Let's take a hard look at the real record.
Today, we face the systematic mismanagement, a lack of foresight and a fundamental misunderstanding by a public authority- the MTA- of its responsibilities to provide equal service to all of its citizens, not just those who can rely solely on subways or rail.
Options include the use of $130 million in stimulus money allocated by the Federal Government; the “pay-as -you-go” millions given by the City Council; and the several other options offered by the State legislature which would have directed hundreds of millions of dollars for the agency.
Incomprehensibly and unacceptably, MTA chairman Jay Walder continually states that if given these monies he would not use them to restore service but to reduce its own self-inflicted capital budget gap.
Those who advocate the unsafe, unreliable and often illegal vans- including some misguided Queens politicians who have for some reason bought into the Mayor 'dollar van' concept- act as enablers of the MTA screw-the-public approach to transit.
They fail to recognize or remain ignorant of how the commuter van industry continues to operate inherently unregulated, unreliably and unsafe with no guidelines. Don't take my word as gospel; travel to any location outside Manhattan, where thousands of these vehicles operate around the law and see it for yourself.
The vans operate out of control and beyond reasonable enforcement. They fail to provide the safe professional trained and certified service the public gets when they ride NYCTA bused operated and maintained in Queens (and Staten Island) by the ATU (TWU Local 100 members serve Brooklyn, Manhattan and The Bronx).
Equally as important, these vans provide no access or service to the majority of the riding public. These vans offer no accessibility to the disabled- a requirement and obligation for NYCTA buses. Vans negate the million of dollar in subsides budgeted to restore school passes as vans deny free MetroCard access to students and seniors alike unless they pay full fare.
These vans not only recreate the two-fare zone- an unfair tax Queens residents suffered for decades, but impose two-fare bus zones as riders can not get free transfers from vans to buses or vice-versa. Moreover, until City Hall's latest van scheme, these same vans were considered illegal, unsafe and continuously issued summons by the NYPD.
Public transportation is not a luxury. It is the MTA's responsibility to provide a service, equally, to all its citizens. Therefore the only reasonable action to be taken towards this misguided notion is to abandon the idea of commuter vans and for our elected officials to force the MTA to excise its options and restore the bus service to the people.
I. Daneek Miller
President/ Business Agent
ATU Local 1056