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July 2, 2014 9:44 PM   Subscribe

The New Yorker investigates the routes, drivers, and ridership of NYC's "dollar vans" [SLNew Yorker]. (Dollar Vans, previously)
posted by Itaxpica (9 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was going to post the following in the Stash Pad thread, it seems to fit better here:

There are large swaths of Queens and Brooklyn and the Bronx that are not well covered by public rapid transit. For people who live in these areas, (which used to be called 2-fare zones) travel to Manhattan may require buses to get to the subway stations. In fact, a cottage industry of "dollar" cab/vans have developed around the slow and inadequate public transportation services in these zones. Much of working class New York City lives here. In these areas, commutes can be painful if you work in Manhattan or Downtown Brooklyn. Now that crime in NYC has subsided, young professionals are considering areas that that they wouldn't a decade or two ago, but they aren't willing to move to the former two-fare-zones, those neighborhoods are for vehicle owners who don't work in The City; to them they are practically suburbs.

Currently, even dual-income professionals can barely afford to rent or buy within NYC's easy-commute areas. Now, inventory is being further constrained by the glut of empty, astronomically priced housing taking up precious space within these easy-commute areas. These homes are only residential in name.
posted by Stu-Pendous at 10:02 PM on July 2


I relied on the dollar vans to get to work in the aftermath of Sandy. At that point they were price gouging it up to $10 to get into Manhattan, but you know what, it was still totally worth it.
posted by Sara C. at 10:09 PM on July 2


There are probably clear lessons here for transit planners. (Among other things, I'm wondering how things like the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail has impacted any jitney business in that corridor.) I did find it interesting how many of the services seem to be organized along ethnic lines, such as most notably the Chinatown-to-Chinatown connections. On the other hand I have to resist the Robert Moses impulse to standardize and regularize everything in the city -- it's all right to have these informal networks, at least to a point, and the complexity of a city almost demands them. They're also far more flexible to changing circumstances (although current planning ideas center around the opposite idea, e.g. transit-oriented development and land value capture). One can also look at the somewhat different case of the Google (etc.) buses in SF.
posted by dhartung at 11:12 PM on July 2


I am really familiar with the dollar bus over the GWB. What the article doesn't have space to mention is that (going east) you can save your $2 and squeeze into a 'carpool' which reduces the bridge toll for the driver.

Caveats about accepting rides from strangers apply, Gift of Fear style.

I'll be making copies of the maps for my forays into less well served parts of the city.
posted by bilabial at 4:53 AM on July 3


Great article! I ride the Chinatown-Flushing van all the time - it's 2.75, takes about half an hour, and they have vans leaving around the clock in both directions. As the article says it would take twice as long to get there by subway.

I've ridden Chinatown-Elmhurst a few times. That one is interesting because he will actually drive around the suburbs and drop people off at their doorsteps, and you can call him to be picked up on the street.
posted by pravit at 5:07 AM on July 3


I get that these provide a valuable service but god do I hate these guys. They drive about 3mph, block traffic, idle in turning lanes, run red lights, stop suddenly and do it all while honking their dollar store novelty horns every fucking second.

I'm devoutly hoping the green cabs put them all out of business.
posted by Skorgu at 6:17 AM on July 3


Transit planner here. This article was flying around my office yesterday.

I am torn about dollar vans. On one hand, the person-who-studies-cities in me really appreciates an organic transportation network like this. If I were to sit down and look at all the numbers, the population and the origin/destination data, etc, I would probably decide that a service very much like the dollar van system would be the best fit. These areas are often not quite dense enough to make fixed-route fixed-schedule public transit feasible or cost-effective. And although I think the dollar van system could be improved by having readily-available schedules for people to look at, and actual stops for people to wait at, I also appreciate the word-of-mouthiness of the whole system. It's cool and old-fashioned and it is simple and it works.

On the other hand, especially in Brooklyn, as the article notes, these are not so well regulated and often illegal. That means they aren't especially safe. I wonder if it would be worth it for the MTA to take them over someday, a la the way it did with the private carriers now within MTA Bus, and standardize and regulate them. A little official system of bus-like vans! A public transit jitney system! But that would also kill what's cool about it right now.
posted by millipede at 7:18 AM on July 3


What the article doesn't have space to mention is that (going east) you can save your $2 and squeeze into a 'carpool' which reduces the bridge toll for the driver.

Done it, on both sides (driver and passenger)! Some call it "scary", I call it "adventurous". Now that I've moved to NJ, I'm started taking the jitneys along Rt 4 to the GWB, which I'm enjoying as a whole new adventure. I thought I was going to take the NJ Transit bus, but after waiting 20 minutes past the scheduled time and watching 6 jitneys come and go, I gave up on that plan. One bus every 40 minutes vs. a jitney every 5-10 minutes and it's the same price, hmmmmm.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:02 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Elsewhere, dollar vans are more often called jitneys, and can be decidedly more mainstream. Some people seem to have forgotten they exist.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 4:21 PM on July 12


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