Eyes on the Street: Access Denied

111209access.jpgPhoto: Gothamist

Here’s another case of dangerously uncivil servitude, via Gothamist’s John Del Signore, who came upon an Access-A-Ride driver parked in the elevated Sands Street bike lane. It’s no surprise that Del Signore’s complaint to the driver was answered with a shrug (or, more accurately, a "What’s the big deal? Just go around."). But when he sent the photo to NYC Transit for comment, here was the response:

"Access-A-Ride drivers are instructed to observe all restrictions on
parking and standing. However, due to traffic, drivers are often
challenged to find safe locations to either pick up or drop off

How many holes in that statement do you count?

Gothamist is taking submissions for an end-of-year photo gallery of egregious bike lane blockers. Here are a couple of recent candidates that leap to mind.

  • JK

    This lane needs a mountable, but still very noticeable, curb. Wow, that comment by NYC Transit is unacceptable.

    Incidentally, Access-A-Ride is a fiscal disaster for the MTA. In 2007, the Federal Transit Authority(FTA) put the cost of a single trip on Access-A-Ride at $70.20. (No typo.) So a round trip to the doctor for an Access-A-Rider is $140.40.

    In 2005, the IBO estimated it cost $56 for each trip taken by Access A Ride. Either way it is completely insane. Riders pay the same single ride fare as subway and bus riders. Attempts to raise the one way Access A Ride to $5 were met with outrage. Because, here’s the kicker, Access-A-Ride service is widely reported to stink.

  • Grinner

    Sands Street: that’s where Noah nearly bought his 4×7 plot of the farm, right? That’s the bike lane that was built specifically because Sands Street is a killing field?

    Obviously, this is a “safe location to pick up or drop off customers.” Especially customers who are moving a bit slowly, like, say, people who are likely to be using Access-A-Ride.

    Parking in the bike lane by Access-A-Ride seems a bit like trolling for more customers. “Just swing around me into the killing fields. Don’t worry, we’ll get you and your scooter to all of your future doctors’ appointments. No need to thank me.”

  • drewo

    I’ll ask other Streetsblog readers to take, as I have done, an informal, unscientific study of Access-A-Ride vehicles on the streets of NYC. When out and about in NYC and you see an Access-A-Ride, check out how many passengers are in the vehicle. In my nearly year-long informal survey, I have rarely seen more than 2 passengers in the vehicle. Often it is only 1 passenger – even more often the vehicle has no passengers.

    I understand that the vehicle may be returning to its base, or at certain hours, Access-A-Ridership would normally be low. But observe these vehicles at all hours, as I do, and see, if like me, you rarely see more than 2 passengers.

    My unscientific conclusion: there are far more Access-A-Ride vehicles plying the streets of NYC than is necessary.

  • J

    Seems like the big culprit is lack of loading space. Loading zones on every block would greatly improve double parking in the city, move vehicles smoother, and generally keep bike lanes clear. I’m not sure where else this guy can go to pick people up.

    That said, this guy is a jerk for completely blocking the bike lane, and the NYTTransit response is thoroughly unacceptable and not even sympathetic.

  • Accessaride should be replaced by black-car service vouchers.

    Why do you people still have faith in government?

  • Galls

    @ Kaja

    Access a ride is an umbrella organization for private transit companies, similar to how the buses use to be before the MTA forcibly took them over.

    The funny part is, I know I very high ranking manager in the MTA who use to be a very high ranking manager in one of the bus companies. The MTA was a lot more efficient when the subcontracted out to private companies. So such a take over would probably increase the costs significantly.

  • vnm

    JK: This bike lane does have a curb.

  • Galls: Pardon if I wasn’t clear, I’m not trying to dispute public vs privateness. This is a vehicular class problem; the bus is slower, less efficient, feels ghetto, doesn’t show up when you want it, is impersonal, spews pollution. Black cars are the reverse of the above — even environmentally, given the little-used nature of this beast.

  • vnm

    Kaja, how do black cars not spew pollution or feel ghetto?

  • vnm

    Galls, the MTA contracts with private companies to run Access-a-Ride. The MTA pays the companies, who in turn provide a service.

  • vnm: well they pollute less than an idling, 95%-empty van does. as for the ‘ghettoness’, that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

  • Eric

    How does parking in traffic safely allow them to load and unload? You have to use the oncoming traffic lane do this.

  • Look at all the “spots” on the other side of the street. Just a lazy entitled driver.

  • vnm

    Kaja – sorry. I thought you were talking about buses, not A-A-R vans.

  • Shea is convinced that Access-A-Ride drivers have the mission of creating more disabled New Yorkers through their aggressive or inconsiderate driving practices, thus expanding their business.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Incidentally, Access-A-Ride is a fiscal disaster for the MTA. In 2007, the Federal Transit Authority(FTA) put the cost of a single trip on Access-A-Ride at $70.20. (No typo.) So a round trip to the doctor for an Access-A-Rider is $140.40.

