August 20, 2017

NYC 2011 Holiday Motorcoach Traffic Regulations Published

New York City has finally published their official 2011 Holiday Motorcoach Traffic Regulations. Although it was just published online this week, it was effective beginning November 18th and continues through January 2nd, 2012. View (and print) the PDF file with a listing and map of the new regs and parking areas here:

NYC 2011 Holiday Motorcoach Traffic Regulations

There are a few additions to previous parking locations, as usual. But there are also a few listings that in reality don’t exist currently, such as (23) 8th Ave between 54th and 55th Streets — currently taken up by construction barriers and other equipment.

There is still not nearly enough parking for the number of charter and tour buses in the city at this time of the year. It becomes a game, as coaches circle the parking areas looking for other buses leaving to pick up their groups. It’s not uncommon for buses to circle for 1-2 hours looking for parking, adding to the pollution, noise and traffic in NYC. While there is talk of various possible solutions, politicians are gridlocked, just like in Washington, DC, unable to come up with any meaningful solutions.

2010 NYC Holiday Motorcoach Guide

New York City has just published the 2010 Holiday Motorcoach Operator’s Guide, the Midtown Manhattan traffic regulations for the remainder of the year. It includes specific drop-off/pick-up locations for groups going to the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, as well as a list of parking locations for motorcoaches.

It takes effect today (November 19, 2010) and goes through January 2, 2011.

Instructions are slightly different from last year. Make sure you read them carefully. Parking locations also have a few changes this year, with several streets being eliminated, and one or two new ones added. They are listed in the guide.

Download the two-page PDF file and take it with you: CLICK HERE to get the file. I’ve also added the link to the Parking & More page in my Links section.

Return to DC

I was back in Washington, DC again today (Saturday, 11/13/10), this time with a tour to the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertainment Show at the Washington Convention Center.

The Convention Center is one of the easiest attractions in Washington to access with a motorcoach. There are official drop/pick-up areas for motorcoaches on L Street, right in the center of the Convention Center. Coming in from I-95 and MD-295 (Baltimore-Washington Parkway), I followed New York Avenue (US-50) into the city, bearing right onto L Street just a couple of blocks before the Convention Center.

After dropping off, it’s easy to go around the block to Massachusetts Avenue to head toward Union Station and bus parking there.

Tomorrow I’m off to the Big Apple, with a tour to the Broadway show, “Promises, Promises.” And I expect to have some updated info on bus parking in New York City, including a PDF file for reference that I’ve been working on.

Veterans Day in DC

I’m in Washington, DC today (Veterans Day) with a group of veterans. I’m parked at Union Station as I write this, where things seem to be returning to normal. Bus parking is almost back to full strength. Whatever they’re doing in the bus parking area — can’t quite figure it out — they’re not doing today, at least, and only a handful of bus parking spots are taken up with construction equipment and supplies. The exit onto H Street is open again, too. Two weeks ago when I was here for the Sanity/Fear rally, about half the bus parking spots were roped off for the construction, and the H Street exit was blocked.

The restroom renovations on the second level of Union Station are done and will be appreciated by bus groups. They are bright and clean, all new fixtures and decor.

In the food court area there are still one or two vendors missing, but most are open for business as usual. I noticed there are even a few new stores on the third level.

Construction work on the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge (also known as South Capitol Street Bridge) has been completed, and the 10 ton weight restriction was lifted as of October 1, 2010, meaning buses (and trucks) can again come into Washington, DC from MD-295 via Howard Street to South Capital Street. This is one of my favorite ways into the city and I’m glad we have it back as an option. I came that way across the bridge today.

The weigh station southbound on I-95 in Maryland was open this morning when I came through, but a bit of odd behavior: all buses and trucks had to go through the weigh station, but no one was being stopped on the scales. We all just drove slowly right on through. Not sure if the signs weren’t working, or if they have new drive-through scales, or what was going on. At least we didn’t lose much time.

The Perfect Hotel Room

Four Points by Sheraton, Charlesbourg, Quebec -- a very bus-friendly hotel. 

Four Points by Sheraton, Charlesbourg, Quebec -- a very bus-friendly hotel.

I’ve been on the road a lot this summer, as far south as Mississippi, and north to Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. And lots of places in between. As I sometimes tell my passengers, I call home every day, so my wife at least recognizes my voice when I come home!

When you’re on the road that much, the right hotel room can mean the difference between a great trip and a terrible trip. It’s often the little things that make the difference. But it never ceases to amaze me how many hotels screw up the little things!

The basics: a clean, quiet room is a given. But many hotels fall down right there — the room isn’t clean, or not as clean as it should be. Good help is hard to find, I know; but in most cases I’ve seen, management is the issue. People do what’s expected of them and only so far as they’re held accountable. Often a dirty room means someone at a higher level isn’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. (Does that apply to dirty buses, too?!)

A comfortable bed is also a given, you would think. I’m a tall guy — 6’5″ — and used to a king size bed at home, which is my ideal on the road, too. A queen size bed is still comfortable; but some hotels, mostly older ones, still have full size beds in their standard room. In those, my feet stick out the end, and I definitely don’t sleep as well. Some hotels have newer style “pillow-top” mattresses — wow, some are so comfortable I’m in no hurry to go home! Others have hard, “spring-loaded” mattresses; when you sit down you bounce right back up again — not good.

Other important factors include working temperature control in the room, preferably without having to hear a very noisy air conditioner or heater. A bathroom big enough to turn around in, with plenty of fluffy white towels. A wall mirror in the room in addition to the bathroom. A TV with a working remote. An elevator if you’re not on the first floor. A portico high enough to get the bus underneath for loading/unloading luggage on a rainy day. And, of course, bus parking — if you can’t safely park your motorcoach at or very near the hotel, all of this is a moot point.

