Enforcement Lags as Tour Bus Companies Flout Pollution Regs

Comptroller William Thompson and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer want the city to enforce a law mandating that sightseeing buses reduce harmful emissions. Meanwhile, a citizen group called "Tour Buses No — Tourists Yes" also wants the buses off residential streets.

287454515_15df12ebde.jpgIn separate letters issued this month to the Department of Environmental Protection, Thompson and Stringer present lists of unanswered questions pertaining to Local Law 41, adopted by the City Council in May 2005. The law required that all tour buses with engines that are at least three years old be retrofitted with best available technologies to reduce diesel particulate levels, and gave companies until January 2007 to either do the retrofits or apply for waivers.

Over three years later, only one company, Gray Line, has brought any of its buses into compliance. According to a DEP report, as of last August just 61 of the 204 tour buses on New York streets meet the law’s requirements. The report, Thompson wrote, "shows a very disturbing lack of progress and, in fact, a widespread non-compliance with the law."

According to a 1999 study referenced in a recent New York Post article, a typical Gray Line bus "emit[s] about 25 times more diesel particles than the average bus."

Thompson takes the DEP to task for its tardiness in issuing the first of its required annual reports pertaining to Local Law 41. It was eight months late and, judging by the follow-up questions submitted by Thompson and Stringer, left many issues unaddressed, such as whether DEP is recommending license revocation for companies that aren’t obeying the law.

"Tour Buses No — Tourists Yes" is not only concerned with air pollution, but also noise pollution and physical safety. In September, sight-impaired West Village resident Lloyd Burlingame told NY1:

"I have to depend on my hearing to know when to cross the street and these tour buses, between the racket they make and these guys blathering, I put myself in danger every time they’re here and I try to cross the street. So it’s a particular problem for people like me."

Also in the NY1 report, City Council Member Alan Gerson said he wants legislation that would regulate tour bus times of operation, routes and frequency. (Enforcement, apparently, is another matter.) And said Villager Milton Polsky: "We have nothing against the tourists, but we’d like to see them walk and enjoy our wonderful sights here."

Photo: Richard Hsu/Flickr

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