In The News

Public Transport and Private Enterprise

In many cities, the mass transit system of buses and subways is a monopoly run by the local government. But is this the best system?

Man with’aVan

Vincent Cummings looks out from his van with the wary eyes of a hardened criminal. It is quiet this evening in downtown Brooklyn , too quiet.My back for me barks into the microphone of his C.B, radio addressing a fellow outlaw in a van who just drove by him on Livingston Street. He looks left and right. No police cars in sight None of the usual marked cars, either, Cummins pauses for a second he has heard on the Con, that cops have Just busted two other  himself.Watch my back he repeats into the radio as he ruthlessly pulls over to the curb.

Five seconds later, evil triumph’s. A middle-aged woolly with a shopping bag climbs into the van,  mid Cummins drives off  impunity His new victim and the other passengers laugh when asked why they’re riding this illegal jitney, What fool would pay $1.50 to stand on the bus or subway when you’re guaranteed a scat here for $J? Unlike bus drivers, the van drivers make change and accept bills, and the vans run more frequently at every hour of the day. It takes me an hear to get home if I use the bus, explains Cynthia Peters, .1 nurse born in Trinidad. When I’m working it’s very scary waiting in the dark for the bus and then walking the three blocks horne, With Vincent’s van, 1 get home in less than half an hour. He takes me right to the door and waits until I get inside.

Cummins would prefer not to be an outlaw. A native of Barbados,  has been driving his van full time ever since an injury forced him to give up his job as a machinist.Icould be collecting disability,but it’s better to work.He Federal requirements to run an interstate van service, then spent years trying to get approval to operate in city. His application. which included more than 900 supporting statements from riders, business groups and church leaders, was approved by the City Taxi and Limousine Commission .15 well as by the Department of Transportation. Mayor Giuliani supported. But this summer the City Council rejected his application for a license, as it has rejected most applications over the past lour years, which is why thousands of illegal drivers in Brookly dodging  police.

Elements of this system already exist where jitneys have informally established their own stops separate from  the regular buses, but the City Council is trying to eliminate these competitors. Besides denying to new drivers like Cummins, me Council has forbidden veteran drivers licenses to operate on bus routes.. Unless these restrictions are overturned in court-a suit on the drivers’ behalf  filed by the Institute for Justice, r.:S!law fir~.in Washington-c-the vans can compete only by breaking the law. At  best efforts (.r the police ail..! the Transport Workers Union! somewhere in New York a serial predator like luring another unsuspecting victim: He may even be making change.