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Deucey

Should MTA Bus be demerged?

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So sometime around 2005, the City took over the private bus companies and the (MTA) obtained the operating franchise.

While I don’t understand “why” - since I was just a tourist then and not a resident, it does seem like service has gotten worse since (MTA) has a finite amount of money and operates based on what we out West call “cherrypicking” (cutting back less profitable but necessary service for reallocation to more profitable or efficient service). And notwithstanding the Great Recession, once everything was under the (MTA) brand, it couldn’t afford to maintain the same service levels.

So should buses go back to being franchised out to private companies instead of being all unified under (MTA)?

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Posted (edited)

The quick answer I have is NO.

Hindsight being 20/20, the Bronx Express Buses should've been left out of the MTAB takeover. NYBS and Liberty Lines were well run operations. Most of the commuters had good things to say about the bus service. As for the QM's, well, some were better than others. QSC, for one, had good service for some routes (especially some of the express bus routes), but less so on the local routes. The takeover was done as a way to have the bus services under public control, without payouts to a private organization which were watched over by (I believe) the NYCDOT and whatever replaced the old Board of Estimate.

When the takeover took place in 2005, the College Point Depot routes received new MCIs (yay back then - I remember the new bus smell), and a more or less consistent method of scheduling was put into effect. It was not perfect, but it seemed like an improvement.

Here is where I think MTAB went wrong - They should've kept certain things as they were (ie - letting drivers pick the best route for express buses during the non-stop part of the trip). They probably should've ask for, and taken input from the bus drivers themselves as they know more about the routes and passenger loads than many of these supposed 'traffic engineers' who probably don't use the bus service in the 'outer-boroughs'.

Now, we may all assume that, well, if the MTA can't handle the bus service, well, surely someone else can. But who? TransDev? Look at how their buses operate in Nassau County. I won't even take their buses. I'll drive, use the LIRR, Lyft, or walk. Also, who would perform the separation and oversight - a Cuomo or DiBlasio crony? God help us.

At this point, I think the best way forward is to keep MTAB in the drivers seat, but there should be an audit performed by the comptroller, in conjunction with those who know the system (I'm thinking of some drivers from back in the day who worked their way up - I can't mention names on this board, though) and perhaps they can come up with ways to improve the system (ie - lets make sure no graft is taking place, and lets make sure no wasteful habits are occurring). Improvements won't happen overnight, but it's worth a shot to improve the system we have.

Besides, if we think that franchises are the way to go, I can only think of Bieber Tourways in PA (they received govt funding and went belly up), or for that matter another franchised operation of sorts (see the link below for the closing of Hahnemann Univ. Hospital) for evidence of how paying a private operator to do something is not always best when there is little oversight of the operation, and the interests of the public are not the same as those of the operators (profit or non-profit).

https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Hahnemann-Hospital-Closing-511831882.html

Edited by Uncle Floyd Fan
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10 minutes ago, Uncle Floyd Fan said:

 

Now, we may all assume that, well, if the MTA can't handle the bus service, well, surely someone else can. But who? TransDev? Look at how their buses operate in Nassau County. I won't even take their buses. I'll drive, use the LIRR, Lyft, or walk.

Trans-Dev is actually doing a pretty good job with the amount of money they have. They are definitely more efficient than the MTA.

 

Speaking of private bus operators, NO to the old style of operation where the operators have no incentive to improve service due to guarenteed bonuses. But I still believe there are operators out there that could do a better job than the MTA, at least cost wise. Offer the private bus operators incentive to provide good service, and test it out.

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Posted (edited)

At this point, I think it's too late to re-privatize the MTA bus routes, and I wouldn't be too sure to trust whatever private operator(s) manage to pick up service. 

In the first initial years, the MTA actually managed to make multiple service improvements, both for local and express bus routes, contrary to today. Service on the private bus lines were not only infrequent, but unreliable, and not fully accessible. For a few years after the takeover, you still had some of that going on with MTA bus routes where you had to call  24 hours beforehand to get picked up. The service levels and reliability improved, more notably on the express bus routes. With the exception of the Bronx express routes, all the off-peak express bus routes running had either bare bones service (or in some cases nothing at all). They've been cutting trips since then at different rates (the Brooklyn express routes seeing the worst of the cuts). 

The local bus routes were improved overall, even if service today appears to be unreliable. Compare the service levels of routes like the Q53 and B103 fifteen years ago to that of today (or even five years ago). Although routes and service patterns were altered, the service levels have changed dramatically. 

I wouldn't do a partial privatization of either though, because should there be budget constraints, the privatized routes would end up seeing notable cuts in service (since NYCT routes cover more territory, and in some cases, duplicate part of the former PBL routes). This is almost certain if only the express bus routes were privatized, and express bus service in specific is already targeted more than it should be. If you had a responsible express bus operator (NYBS and Liberty Lines Express were decent PBLs), perhaps there would be incentive to bring more people onto the buses by advertising and stressing how terrible the subways are doing. However, I don't see most operators being able to do that, more or less just look at whatever numbers come in and make decisions from there.

