Private biz: We could run Manhattan express line
A Brooklyn-based company has concluded that it would be able to run the Manhattan express line slated to be discontinued in June. TransportAzumah and has just sent me an analysis of the BxM4C line, saying it would be “difficult, but feasible” to make the service work as a private enterprise.
Before I get to that, however, I need to own up to an error I’ve written about the time of Westchester County’s hearing on the proposed elimination of that line and other reductions in bus services.
The hearing will be held April 14 at the Westchester County Center from 2 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. The county center is at the Tarrytown Road and Central Avenue in White Plains, alongside the Bronx River Parkway.
An astute reader caught my mistake — I had listed incorrect hours for the later session of the hearing. Find the county’s notice of the hearing here.
I appologize for the mistake.
Now back to that Brooklyn company. A week and a half ago, I spoke to Joel Anabilah-Azumah, president of TransportAzumah, who said he believed he could make the line work — despite its heavy cost to Westchester County — by raising the fare back to $7 (where it was before the county joined the MetroCard system in 2007) and by using the buses for other runs within New York City when they were finished bringing commuters into Manhattan from Westchester.
That’s one of the things that makes the line so costly. (The county projects it would save $2.6 million a year by ending it.) Once the buses run to Manhattan, they return virtually empty, Transportation Commissioner Larry Salley says. In the afternoon, they travel virtually empty back to Manhattan to bring Westchester residents home. Obviously, a bus traveling with no passengers, or just one or two, is lost revenue compared with lines where the buses take on significant numbers of passengers in both directions.
And Salley says the buses can’t be used on most other lines when they’ve finished their Manhattan runs. They are short buses, with only one door. That makes them impractical, he says. People trying to squeeze off the bus by the same door where people are entering in a line to pay their fare hinders the service, Salley says.
So here’s the e-mail I received today from TransportAzumah. I’ll let it speak for itself. The recommendation made at the end is TransportAzumah’s. It’s not my place to make recommendations, of course, and I include this only because I want to pass the entire e-mail on to readers:
TransportAzumah has completed the evaluation of the BxM4C’s business case and finds that the unsubsidized operation of this route is difficult, but feasible.
The potential negative elements are as follows:
(1) Schedule changes will be necessary, which may impact the span of service. At this time, the analysis was completed involving hourly off-peak service. If ridership decreases below a certain level, it may be necessary to eliminate some or all off-peak services.
(2) Political interference in private, unsubsidized operations may jeopardize the business case of the BxM4C.
(3) Configuration of current buses reduces ancillary revenue that buses can generate when not operating on the BxM4C.
(4) A smooth transition on the route requires the cooperation of the county. The level of cooperation that would be offered by the county is unknown.
(5) Although many passengers are willing to pay more, the impact of the $7 flat fare is unknown. It may discourage discretionary off-peak ridership.
The potential positive elements are as follows:
(1) Many BxM4C customers are willing to pay a $7 flat fare.
(2) A $7 flat fare is surprisingly competitive with Metro-North’s current fare structure. For example, a weekly ticket plus a Uniticket cost just over $7 per ride. Many Metro-North stations do not have available parking and access would have to be by cab or Bee-Line bus.
(3) Financing to acquire the buses from the county is available.
(4) Ridership to Empire City can be increased in both directions through a package.
(5) Liberty Lines expects to lay off 30 operators if Westchester decides to exit the BxM4C operations. At the very least, we would give those operators hiring priority.
Our recommendation is that passengers continue to press for continued Bee-Line service in this corridor. It will be cheaper and more frequent than a privatized service. However, we have the ability and willingness to take over the route if Westchester decides to discontinue it.