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Pols Call on State to Enforce Rules Against Megabus

By Mathew Katz | March 14, 2012 4:41pm
Passengers crowd the sidewalk at the Megabus stop at West 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue on Dec. 20, 2011.
Passengers crowd the sidewalk at the Megabus stop at West 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue on Dec. 20, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

CHELSEA — A group of prominent Manhattan politicians have called upon state authorities to enforce weight limits against Megabus' fleet of double-decker vehicles, which several reports allege are heavier than the legal limit.

The letter to the New York State Department of Transportation cites a report commissioned by Adirondack Transit Lines, first reported on by DNAinfo, which found that a fully-loaded Megabus weighs 39,750 pounds — near 4000 more than city and state limits.

"Given the findings of the study, it very well may be that Megabus operates double-decker buses on New York City streets and the West Side Highway (New York State Route 9A) that violate federal, state and city traffic and vehicle laws," reads the letter, written March 8.

"We ask that NYSDOT monitor Megabus vehicles and ensure that they are complying with applicable weight limitation laws."

The letter, addressed to state DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald, was signed by State Senator Tom Duane, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

The city's Department of Transportation, which was copied on the letter, are currently in the middle of their own investigation into claims that the buses are overweight. The NYPD also received a copy of the letter.

A spokesman for Megabus said the discount carrier has been in contact with the elected officials, and that the Adirondack report should be taken with a grain of salt because it was commissioned by a competitor.

"We believe that our buses meet all safety requirements and we'll be communicating our point of view to the appropriate government authorities," said Megabus spokesman, George Lence.

The Adirondack report used information provided by the New York State Police, which weighed Megabus' double-decker Van Hool TD 925 buses. If, as the report claims, they are overweight when a full 81 passengers are on board, the buses could be damaging city streets, and could also prompt safety concerns.

The state DOT did not respond for comment regarding the letter.

Gottfried said that the ideal solution would be to ban both Megabus and competitor BoltBus from using curbside stops, which have prompted complaints from neighbors who say that they're noisy, messy, and block traffic.

"That would necessitate that Megabus and BoltBus use smaller buses, to fit in the [Port Authority Bus Terminal]," he said.

Both carriers are given the curbside space for free, which allows them to charge as little as a dollar for a ticket.

The politicians are not alone in raising questions about Megabus' fleet. In September, the Quebec Transportation Commission shot down the company's request for a permit to operate a route between New York and Montreal because of their weight. In March 2010, a Maryland State Police Officer pulled over a Megabus double-decker and found it to be overweight.

Double-deckers intercity buses are still relatively new in North America, despite being used in Europe for decades.

Megabus recently moved many of its Manhattan pick-ups to a stop on West 41st Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, which is sandwiched between two sections of the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The carrier's competitors have sued the city, arguing that they pay millions of dollars to operate out of the terminal, and that the city's decision to give Megabus a free pickup zone creates a non-competitive environment.

A judge has allowed the company to stay near the Port Authority for a three-month trial period, and the case will return to court in April.