Mayor Bloomberg recently announced a plan to facilitate livery group-ride van services to help the many thousands of New Yorkers scrambling to replace lost commuting options. The idea is a simple one: Passengers will pay $2 per shared ride — about the same as the bus and subway — and the communities hardest hit by transit cuts will be the first to receive the service.
The commuter vans that have served parts of Brooklyn and Queens over the years inspired the plan’s foundation, but there are several important differences, among them the fact that the vans will pick up and drop off riders at fixed stops, rather than roaming freely as the vans now often do. The vans will also be required to carry adequate insurance and be driven by specially certified drivers, also in contrast with troublesome unlicensed vans.
At the center of the decision to create this plan is the fact that the MTA’s service cuts have left us with two choices: do nothing, or take action to provide assistance to thousands of New Yorkers. Mayor Bloomberg has made it abundantly clear that doing nothing is simply not an option, so we are taking action.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission’s Board of Commissioners recently approved this as a “pilot program” in which we’ll try out the concept in 10 locations around the city initially, expanding it to others if it succeeds. The following routes cut by the MTA will be included in the program, providing a needed service for thousands of daily commuters:
• Former B23: Borough Park, Kensington, Flatbush
• Former B71: Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Prospect Heights
• Former B39: Williamsburg, Manhattan
The vans, which will hold between six and 20 passengers, will be clearly marked for easy identification. Pick-up and drop-off locations will be marked with signs from the Department of Transportation. In order to maximize convenience for passengers, drop-offs can occur either at the fixed stops or at other locations negotiated with drivers. Those concerned about unlicensed “rogue” vans will be pleased to know that this effort will be accompanied by a strict enforcement plan coordinated jointly by the Taxi and Limousine Commission and the NYPD.
With this program, van service will be brought closer than ever before to the real and practical demands of the communities they serve. We anticipate the service being available to the public on or around Aug. 16, 2010. The bottom line is this: while we’d all prefer an MTA that provides us with all of the service we need and want, it’s simply not today’s reality.
What is reality is the city’s desire to help people with a new way of getting from point “A” to point “B.” Let’s face it, the need for this service is very real, but so is the city’s determination to make it a success.
David Yassky is commissioner and chair of the city Taxi and Limousine Commission.