Edited by BM5 via Woodhaven

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Nahh no way, the takeover was the best thing that could happen. I think the takeover made sense for unification purposes since just about every other route within the five boroughs was MTA operated. While things aren’t perfect, things are much better now that the MTA has taken over all the PBL routes. 
 

We have seen tons of improvements to service, such as new LTD service on Q6, Q25 and Q65. We have 3 select bus routes. There are routes like the Q53, B100 and some others that saw increased ridership due to more frequent being added The maintenance of JFK and LGA has improved a lot compared to when the were Green Lines and Triboro Coach. NYCT bus can even lend buses to MTA bus in for times of shortage or to fill in for service until an MTA bus order comes through like we saw in 2013 with the D60HF’s on the Q10 and the XD60’s on the Q52/Q53 now. Under the private bus lines, if they were short then that meant that there were missing runs especially if they couldn’t get that equipment from another PBL depot. Green Lines & Triboro has some of the oldest buses with a lot of them being over 20 years old right before take over. So you can imagine a lot of them being out of service for maintenance. Routes like the Q60 from what I remember was way more unreliable than what it is today. MTA bus routes also received Guide A Rides, and take advantage of BusTime. 
 

However I do notice that while operations and reliability has improved, I noticed that there are some areas that lack. I noticed that besides the express runs getting cut service on MTA local/LTD routes don’t get noticeable cuts or improves that make sense.

Like honestly I feel like the Q21 should have been cut all together. It’s just a supplementary route to the Q11 and to a lesser extent the Q41. The only reason why it’s still around today is because of its extension on Woodhaven Blvd. I feel like because the MTA didn’t properly adjust service on the Q11, Q53 and even QM15 thats why we have an over saturation of routes also running on Woodhaven.

The Q34 should have also been cut or had all its service cut below Roosevelt Ave. The Q25 is a mess at times and I think service would have benefitted more of current Q34 trips were either Q25 LTD’s during rush hour or just short turns between Flushing and Jamaica to hopefully reduce the gaps that tend to occur on the Q25. 
Then you have the Q19, and other routes like the QM3 that need more frequent service but are still stuck with this PBL style of service. The Q19 ridership has been growing but it’s still stuck with a measly 30 min frequency on the weekends. That doesn’t encourage ridership growth at all. 

 

 

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16 hours ago, FamousNYLover said:

No, and (MTA) need to take back Nassau County NICE Bus too.

 

Only if Nassau gets out of their cheap ways.

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18 hours ago, FamousNYLover said:

No, and (MTA) need to take back Nassau County NICE Bus too.

 

Nassau County fired (MTA) for asking to be paid.

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There are different ways to skin the privatization cat.

On the one hand, the way New York did it was pretty bad. If you weren't a frequent rider, it was confusing, and a lot of the bus companies were content to do whatever and take the check, not really motivated to do anything.

On the other hand, we do know it can be done. Most notably, Transport for London does not actually run any bus services, it just tenders them out. TfL specifies the routes and runtimes, and private companies provide the depots and buses, and there are incentive payments to meet higher than minimum reliability and service goals. There's unified branding and fares, and that's because Transport for London only pays for bus operations. However, the EU in general has a lot more experience and a whole industry around privately contracted transport; in New York you'd pretty much have to start that from scratch because there isn't a company you can just lease a New-York-sized bus fleet from, or even a borough-sized bus fleet.

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3 minutes ago, bobtehpanda said:

There are different ways to skin the privatization cat.

On the one hand, the way New York did it was pretty bad. If you weren't a frequent rider, it was confusing, and a lot of the bus companies were content to do whatever and take the check, not really motivated to do anything.

On the other hand, we do know it can be done. Most notably, Transport for London does not actually run any bus services, it just tenders them out. TfL specifies the routes and runtimes, and private companies provide the depots and buses, and there are incentive payments to meet higher than minimum reliability and service goals. There's unified branding and fares, and that's because Transport for London only pays for bus operations. However, the EU in general has a lot more experience and a whole industry around privately contracted transport; in New York you'd pretty much have to start that from scratch because there isn't a company you can just lease a New-York-sized bus fleet from, or even a borough-sized bus fleet.

Own the fleet, and tender out the operation to see which one is the most cost effective. Renew every five years or so. That’s what Nassau  did. It is also used in Las Vegas, Reno and some part of NJ Transit

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4 hours ago, Mtatransit said:

 

Own the fleet, and tender out the operation to see which one is the most cost effective. Renew every five years or so. That’s what Nassau  did. It is also used in Las Vegas, Reno and some part of NJ Transit

Not really, cuz instead of these comapnies having their routes and runtimes laid out, they can do whatever the hell they want.

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11 hours ago, WestFarms36 said:

Not really, cuz instead of these comapnies having their routes and runtimes laid out, they can do whatever the hell they want.

Saddle River's operation in NJ is the prime example of that.....when they got some of Community Coach's local routes, they beat NJT's NABIs into the ground to the point where they ran express buses on local routes. And people were complaining when they didn't get an express bus on their local route.

Since then, they lost the buses, and the local routes back to Community Coach.

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