NYC’s Dollar Bus Network

Every vibrant city has its public transportation woes and homegrown hacks to resolve them.

I experienced Mexico City’s Pesero buses when I was directed by a local to jump into passing VW Bus that took me where I wanted to go as long as I didn’t mind dropping off a few other people along the way. The Pesero system operated somewhere in between the over-crowded and inflexible bus system and extortionist taxis. It was the people’s transit system.

When I lived in the Bay Area, the Casual Carpool system was a network of quasi-official commuter options that, while not funded by the government, are at least acknowledged because they serve a need that is not met by the existing Bay Area Rapid Transit commuter rail.

Today I learned that New York has its Dollar Vans which act as a “shadow transit” network that fills a need for those that are not served by New York’s existing transit system. The long-rumored Interborough subway line that can get you from Queens to Brooklyn without going via Manhattan is still a twinkle in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s eye so, in the meantime, the Dollar Van network is your best bet.

There’s an on-going struggle with the authorities as the network of Dollar Vans are not licensed, the taxi drivers hate them, and van drivers sometimes get harassed by the police. Despite all this, there is a need that is filled so that even when downed trees from Hurricane Sandy keeps the buses off the roads, the Dollar Vans will still be rolling to New Yorkers to work.

Here’s a map of where the vans go. Click to get more details on each route on this piece by The New Yorker.

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