Queens private buses fail to meet NYC standards

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City Department of Transportation inspectors have cited Queens’ private bus companies for not meeting city performance standards, issuing low marks in particular for their failure to arrive on-time or to announce stops along their routes.

The DOT’s Division of Surface Transit report for the final three months of last year acknowledged, however, that most of the bus lines had gotten cleaner and had fewer breakdowns.

The companies, some of which also serve parts of Brooklyn, include Green Bus Lines, Jamaica Buses Inc., Triboro Coach Corp., Queens Surface Corp. and Command Bus Co. The DOT provides those lines, along with Liberty Lines Express and New York Bus Tours, with nearly $140 million in annual subsidies.

The seven lines serve nearly 400,000 passengers daily, many of them in areas of eastern Queens sparsely served by subway lines.

Some politicians have long urged that the more than 90 routes served by the private companies be opened to competitive bids, a move that was scheduled to take place nearly a decade ago.

For the entire year 2000, the most serious failure in living up to Department of Transportation standards was the lack of announcements by bus drivers. Then came on-time performance standards, which all of the five bus companies flunked in the first and final quarters of last year. A bus must leave or arrive within five minutes of its schedule 95 percent of the time to meet such standards.

In the final quarter of 2000, all the lines except Queens Surface failed when it came to curbside service, meaning that the driver pulls up to within a foot of the curb when discharging and taking on passengers.

Queens passengers who ride the private lines have long complained about jam-packed buses. The DOT said part of the reason for such crowding may be that the numbers of passengers on the private lines had gone up by nearly 30 percent since Transit Authority put the MetroCard into service.

The Department of Transportation withheld a total of more than $650,000 from the private buses companies in 1998 and 1999 as a penalty for the their failure to meet some of the agency's performance standards. No money was held back last year.

The franchised bus companies are judged by inspectors in 19 classifications, such as reliability of radios and signage, to wheelchair lift reliability and cleanliness.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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