‘Uber of buses’ planning W’Burg stop

German intercity bus company FlixBus wants to set up shop in Williamsburg.
FlixMobility

A cut-rate shuttle company that offers service to a handful of East Coast metropolises wants to take on passengers in Williamsburg, thereby saving Kings County travelers the hassle of traveling to Manhattan to catch a bus, a spokesman told a local civic panel Tuesday.

“We see a demand within the neighborhood and neighborhoods immediately surrounding Williamsburg to have intercity bus service, instead of having to travel to Midtown or Chinatown — it’s just easier,” Judd Krasher, government affairs manager at FlixBus, said at Community Board 1’s full monthly meeting.

A German-based transit purveyor, Flixbus offer trips to cities including Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. for as little as $4.99, while also boasting routes that ferry passengers to more distant locales, including the West and Gulf coasts.

Unlike Greyhound, or Megabus, Flixbus doesn’t own or operate its buses, but contracts local firms, who then slap the company’s green and orange paint onto their fleet.

Meanwhile, the organization manages on online storefront in the form of a mobile app, while also handling the marketing, network planning, and customer service, according to the Krasher.

The company came to the Williamsburg community board seeking an endorse for their application to the Department of Transportation for a curbside permit, but one member raised concerns that the company’s unique business model would disenfranchise the little guy. 

“This sounds like the Uber of buses,” said Tom Burrows. “What about the big bus companies that are already here. Are they all going to start showing up here and get on the bandwagon.”

Another civic guru worried that the buses would overburden the area’s clogged streets and impede first responders.

“Forget about just traffic for people to move about who live in the community, but as somebody who works with the NYPD I know that emergency response cars are having trouble so you’re then adding to that,” said Dana Rachlin. “I’m just worried about infrastructure.”

Krasher said that the company puts each partnering company through its own training program, and provides insurance so that they don’t compromise safety, or dodge liability.

“We have our own insurance that along with our bus partners our bus companies and those are very much linked,” he said. “So if god forbid there was something that went wrong we do not absolve ourselves of the responsibility if it was damaged or an injury or something like that — no we don’t do that.”

He added that FlixBus would not stand in the way of any company wishing to unionize.

“We don’t have any union requirements when it comes to our bus partners,” he said. “If a particular company wants to unionize that we work with, we don’t stand in the way of that, that is their prerogative.”

The transit company will work with the community board,  Councilman Stephen Levin, and the transportation officials to find a suitable location for its bus stop, before submitting their application to the city sometime in the next two to three months.

“Our intent is to not pick a point on a map… and invade a neighborhood, that is not what we’re looking to do at all,” he said.

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