Last night at the Hudson Guild in Chelsea, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and a barrage of other city officials led a town hall meeting on the issue of charter and tour buses idling in the city?a frequent concern for residents of the Village and elsewhere. The night began tame with officials going over city plans for the fabled future Lower Manhattan bus garage and forcing tour buses to have their patrons wear headsets to prevent noise pollution.
The smackdown began when the locals hit the mic. Residents brought up a number of issues: air quality, idling in front of schools, congestion, noise, even breaking tree branches. Most represented teams were Bleecker Street and Hell’s Kitchen, with naturally different concerns. Bleecker's naps keep getting interrupted, while Hells Kitchen's complaints were more in the backed up and choked up categories.
Grey Bus Lines was blames as the biggest stinkers of the evening, along with on-the-street loaders such as Bolt and Fung Wah. The Bleecker Streeters told of tour buses letting off passengers without bus stops, leaving on heaters and a/c, congesting the streets for 20 minutes at a time, etc. One woman wore a dust mask to protect herself from the noxious gases...of the room.
The tour guides were the real victims of the night (just trying to make a buck, people!), but some were in attendance and didn't help their cause much by, dare we say, looking for a fight? At one point a bus driver referred to his coach as a "padded movable prison cell," because they have nowhere to park and let people off or something? Who knows, he got booed silent shortly thereafter. The Port Authority also got a collective "BOOOO!" for their too-cool-for-school attitude and no-show.
Basically, some misbehaving bus drivers and companies got a good spanking, but as for the long term? Urbanite points out a couple City Council bills on the table, including one requiring companies to submit route plans for city and community review, and another that would require bus passengers to listen to the tours through those headphones. And if all that fails, well, then if you look out the bus to your left you can see a bunch of angry residents shaking their fists.