The city’s new van plan got off to a bumpy start — at least for us — as your friends at this paper waited more than two hours for a new, city-sanctioned dollar van to pick us up at a designated spot.
The experience kind of had us harking back to those halcyon days when we waited hours for a city bus.
On Monday afternoon between 2:30 and 4:30, my photographer and I sat at Cortelyou Road and Flatbush Avenue — a stop officially designated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission to be part of its pilot program to replace MTA service along the now-defunct B23 bus with commuter vans — without a single Department of Transportation-approved vehicle passing by. The service was so bad, we even had a chance to hail two yellow taxies which miraculously passed us by while we waited.
A trip on the 20-passenger vans, which operate from 6 am to 10 pm, would have cost us $2.00 a ride, and are supposed to run every 30 minutes.
Signs are posted near former bus stops along the old route alerting passengers where to hop a ride.
But former B23 customers we talked to had no clue about the new service, and groused about the details once they heard them.
“There’s no transfer to get on the train after the bus — you pay here, you pay there, it costs you!” said Angelo Piccorelli, owner of a Cortelyou Road pizza shop. “Bring back the bus!”
Area resident Ismael McCoy said he saw vans earlier in the day — about one an hour. “Some just drive right by, and the drivers are very nasty,” he said.
The city awarded Sunset Park-based Sunset Service Transportation with the route, but the company does not have a customer service number, and was not reachable at press time.
The agency insisted it was simply the first day of what it anticipates will be a successful program.
“In some cases [service] has been spot on, and in some cases, it has been more sporadic,” said agency spokesman Allan Fromberg. “We remain confident and optimistic that ultimately, this will provide the service, toward the goal of providing additional transportation options in the absence of the MTA.”
He said the city would give Sunset Service all the time it needs to get up and running.
“The drivers need practice, simply getting used to where the stops are,” Fromberg said. “We are going to give them every chance to succeed.”
Area legends such as Sammy Medard — the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Flatbush Avenue” — said the city should step up its advertising campaign, as bus riders have already settled on alternative means of transportation since the B23 was taken out of commission in June.
“If no one knows what’s going on, it makes no sense,” he said.
After a 10-minute wait at the new stop, former B23 rider George Morales gave up.
“I still want to know why they took the B23 out of service — we need it,” said George Morales. “Now I have to walk.”
Van service on the other two borough routes included in the plan — Williamsburg’s former B39 line, which journeyed into Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge, began Sept. 20, and the B71, which rumbled through Carroll Gardens and Park Slope on its way to Crown Heights and the B23, will start Sept. 27. Route information is available online at http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/passenger/group_ride_vehicles.shtml.