Council Targets Roaming Tour Buses, Old School Buses

The City Council will hold hearings on new rules for tour bus operators next Monday.

Int. 742 would have companies switch from open-air amplification of tour guides to headphone-based systems in buses with unenclosed upper decks or open windows. Int. 836 would require submission of operating plans, including routes, trip times and frequency, to the Department of Consumer Affairs, which would forward the plans to council members and community boards in affected districts.

Though it isn’t spelled out in the bill, Int. 836 is ostensibly intended in part to minimize bus traffic on narrow residential streets, increasing pedestrian safety and, like Int. 742, reducing the buses’ negative impact on neighborhoods.

Both bills are supported by the group Our Streets Our Lives (formerly Tour Buses No — Tourists Yes), which worked last year to prod the Department of Environmental Protection to enforce tour bus emission standards. Group member Barbara Backer says most licensed tour buses are now in compliance with those rules. Of the new proposed regs, Backer says: "With re-routing no one will lose one job, tourists will still be able to visit the same businesses, and the re-routing will mean less disruption for local residents. Buses can use their hop-on-hop-off feature on major thoroughfares and still convey the same number of people to the same areas they do now."

Monday’s hearing, a joint session of the council’s consumer affairs and transportation committees, gets underway at 10 a.m.

As of this writing, the Committee on Environmental Protection is considering Int. 622, which would require school buses to be fitted with filters to reduce kids’ exposure to diesel exhaust, and would mandate that buses be retired after 16 years. The Natural Resources Defense Council has been tracking the measure, and has background here.

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