LOWER MANHATTAN — A new City Council bill is trying to curtail the number of sightseeing tour buses allowed to roll through city streets — buses that many complain add to the city's congestion and pollution.
The legislation, sponsored by Councilwoman Margaret Chin, and co-authored by Manhattan Borough president Gail Brewer, is calling for a limit to the number of double-decker buses that cart tourists around the city.
The bill is meant to "address the growing problem of double-decker buses clogging narrow and congested streets in my district and across the city," said Chin, who represents Lower Manhattan, along with Chinatown, the Lower East Side, SoHo and Greenwich Village — areas many residents gripe can be especially jammed with tour buses.
The legislation would put the brakes on additional buses by capping the number of license plates the Department of Consumer Affairs could issue to sightseeing bus tour operators. Chin and Brewer want to limit the number of active tour bus licenses to 225 — currently, there is no limit.
According to Chin's office, there are presently 229 licensed tour buses in the city, with nine sightseeing bus licenses pending. The number of double-decker buses has ballooned over the past 10 years — in 2003, there were just 54, Chin's office said.
The goal of the bill is not to stifle the tourist industry, Chin's office said, but to ensure the buses don't become an overgrown problem for city residents. In September 2014, there were upwards of 299 registered tour buses in the city.
"Often nearly-empty of tourists, these buses serve as rolling billboards for an audience of New Yorkers who are negatively affected by the noise, negative air quality and congestion these buses create," Chin said in a statement. "Our legislation seeks to institute a better balance between accommodating tourism and ensuring the safety and well being of residents in neighborhoods throughout the city."
Councilman Corey Johnson, who represents Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen, another area popular with tour buses, also lent his support to the bill.
Residents in especially tourist-heavy neighborhoods have long complained that along with congestion on narrow streets, the buses bring noise, as well as pollution.
Requests for comment from several tour bus companies operating in the city were not immediately returned.