Four $1 buses in downtown Flushing were pulled off the streets, and eight summonses were issued to drivers and owners, after a joint city investigation found them to be operating illegally, authorities said.
The July 12 crackdown, residents suspect, caused the buses to shutter services in Flushing. But drivers from a smaller rival commuter van company said the vanishing act is only temporary.
Guang Yi Yu, a van driver for Flushing Commute Van Management Corp — licensed by the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) to shuttle people to Chinatown, Brooklyn and Elmhurst — said despite the violations, the larger buses would be coming back Thursday, July 19.
“They’re not afraid,” Yu said through a translator. “Competition is always going to be here.”
Yu said the van company lost boatloads of money when the cheaper ride rolled into town less than a month ago, although he said it was hard to calculate approximately how much.
While the long-established van service is legally authorized and licensed by the city, throngs of riders still opted to swap services for a cheaper, roomier ride to Chinatown in Manhattan. The vans charged as high as $2.75 per one-way ride before having to sink prices down to $1 to keep up with its new challenger.
Fares have jumped back up to $2.75, riders said, now that the threat of a competitor has been removed, albeit temporarily.
“The era of the $1 bus lasted two weeks,” said Flushing resident Jefferson Mao.
Councilmember Peter Koo said the large buses posed severe problems for both pedestrians who could not pass through swarms of people waiting on line, and for drivers on the street whose vision was impaired by the large buses.
City agencies also questioned the buses’ certifications when drivers began boarding riders at a “No Standing Zone” on 41st Avenue and Main Street. While commuter vans are allowed to load in such zones, the new buses — which carry more than 50 passengers — are not, according to investigation findings.
TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg said commuter van services are only permitted to operate vehicles of up to 19 passengers under city law.
Police, TLC and Department of Transportation enforcement agents inspected and seized four out of seven registered buses that were falsely operating as commuter vans, authorities said. Six other buses were inspected and received minor violations, and an unnamed bus driver and company owner — who is said to be Tony Luo, although TLC could not confirm it — were issued summonses that carry a $1,500 penalty and tow fees of $350 per vehicle.
Luo could not be reached for comment.
The bus company, New Oriental Tour, Inc., previously accrued summonses for obstructing traffic and crashing into the NYPD’s SkyWatch observation tower located outside of the Flushing Library on 41st Avenue and Main Street, a police source said.
Two TLC-licensed commuter vans were also inspected and taken out of service, authorities said, including the two drivers operating the vehicles.