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Reject ‘Wal-Martization’ of transit

for The Brooklyn Paper
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For years, “dollar vans” have operated on the fringes of New York City’s transport system, picking up passengers primarily during rush hours when our buses were filled to capacity. In the 1980s and ’90s, scandals involving unlicensed and uninsured dollar van operators created a public backlash, resulting in the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s licensing crackdown. But even if licensed, “dollar vans” are not a solution to the city’s expanding need for more bus and subway service.

The Bloomberg scheme would create an unsafe, unregulated shadow transit system, undermining New York City Transit and the MTA. It’s a tremendous mistake and an affront to every transit worker in the city. Most important, it’s clearly against the will of the people: every rider wants a clean, air-conditioned city bus rather than a seat in an unregulated dollar van.

“Dollar vans,” which actually cost $2 — that’s more than the cost of a ride on New York City Transit for a transfer fare, for the purchaser of an unlimited pass, or for a senior citizen — are a backdoor way to cut bus service and justify the firing of city bus operators and mechanics. They run counter to the city’s stated intention to develop a 21st century transport system.

These unregulated vans exist in tandem with the city’s transport system, cherry-picking passengers on highly trafficked routes. They’re not likely to cover low-traffic areas where the MTA is cutting service because they won’t profit from those routes.

The “dollar van” doesn’t accommodate the disabled who use wheelchairs or have the ability to “kneel” to make it easier for a senior citizen to climb on board. A “dollar van” will not pick up an elderly person with a cane, because these operators make money by moving fast, and these passengers take up time and, from their point of view, waste money.

New York City Transit’s bus service is one of the great success stories of our city. It is clean, safe, efficient and, when properly funded, frequent. Mayor Bloomberg is cloaking a union-busting agenda in the sheep’s clothing of economic empowerment for van operators. It’s a smokescreen that New Yorkers should see through — and instead insist on more bus service. They should reject a cut-rate, “Wal-Mart” transit system that will lower safety, comfort and environmentally friendly standards.

John Samuelsen is president of TWU Local 100.

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Reader Feedback

Steven Rosenberg from Park Slope says:
Yes, Mr. Samuelsen, only transportation services that don't reduce your power to extract cushy contracts, and soak taxpayers are legit.

If safety and insurance issues can be worked out, BRING IT. If the proposed services resemble the current "dollar vans," that scare the hell out of me, and resemble vehicles making drug runs, DON'T BRING IT.
Aug. 5, 2010, 9:01 am
Scottilla from Midwood says:
The MTA has just cut back service, no doubt sending more customers to the vans. The way to attract them back is with MORE service.

Or am I missing something?
Aug. 5, 2010, 1:38 pm
Eddie from Canarsie says:
As a Motor Vehicle Operator in NYC for over 23yrs "Dollar Vans" have been by far the most dangerous. I drive alot in Queens where "Dollar Vans" run rampid. They drive disregarding the pedestrians as well as other motorists. BTW they are regulated in Queens. They are NOT the answer! The answer is overhauling the MTA & regulating it. Treating those at the top of the MTA who are stealing and mismanaging MTA funds on the backs of the poor & middle class like Rupert Murdoch!
Aug. 5, 2010, 1:52 pm
Chris from East Village says:
Of course, Samuelsen refuses to acknowledge the fact that it's his very own union's unreasonable demands that forced the MTA to cut back service in the first place.
Aug. 6, 2010, 9:48 am
Steve from Brooklyn says:
Maybe if the TWU had foregone raises for several years like much of the private sector, those bus drivers would not be out of work.

Maybe if the TWU had thrown its political weight behind congestion pricing, those bus drivers would not be out of work.

Unfortunately, the unwillingness of the union to make concessions to improve the long term health of the transit system and state government's refusal to make transit funding a priority means that New Yorkers without cars are going to be getting more of the same for a long time to come.
Aug. 6, 2010, 11:30 am
Johnny from Brooklyn says:
Wait, isn't the TWU starting up its own dollar van service? You can't have it both ways, Mr. Samuelsen.

Perhaps if TWU employees didn't have retirement & health benefits that are far, far out of line with the private sector, the MTA wouldn't have had to cut those routes.
Aug. 11, 2010, 9:04 am
Nick from Canarsie says:
Get real Steve,Jhonny,and Chris Transit workers did not rip off wall street and while you are blaming working Class Stiff who is struggling to survive ,Please joint me and ask every gas station to freeze the price of gas ,also all the stores that sell food to do the same and while we are at it, all the colleges must not raise their fees and for good measure all doctors and insurance and then your suggestion would be match by transit workers
GOOD LUCK
Aug. 24, 2010, 12:06 pm
Harlem from Bx says:
I would ask Mr. Samulesen with so much passion and energy that is being used now, where was this passion and energy and actual compromise being offered when I was laid off on May 7th? That was the day all staion agents were laid off. Now as a former employee the pay was great but I would have rathered renegoitiate pay in order for job security. In normal city unions things like this may go to it's members to vote on. Not TWU they called the MTA's bluff but they weren't bluffing. Most private sector employees believe the grass is greener but they wouldn't last 6 months between the passengers and working conditions. Nevermind that the life expectancy of a Station Agent is 55-60. In other words with the current pension after you retire at 55 you die between months and 5 years tops.
Aug. 25, 2010, 1:56 am

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