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Discount Bus Companies May Lose Their Sidewalk Spots-- NY Sun

Chinatown-based bus companies that have flourished by providing inexpensive interstate transportation to strapped-for-cash college students and local immigrant populations may be forced to stop using sidewalks as ad hoc terminals.

At City Hall yesterday, members of the New York City Police Department denounced the curbside practices of the hugely popular discount buses, and a City Council member suggested that the city explore constructing a new bus terminal.

The deputy inspector and commanding officer of the 5th Precinct in Chinatown, Michael Lau, testified to the council's Committee on Transportation that the discount buses use curbside space that is meant to accommodate tour buses bringing visitors to Chinatown. The result, he said, is dangerously congested streets, adding to the possibility of accidents and violence, as bus drivers jockey for both passengers and parking.

Curbside bus companies such as the New York-Boston Fung Wah have used Chinatown sidewalks to drop off and pick up passengers since the late 1990s, but the popularity of the bargain buses has engendered a boom in new companies. At a September meeting of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association Mr. Lau said the number of curbside bus companies had grown out of control, with 30 different outfits dispatching 100 buses a day.

Mr. Lau said he would send a letter to the New York City Department of Transportation petitioning the agency to relocate the Chinatown busses to the Port Authority Terminal in Midtown Manhattan and the 165th Street Bus Terminal in Jamaica in Queens. However, Mr. Lau said that a prime location for a new terminal would be on South Street in Lower Manhattan, where the city already has plans to develop the waterfront.

Council Member Alan Gerson, who represents Lower Manhattan, echoed Mr. Lau's concerns, saying the city should explore securing space for a bus terminal in Chinatown "These buses have more pick-ups and drop-offs than the Port Authority" Mr. Gerson said. "This is unacceptable." Due to the increasing concerns, the Department of Transportation began conducting a study in September to explore supply and demand issues regarding bus parking in Lower Manhattan. The study is expected to conclude in early spring. The agency had not received Mr. Lau's letter but will consider his input, a spokesman, Ted Timbers said.

In Boston, a combination of parking violations and pressure from local organizations forced the Fung Wah bus company to abandon their curbside practices and relocate to the city's South Station in 2003.