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Megabus Kicked Out of Port Authority by City

By Mathew Katz | June 8, 2012 9:54am | Updated on June 8, 2012 2:55pm
Passengers crowd the sidewalk at a Megabus stop, Dec. 20, 2011.
Passengers crowd the sidewalk at a Megabus stop, Dec. 20, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

HELL'S KITCHEN — The Department of Transportation has decided not to renew a controversial permit allowing discount bus company Megabus from operating for free outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The decision comes after intense lobbying from Community Board 4, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Megabus' competitors who claimed it was unfair to give Megabus a free spot while they had to shell out millions to use the city's bus terminal.

Megabus has operated a stop on West 41st Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues since the beginning of the year. In May, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said her department would extend the permit, but the DOT now plans to relocate the carrier.

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

"After reviewing the temporary location and hearing feedback from the community and other stakeholders, we’ve started the process of working with Megabus to identify a new location where they can operate," said Seth Solomonow, a spokesman for the DOT.

"Megabus has agreed to this change and may continue to operate at its current location until July 31."

The move comes after Community Board 4 wrote a strongly-worded letter to the department slamming Megabus' operations at the location as improper and unsafe.

"Sidewalks are not bus terminals. They are scarce and valuable resources and should not be given gratis to certain private companies," the board wrote.

"This location is unfit for such use because of safety concerns that the operator has failed to mitigate as was required by the terms of his permit."

Megabus' competitors hailed the move as a victory, particularly after they spent months in court trying to get the DOT to force Megabus from the Port Authority location. A judge threw that lawsuit out in April.

"We are very pleased the DOT has discontinued the Megabus 41st Street permit," said Carolyn Daly, a spokeswoman for the Coalition of Port Authority Carriers, which represents Greyhound, Adirondack Transit Lines and Peter Pan Bus Lines.

"We strongly believe our elected leaders should now focus on policies and laws that respect the heritage and promote the intercity use of the PA bus terminal as established by Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia back in the 1930s to put the brakes on chaos and congestion throughout midtown Manhattan."

It was not immediately clear where Megabus would relocate to after July.

“We are surprised and disappointed with the DOT's decision and how it will affect the many thousands of New Yorkers and tourists who depend every day on the low cost and efficient bus service that Megabus provides," said George Lence, a spokesman for Megabus.

"We will continue to research and review all  our options. Our goal remains continued convenient service to the traveling public."

The Port Authority itself, which had previously said the stop was causing several safety problems, also applauded the decision.

“The Port Authority commends the City for recognizing the serious safety concerns we raised regarding the operation of Megabus outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal,” said Executive Director Pat Foye.

“A major long-haul bus company, operating on a city street outside one of the busiest bus facilities in the world, posed an undue risk to the thousands of travelers who use the Port Authority Bus Terminal daily."

A bill currently working its way through Albany would require discount bus lines like Megabus and BoltBus to secure permits to use streetside stops.

Lobbyists for bus operators in the Port Authority Bus Terminal are hoping to convince lawmakers to include a provision that would bar such stops in the area around the bus station.