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Pressure Mounts to Boot Buses from Midtown Corner

By Jill Colvin | July 11, 2011 7:55am | Updated on July 11, 2011 7:56am
BoltBus offers low-cost bus travel around the Northeast.
BoltBus offers low-cost bus travel around the Northeast.
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DNAinfo/Gabriela Resto-Montero

MIDTOWN — Police and business leaders want a constant stream of inter-city buses moved off one of Midtown’s most congested blocks.

For more than a year, store owners along West 33rd Street, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, have been pleading with the city to limit the number of buses loading on the stretch.

It's not unusual to see two or three orange and black BoltBus vehicles on the block at a time, with dozens of passenger and their suitcase crowding the sidewalk, blocking business entrances and making it nearly impossible for pedestrians to pass.

Now pressure to have them moved is mounting.

"We have been raising hell with the Department of Transportation over this," said Daniel Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership which threatened to sue the city, state and bus companies to figure out a solution.

Biederman said the buses have been disastrous for Midtown businesses.

“It is killing our neighborhood,” he said, “We see no reason any of these buses should have the right to turn 34th Street into a bus depot."

Police in the neighborhood agree the situation is out of control. They are especially concerned about the safety of pedestrians who are forced to walk into the street, often between buses, to avoid the crowds.

"It's disastrous," said Inspector Dennis DeQuatro, commanding officer of the Midtown South Precinct, who told members of the precinct’s Community Council last month that he had personally reached out to the city's Department of Transportation to ask them to find a way to limit buses on the stretch.

As the law currently stands, after the city grants an operator permission for a stop, they can't control how many buses come through, he said.

"It's extremely, extremely difficult," he said.

According to a DOT spokeswoman, Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is aware of the situation and willing to examine potential alternative sites. She also said the agency recently spoke with BoltBus and reiterated its expectation that only one bus should be stopping in the spot at a time.

But BoltBus spokesman Timothy Stokes said that, nearly a month later, the company has yet to have been contacted by the city regarding the stop. Still, he acknowledged the concern.

"We do agree, with the addition of other curbside carriers at this location, it can become quite congested,” he said in a statement, adding that the company is “consistently working with the city to find a more convenient and curbside friendly location.”

The same corner is also used by other companies, including DC2NY and an airport shuttle.

"At this time we continue to actively search and suggest new locations for our BoltBus service within the city,” said Stokes.

Of course, booting the buses from West 33rd Street would mean moving the problem elsewhere at a time when some members of Community Board 5 are pushing for a moratorium on new stops in the district.

Several possibilities have been raised, including moving the stop further west. DeQuatro said he thinks the city should look to what MegaBus has done on Ninth Avenue, where passengers now cue in a parking lot instead of on the sidewalk .

"It's almost like a perfect system," he said, adding that Tenth Avenue is "equally as ideal."

In the meantime, business owners along the stretch say the situations is only getting worse.

Noelle Mooney, the owner of Stout NYC and Feile, two neighboring upscale Irish pubs on the block, said her top concerns used to be the wall of buses obstructing her storefront and the annoyance of having to push through the crowds on her way to and from work.

But now she said she’s terrified about what might happen to pedestrians on the road.

"It’s getting just beyond ridiculous at this point," she said. “Somebody’s going to get killed.”

Elizabeth Nelis, 29, a manager at Stout for the past four and a half years, agreed.

“One day there’s going to be a terrible accident," she said.

“Somebody’s going to get hit and then somebody’s going to say, ‘Oh no. Why didn’t we do anything about it?”’