    We’d be so much better off if we simply gave disabled New Yorkers vouchers to use car services and taxis. You could drive round-trip from the outer reaches of Queens to any hospital in Manhattan and not rack up a $140 bill.

    And what are we paying for anyway? Access-a-Ride drivers are absolutely the worst drivers on the streets of New York. I’ve had an incredible number of bad experiences with these morons. I’d bet that the private companies that run these vans are all mobbed up or something. How else do you explain this pathetic branch of our city transportation system?

  • Access-a-Ride vehicles do seem to be among the greatest menaces on the road. They’re as wide or wider than 18-wheelers but are light enough that they can accelerate more or less the same as a car. Just last night one buzzed me in Clinton Hill going what had to have been 40 miles an hour.

    All that speed and endangerment of others only meant the van made it to the red light that much sooner.

    I’ve got to start holding up a little sign to those kinds of drivers that says, “You were willing to kill people for your convenience.”

  • JK

    The private bus companies paid by NYC DOT to service Eastern Queens were a highly publicized disaster: expensive and provided terrible service. Not sure how anyone could claim “The MTA was a lot more efficient when the (buses) were subcontracted out to private companies.” Judging from those buses and Access A Ride, it seems that private businesses which win govt concessions provide worse service than either govt agencies or private businesses competing in the market. Access-A-Ride vendors don’t have to be “mobbed up” they just have to give lots of money to elected officials. Odds are they are major political contributors or owned by people in the political class. Efforts to do anything to Access-A-Ride are met with immediate hysteria by pols, so there is something there. Re: the mountable curb, VNM I was being facetious. The mountable curb is too mountable and not enough of a curb. The Streetsblog bollards for Sands Street campaign must continue!

  • Kaja

    > I’ve got to start holding up a little sign to those kinds of drivers that says, “You were willing to kill people for your convenience.”

    Land a lugie on their rear windshield.

    Nothing sends a driver into more impotent rage than a big fat phlegm on his rear window, right when he thinks he’s got away with nearly killing some “wayward” pedestrian. Plus, the lugie can’t possibly be used for a property damage charge, nor can it be proven that it came from you. I find they freeze, slam to a complete halt regardless of traffic conditions, and hunch over the steeringwheel with their hackles up like some sort of angry dog. It’s hilarious.

    Of course, there’s a small chance he’ll get out of his car, chase you down, and try to beat you to a pulp; but then at least you’ve got him on assault charges.

    vnm: yeah i was ambiguous w/ mah accessaride terms apologies

  • I think we need a policy of 1) getting the NYPD to ticket all vehicles in bike lanes, private and public alike and 2) making sure drivers pay their own tickets rather than slough it off on their agency.

    Although, my guess is the agency doesn’t discourage this sort of behavior even if they don’t promote it.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “We’d be so much better off if we simply gave disabled New Yorkers vouchers to use car services and taxis. You could drive round-trip from the outer reaches of Queens to any hospital in Manhattan and not rack up a $140 bill.”

    Every politically connected person in Queens would suddenly become disabled.

  • Excellent point, Larry! Because “AAR provides transportation for people with disabilities who are unable to use public bus or subway service for some or all of their trips,” it’s important to have the service be as offputting and inconvenient as possible in order to limit demand to those who are truly without other options. Such a brief neatly explains the poorly trained and rude drivers, noisy and uncomfortable vehicles, and long and incomprehensible delays.

    What I find intriguing is that while most Streetsblog readers would be happy with all NYC automobiling becoming inconvenient, unpleasant, and subject to delay (not just AAR), we argue vociferously that automobilists (especially the AAR chauffeurs) should somehow become polite, friendly, and patient.

    This seems paradoxical and unlikely.

  • drewo

    I think the ultimate goal of most Streetblog readers is to minimize the amount of (non-business-related) auto traffic on the streets of NYC. And, in effect, create more and better options for public transportation.

    If that means making personal automobiling more difficult and unpleasant (and preferably costlier!), then so be it.

  • J:Lai

    The best outcome would actually be for automobiling to become much faster and easier. This can be achieved by reducing the amount of automobile use, in particular by making it much more expensive.

  • How anyone can think the solution to the police not giving a rat’s ass is for the police to give a rat’s ass, is still confusing.

    How do you expect them to begin to care?

    Put bollards down.

  • Ian: Shea is absolutely correct. They’re on a mission!

    I once found myself down under the Brooklyn Bridge, near New York Downtown Hospital, (or whatever they call themselves this week) where there were nothing but Access-A-Rides. It was a waking nightmare!

  • Ian Turner


    Right on. Driving should be easy, fast, convenient, and rare.

  • Oxymoronic

    My favorite infringement of the moment occurs daily between 730 and 8am outside Daniels Bagels and Dunkin Donuts on 3rd Avenue around 38th street.

    Police cars parked in the busline outside the store typically with uniformed police officers (presumably on shift) either inside the store eating and drinking their cliched breakfast or actually in their car munching away.


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