55 am
Steven Rosenberg from Park Slope says:
Like, I might let anyone I care about on one of those things. Sure, if you want to introduce a legit private van industry, great, but the current incarnation? NO WAY.
July 29, 2010, 12:04 pm
Anne says:
Ugh. You people are so tiresome. I loved the b71 but every time I rode it, I was like the only person on there. What a waste. Dollar vans are a great solution. We don't need a whole freaking bus to schlep three people to the library.
July 29, 2010, 4:34 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
don't include me with "you people" I agree with you. Hey Steve you want to discuss whether people think the MTA is a legit industry. In many cases the Dollar Vans are owner drivers and very legit.
July 29, 2010, 4:57 pm
dollar bill from bay ridge says:
Dollar vans are a great ride!! For $2 you get to your destination, while the driver pisses off a dozen bike douches.
July 29, 2010, 11:22 pm
janet from carroll gardens says:
Any update since Jul 28. We are trying to plan back to school transportation and were counting on the B71. Alas Dollar Van may be the only alternative, my kid can't cross 3rd and 4th Ave wlaking or on a bike.
Aug. 23, 2010, 12:08 pm

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