HELL'S KITCHEN — Discount carrier Megabus will soon be picking up passengers from the Port Authority Bus Terminal — but it won't have to pay a cent to be there.
That's a far cry from the $10 million that three of the company's competitors say they have to fork over every year to operate out of the Midtown depot.
Megabus' new pickup spot is on the south side of West 41st Street, between Eighth and Ninth avenues, which is straddled by the bus station. But because it's a city street, the company won't have to pay to be there, according to city Department of Transportation policy.
The new stop is outside the terminal because the company's double-decker coaches — which a recent report said are too heavy for city streets — can't fit in the station itself.
Megabus' rivals slammed the move in a Feb. 5 letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"By issuing the proposed permit for no charge, New York City would be providing an unfair competitive advantage to Megabus while decreasing revenue to the Port Authority," read the letter from the Coalition of Port Authority Carriers, which includes Adirondack Trailways, Greyhound, and Peter Pan.
"We ask for a level ground to compete rather than having the city show preference to one business over another."
A spokesman for the DOT said it met with the Port Authority numerous times about the stop. The location is away from businesses and homes and sees few pedestrians, he said.
The department doesn't charge for a permit, but can revoke it if it finds out Megabus is breaking the rules it sets out, the spokesman added.
The city has been hesitant to charge bus companies for curbside pickup because it lacks authority to regulate interstate commerce. A bill currently making the rounds in Albany would give the city the power to regulate the industry.
Megabus currently pays fees to local governments to provide curbside pickups in other cities, but did not have to pay the city to operate out of its old hub, at West 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue. Rivals say the plum spot next to the Port Authority gives Megabus all the benefits of being located in the bus hub.
"Nobody's charged for those pickups and we have objected to that for a long time," said Christine Berthet, who runs the Clinton Hell's Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety.
"The other people are playing by the rules and they are not."