Dollar vans disapearing could hurt New Yorkers living in transit deserts

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Friday, April 7, 2023
Dollar vans disapearing could hurt those living in NYC transit deserts
Commuter vans have slowly disappeared across New York City which leaves residents who live in transit deserts with fewer transportation options.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- There were once hundreds of commuter vans available for residents to take, now that number is down to just 31 putting a strain on New Yorkers living in transit deserts.

For over twenty years Winston Williams has been a driver of commuter vans, also known as dollar vans around New York City.

"It was a very lucrative business," Williams said. "Ever since the pandemic, the shutdown of the neighborhood, the community. The ridership has disintegrated practically."

The vans are known as an affordable way to get around, especially in areas called transit deserts.

A transit desert is any area where it takes 10 minutes to walk to the nearest subway station.

"The bus is near and better for me," Jack Copland said. "The trains are a little ehh."

Williams says insurance is a big part of not making ends meet.

"The lack of the insurance rate that they govern the commuter vans under," Williams said. "They have skyrocketed up to about $30,000 a year. And would not having the ridership there they you can't maintain a business."

The city has seen a decrease in licensed commuter van operators since Covid, according to data compiled by city agencies.

Senator John Liu is asking for the department of financial services to step in after it interfered with the driver's insurance.

"Unfortunately, the department of financial services has dealt a death nail to this industry," Liu said. "They have constantly taken away insurance companies without providing solutions, which is actually their responsibility."

Drivers like Williams said aside from insurance help, he'd like to see specific adjustments for all drivers so dollar vans don't become a thing of the past.

"I personally would like to see commuter vans be uniformed just like the yellows cabs and be able to ride and pick up people just like the MTA buses and the yellow cab is able to," Williams said.

With the ongoing issues, many drivers say they're hoping there's a change.

They say these types of buses make a difference in many neighborhoods that lack easily accessible transportation in New York City.

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