From parking nightmares to random airport fees

Tricky issues are being addressed regionally

Addressing issues by region is the latest strategy for dealing with challenges and annoyances that face the motorcoach industry, or in some cases, threaten companies’ survival. New York City rose to the top for its multiple challenges in the recent UMA Motorcoach EXPO session focused around issues distinct to regional sections of the U.S. and Canada.


New York City

Congested streets have always been a part of New York City life.

“New York State is one of those cauldrons that bubbles over every now and then,” said Camilla Morris, a manager of Hale Transportation in Oneonta and president of the Bus Association of New York (BANY).

For the State Summit audience, she recounted the challenges facing motorcoach operators in the state and particularly in New York City: the threat of new inspection fees, a scattershot crackdown on state regulatory enforcement, parking shortages, excessive ticketing, traffic congestion and the threat of new fees imposed, allegedly, to reduce that congestion.

“Talk of congestion pricing has been around for a very long time and it has come to the forefront,” Morris said. “The reason it is now a hot-button issue is that our governor has decided that other people should pay into the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which needs funding to rebuild the subways.”

To address such challenges, BANY last year formed a coalition—BUS4NYC—and sought support from operators in surrounding states that bring passengers into the city.

“Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York contribute most of the buses visiting town,” said Patrick Condren, an industry consultant and BANY board member. “We reached out to these companies and said, ‘We have to do something.’

“We spend tons of money in the city on Broadway show tickets and lunches. The bus is the most efficient means of bringing those people,” he said. But “regional planners say buses are a problem and contribute to congestion; somebody should do something about getting rid of all those buses.”

So far 45 motorcoach operators have contributed to BUS4NYC, which has been incorporated and retained a public relations and lobbying consultant with the goal of raising $500,000 by 2021.

In addition to warding off congestion pricing, the coalition will boost awareness of the motorcoach industry’s contributions to the New York City economy and tackle issues such as parking and ticketing.

“What each company is being hit with now in tickets is astronomical,” Condren said. “Bus companies have line items in their budgets for tickets.”

Other regions face their own challenges, but a challenge in one region is of concern to others because of precedents the issues may set.

Patrick Condren was one of the experts at the 2019 Summit.

Many state and local governments are reviving past efforts to produce revenue from motorcoach carriers despite federal prohibitions against economic regulation of interstate commerce, for example. Tales of many were told during the annual State Association Summit at Motorcoach Expo 2019 as well as issues unique to carriers in Canada where a high-profile accident involving a hockey team has brought renewed concern about safety belts.

“The industry enjoyed 20-plus years of not having to deal with these bureaucratic messes. But memories are short and revenue is always short, so cities, towns and particularly airports are looking for new areas where they can generate revenues,” said Ken Presley, vice president of industry relations and COO of the United Motorcoach Association.

“After the industry was deregulated in 1982, Congress was frustrated by the fact that states and cities were still trying to regulate the industry economically, so in 1984 they passed an act that threw out all of these requirements,” he said. “But it still persists.”


San Francisco

The industry is awaiting a decision from federal regulators who have been asked to deny San Francisco International Airport the authority to impose its own bus and motorcoach inspections and fees, said Dan Eisentraeger, a retired motorcoach operator and director of the California Bus Association.

In October, UMA and the American Bus Association joined CBA to petition Raymond P. Martinez, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Martinez was scheduled to speak at the EXPO but was prevented from appearing due to the federal government shutdown.

The petition stated that the U.S. Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 preempts state and local government entities such as San Francisco International from imposing their own rules on federally regulated vehicles. That law declares that a state law or regulation may not be enforced if the U.S. Secretary of Transportation determines it has no safety benefit, is incompatible with federal regulations “or would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce,” the petition stated.

“We need someone with a big hammer to deal with this,” Eisentraeger said. “We are hoping that Mr. Martinez will convince the airport that interstate commerce is important, and they definitely should listen to FMCSA.”



BANY borrowed the coalition idea from the Midwest Bus and Motorcoach Association, which formed a fundraising group to address a Chicago ordinance that affected operators bringing passengers into that popular destination.

In 2017 the city adopted regulations requiring passenger vehicles carrying 15 or more people to carry a licensed security guard and security cameras on any trip stopping at locations serving alcohol or trips serving alcohol on board.

The ordinance was aimed at illegal party buses and crime associated with them but ended up affecting 95 percent of bus travel in Chicago, said Cherie Hime, the association’s executive director.

Due to the coalition’s efforts relief may arrive after municipal elections this spring, Hime said during the State Summit. Chicago will have a new mayor and a key alderman has promised to introduce an ordinance that would exempt U.S. DOT-regulated buses from the regulations.

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