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Megabus Gets Three Month Reprieve for Port Authority Stop, Judge Rules

By Mathew Katz | February 20, 2012 12:11pm
Passengers load onto a bus at the new Megabus hub at Port Authority Bus Terminal on Feb 16, 2012.
Passengers load onto a bus at the new Megabus hub at Port Authority Bus Terminal on Feb 16, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

HELL'S KITCHEN — Megabus will be able to load passengers from a controversial new stop at the Port Authority until at least April, a judge has ruled.

The decision comes after a coalition of bus companies operating out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal sued the city's Department of Transportation for giving Megabus the stop for no charge, even though two of those companies had requested a stop in the same area and were turned down, according to court documents.

Megabus will be able to carry out a three-month trial period at the hub, according to a ruling by State Supreme Court Justice Eileen Rakower.

The stop on West 41st Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, which Megabus started using last Wednesday, was allowed to remain because many passengers are already using it,  and because the DOT was able to successfully counter many of the complaints against it.

The bus company's competitors — Greyhound, Peter Pan Bus Lines and Adirondack Transit Lines — accused the city of creating a non-competitive environment by giving Megabus the stop for free.

The three companies claim to pay a cambined $10 million a year to use their Port Authority stops.

They also said the Megabus stop lacked proper access for disabled people and that it would cause excess congestion for companies already operating out of the Port Authority.

The stop, under an overhang that connects two halves of the Port Authority building, blocks off a lane of traffic when the buses are loading riders.

But in a sworn affidavit, the DOT's Manhattan Commissioner, Margaret Forgione, wrote that up until Megabus was using the new stop, it was a construction staging area for the Port Authority.

"There has been no change in the number of lanes to be used by vehicles traveling on West 41st Street," she wrote. "Specifically, the one lane of traffic will remain."

According to Forgione, in July BoltBus, a discount carrier co-owned by Greyhound and Peter Pan, requested a free curbside stop in the same area — across West 41st Street from the new Megabus stop.

Megabus made similar requests in 2010 and 2011.  The DOT denied both because that side of the street is used for shuttle buses taking passengers to the city's airports.

Forgione also wrote that the DOT's Highway Design and Construction Unit determined the site fully accessible, with seven feet of space between buses and a barrier to the street.

Megabus reacted positively to the news, which allowed them to continue operating over the busy President's Day Weekend.

“We have worked closely with the City to begin successful operations this week at the 41st Street site and it is already both convenient and popular with our customers, while also minimizing any impact on the surrounding neighborhood," said Thomas Lewis, the company's executive vice president, in a statement.

But Forgione confirmed that the DOT is now investigating claims that the company's double-decker buses are too heavy for city streets. The buses were weighed by New York State Police, and turned out to be about 4,000 pounds heavier than the legal limit for buses.

On Thursday, the company was seen still loading both floors of their buses with enough people to put them over that weight limit.

Megabus, its competitors, and the DOT will have to meet again in court in April, after the three-month trial of the new stop is complete.