City Council approves silencing NYC tour buses

In this file photo of July 24, 2005, passengers tour New York's Times Square atop a sightseeing bus. New York City Council wants to give residents and workers a little peace and quiet when the open-air buses go by. The council is considering a bill Thursday, April 29, 2010, that would require sightseeing buses to have sound systems that use only headphones. ( (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File))

April 29, 2010 2:50:13 PM PDT
As the tourism business booms in New York City, so do the number of tour buses. It is a constant irritation to many New Yorkers.

"This seems to be the best way in terms (begins yelling as a tour bus goes by) IN TERMS OF A COMPROMISE," Village resident Barbara Backer said.

Backer knows today's legislation will do little to cut down on traffic noise at the street level.

We really didn't hear the loud speakers that much today, but up a flight or two on the 2nd or 3rd floor of an apartment, it's a problem.

"It's a pervasive, persistent noise that you can't avoid. It goes on and on. It's like a water faucet but much louder," Backer said.

So the city council has approved a law that would force open tour buses to take out the loud speakers and replace them with a head-phone system. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to sign the measure into law.

It won't happen overnight, but phased in over five years.

"Because, although we'd rather them be gone overnight, we recognize it's technology. Phase it in. That takes money, and we tried to strike a fair balance," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.

It's a balancing act because 400-thousand New Yorkers work in the tourism business. It's a 40-billion dollar industry and companies are not happy about the new rule.

A spokesman for the Bus Tour Company said he's worried about the cost of this new regulation, which is about $5 million over the next five years. The entire cost will be paid for by the companies.

But New Yorkers who live in the middle of all those buses or ride their bike in the midst of it like Jane Pachuta are thankful for the new law.

"Everybody loves New York and loves to come to New York, but the tour buses can be difficult in spring and summer when they seem to be almost every other block," she said.

Today's rule won't do much about the number of buses on city streets, but the hope is it'll make things a bit more quiet.