April 8, 2020

The Sign Motorcoach Drivers Love (and Hate)

A Love-Hate Relationship

A Love-Hate Relationship

To most motorcoach charter and tour bus drivers who have the “good fortune” of driving trips to New York City, this parking sign seems an endangered species. In the last several months we’ve lost a couple of drivers’ favorite parking spots — 59th Street (between 11th and 12th Avenues), and 62nd Street by Lincoln Center. Last year we had lost another favorite, 36th Street by Midtown Tunnel. If we didn’t already feel unwanted in the Big Apple, now it seemed there was no doubt.

But there may be hope. In the last month, a crop of these new signs have popped up on streets in Manhattan previously unavailable for our use. As mentioned in a post here last week, these signs are now posted on parts of 48th, 49th, 50th, 52nd, and 54th Streets between 11th and 12th Avenues, and along 12th Avenue (east side) between 52nd and 54th Streets. And look closely — the new signs specify “CHARTER BUSES” — not tour buses as in the past! On several other streets, 45th Street, for instance, I’ve noticed the signs have been changed from “TOUR BUSES” to “CHARTER BUSES.” Does that mean no more line run buses fighting for our spots? One can hope … time will tell.

There still isn’t nearly enough bus parking in NYC, but at least we now have a little more than we lost. It’s a start. In combination with the reduced number of coaches in the city right now, thanks to the economy and the time of the year, it’s been a little easier to find parking the last couple of months.

Cars on a Rack in NYC

Cars on a Rack in NYC

Parking has always been at a premium in NYC. One has only to drive past one of the many auto parking lots to see the stacked, hydraulically operated parking racks many of them use (see photo) and you understand that land here is very valuable. But there are no parking lots, free or otherwise, for charter or tour buses in Manhattan. The only option is the very limited, free on-street parking on the streets designated with the Bus Layover signs. Nearly all of them are on the west side of Manhattan.

On any given day, there are many more coaches in NYC than there are available parking spaces. That results in two issues, neither of them positive: 1) many coaches parked illegally; and 2) many coaches driving around, sometimes for hours, looking for legal parking, adding to NYC’s already very difficult traffic conditions.

Passengers love going to NYC on buses — they’re convenient, no driving or getting lost or expensive parking hassles for them. And the city wants, and needs, our passengers. But they send the wrong message by not providing adequate parking for buses. NYC has moved in the right direction recently, but more is needed.

Back to the signs … Why do drivers also hate those parking signs? It should be pretty obvious: “No Engine Idling — Max Fine $2000.” Now, drivers care about the environment as much as anyone else. Buses are the “greenest” way there is to move 50 people in one direction. They eliminate anywhere from 20 to 50 cars on one trip, meaning far less emissions being released into our environment.

But those buses are driven by human beings, who get very cold in the winter, very hot in the summer. No engine idling means no heat, no air conditioning. A few of the cities we frequent not only have adequate bus parking, but also provide drivers’ lounges for a reasonably comfortable place to wait while our passengers are doing their thing — Atlantic City, NJ and Williamsburg, VA, for instance, have adequate parking for buses, a drivers’ lounge, and in Atlantic City’s case, even a restaurant just for drivers.

So what do drivers do in NYC? Well, those signs are very effective in one way — no driver can afford a $2000 fine for idling, and few if any companies will pay for the driver’s actions for such fines. So drivers don’t idle — not in place, anyway. The only other option in the heat of summer or the bitter cold of winter is to drive around. That gets the bus cooled off or warmed up and keeps the driver comfortable. But compared to idling, it also greatly increases the amounts of pollutants being released into the environment, adds considerably to NYC’s traffic problems, stresses the drivers, and adds wear and tear on the motorcoaches. So you tell me: are those signs truly effective?

These are tough issues; there are no easy answers. Keeping the buses out of the city isn’t the answer; that could wreak economic chaos on an already challenged city. Adding more bus     parking will certainly help. But don’t put buses out in Timbuktu where there is nothing for the driver to do, nowhere for the driver to eat or stay warm or cool! We need parking where, ideally, we can also interact with our passengers, or at least somewhere where there is the capability of waiting comfortably for our passengers when it’s not comfortable or safe on a non-idling, non-running coach. I’ve always found it ironic that we can pass laws against leaving a dog or cat in a hot car in the summer, but there is no concern for the human beings stuck in a hot or cold bus for hours at a time.

What do you think? What solution would you propose? How do you stay comfortable in extreme weather? Add your comments below to this article.

(This article was written in its entirety while I was legally parked on 45th Street near 12th Avenue in New York City … and I was not idling, just in case you wondered. But I have to finish this for now — my fingers are getting too cold to type!)

About Bob Bergey

Bob has been driving motorcoaches since 2002, in every state east of the Mississippi and a few west, as well as the four southeastern-most provinces of Canada. In addition to driving, he's an avid photographer (and former professional), enjoys writing and technology.

Comments

  1. Brian Hagey says:

    You’ve said it all and said it WELL Bob. I think they will continue to throw us a bone now and then with an extra space or two. So we don’t scream too loud?
    They need our charter coaches badly with all the money our riders spend and all the cars we eliminate. They can never admit to that. Concurently we need them badly too as the city offers so much for the charter bus industry and most people don’t want to drive their cars there, its an uneasy but needed relationship like a dog and cat both sharing the same rock on a dangerously rising river….. and as soon as the river lowers, the fighting resumes……

  2. EightWheels says:

    Thanks, Brian … I like that analogy, the dog and cat on a rock in the river LOL .

  3. I have not been so lucky to have been to NYC but only twice. I am going again this week. Even being there twice, I know the bad parking situation. While a lot of cities are the same way, NYC seems to be the worst. I have been to D.C. a few times and while the parking is rough, there are places to park. And even if there are none close inside the city, you have Union Station. While you do have to pay, it is covered, and not to unpleasent. The biggest difference and another issue that needs worked on.
    One of the times I was in NYC, I was unloading and not even half unloaded and a cop told me to move. I had to circle the block three times until I could finish unloading. I have never had that problem in D.C. The cops have enough common sense to understand that you will only be there for a few minutes and that you are bringing income to their city. While I will agree to a point with the above statement. This is a two way relationship, I think NYC needs the buses much more than the buses need NYC and they need to open their eyes to that fact. If we don’t go to NYC, we have other cities we can go to. If we don’t go to NYC, NYC does not get the revenue.
    We need to work hand in hand and so far as I see it, we, the drivers, and the bus companies have been doing all the giving and getting very little in return.

  4. EightWheels says:

    Some good comments, Joe … Union Station in Washington, DC is a huge asset for bus parking; it sure would be great if NYC had something similar, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. The situation in NYC has improved slightly, between the additional on street parking mentioned in the article above (plus a few more streets I didn’t list there yet — still working on that), and the economy slowing down just a tad, there may be slightly fewer buses there so far this year. Still far from easy, though.

    Part of the problem, too, is that the police don’t benefit from the buses being there at all — we’re a problem to them. They don’t care about all the money we’re bring to NYC — they’re not going to see any of it directly. So the city itself has to put the pressure on them to work with us, and that’s a weak link. Sometimes they do, but mostly it seems they don’t. It’s not an easy or simple problem to solve.

  5. Just a ? as a line run guy.

    Why is there so much hostility toward us? We need parking as much as tour guys do. There is NO place to park at the PABT and as a driver who was going to NYC 5 days a week, I know first hand the “fights” that break out over those coveted parking spots.