Some hotel chains have introduced amenities over the years that have now become must-haves for the regular traveler. In the bathroom, a curved shower rod (thanks, Hampton Inn), and a great shower head (thanks, Holiday Inn). A “free” continental breakfast with at least one or two hot items (saves a lot of time and money when you’re on the road). Free Internet access. All of these used to be niceties, but I don’t want to stay in a room without them anymore.

If you’re away more than one night, especially on a trip where you end up killing a lot of time in a hotel room, a microwave and refrigerator is really important, too — partly for convenience, but especially for cost savings. On a multiple day trip I’ll often make a stop at a supermarket the first day and pick up a few things I can lunch on in the room.

Ironically, the more expensive hotels don’t include many of these things, or charge extra for them. Breakfast and Internet access, for instance, are often extra charges. Those hotels are more for vacationers and corporate travelers. Fortunately, for working travelers like motorcoach drivers, there are several chains who do a great job at meeting our needs. But the list is pretty short for those who do it well and do it consistently. There are exceptions, but overall, here are my favorites; the first three are way, way ahead of the pack:

  1. Drury Inn
    Too bad this chain is only in the midwest. “The extras aren’t extra” and they have no equal in my limited experience with them. It’s probably not a coincidence that they aren’t franchises — all are family owned.
  2. Hampton Inn
    Long my number one choice until my experience with Drury Inns this summer. They just get it right, over and over, across the chain. Must be someone following up somewhere!
  3. Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Select
    These are the newer of the Holiday Inns, and, like Hampton Inn, get it right over and over again.
  4. The rest of the list is a distant fourth place or worse. They tend to be inconsistent — I’ve stayed in some excellent ones, and had to leave an occasional one, it was so bad. But because of the cost and/or location, they’re often in the running:

  5. Comfort Inn
    Many (most?) of these are two floors, no elevator. Many are older and run down. But a few are also very nice. I’ve had both good and bad experiences with these.
  6. Red Roof Inn
    Low price, pet friendly (which means if there’s a local dog show, you’re going to have lots of animals around!). Inconsistent quality.
  7. Days Inn
    Many of these are older and not in good shape, but there are some good ones, too.
  8. Ramada Inn
    I’ve only ever stayed in one Ramada I was comfortable in (Ligonier, PA). But I’m sure there must be a few other good ones somewhere.

Sheraton isn’t on my list above, because they’re often among the more expensive hotels that charge extra for things like breakfast and Internet access. But I recently had a good experience with a Sheraton near Quebec City in Canada, which is where the above photo was taken. Note the bus parking — right by the front door! I was the only bus there, so no competition for that spot; but other buses wouldn’t have had too far to go, since this was a fairly new hotel with very large parking lots.

A driver friend of mine has a real simple hotel rule: if there’s no front door giving access to all the rooms, it’s the wrong hotel. An oversimplification, perhaps, but you know what — he’s often right!

That’s my list, based on my personal experience. How does it compare to your experience? Feel free to add your comments below.

Kudos to New Jersey State Troopers

I’ve been railing on the Maryland State Troopers, but the picture isn’t all bad. There had been a real problem at the Molly Pitcher service area on the New Jersey Turnpike with trucks parking in the very limited bus parking there, leaving no room for buses. New Jersey State Troopers began ticketing the trucks there, as well as the occasional RV units that were parking in the bus parking area. Word spread, and today it’s rare to see a truck parked in the bus parking area. I was just there a couple of days ago again, and there were no trucks in the bus parking area. Good job, NJ Troopers!

Maryland State Troopers Still Don’t Get It

Maryland State Troopers in Bus Parking at Maryland House.

Maryland State Troopers in Bus Parking at Maryland House.

On the way back from a multi-coach move to Washington, DC on Wednesday (5/27/09), we pulled into the Maryland House on I-95 for a short break. Once again, there were Maryland State Trooper cars parked in the bus parking area — four of them. And I remembered to take pictures this time. I spoke briefly with one of the troopers as they came out of the rest stop; he was very friendly until I asked him why they were parked in the bus parking area. Then he became very defensive and brusk, telling me to call the state police barracks if I had a complaint. And quickly climbed into his car and took off, right past all the trucks parked illegally in the bus overflow parking. Apparently nothing has changed. License numbers of the cars included M 17, M 23, M 35, and M 40.

Maryland State Troopers Add to Parking Frustrations

On the way back from Washington, DC with my school group charter yesterday, I pulled into the Maryland House rest area on I-95, a frequent stop for motorcoaches traveling between DC and the Philadelphia area. I had two other coaches with me, and we had been fighting some of the heaviest traffic I’ve ever seen coming out of DC. We were ready for a break.

To our dismay, as we pulled into the busy rest stop, we found three Maryland state trooper’s cars occupying three bus parking spots! The troopers themselves were nowhere to be found. Fortunately, there were three additional spots left, so we were okay. But two more coaches who came soon after we arrived found nowhere to park. The overflow bus parking area was filled with tractor trailers — unticketed, of course, despite the regular presence of state troopers in the rest area.

As we were preparing to pull out almost 45 minutes later, the three troopers came out of the restaurant. I confronted them [Read more…]

It’s Cherry Blossom Time!

I’m sitting in Washington, DC this afternoon with a sold-out tour to the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Weather on the way here was horrible — heavy rainfall, fog, and lots of traffic to top it off on a Friday morning. But we arrived almost right on schedule, started with a driving tour and within half an hour the sun was out! One brief shower came through, but now the skies are blue, temperature is up to 68F and it’s absolutely beautiful.

But there are no crowds! Washington is the least crowded I’ve seen it at cherry blossom time. I even found bus parking on Independence by the Washington Monument. There was also space at [Read more…]

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 [Read more…]