Industry responds to ‘misguided’ call to ban New York sightseeing buses

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As many strive to bring tourism back to New York City, New York City broker Kathryn Wylde’s call for the elimination of sightseeing buses in the city’s central district is a headache for many.

Especially when you consider that coach tourists typically generate estimated revenues of $ 4.15 billion per year for the Big Apple.

In the recent issue of Crain’s New York Business dedicated to the role tourism is playing in the resurgence of the city, Wylde said, “We should reallocate street space in New York to new uses. I think it’s time to stop the tourist bus traffic. I would like to put this on the list of things I need to get rid of.

BUS4NYC Coalition Inc. and the Greater New Jersey Motorcoach Association have reached out to Wylde to educate her on the role coaches play in attracting tourists to the city.

“We find Ms. Wylde’s stated desire to rid the city of tourist buses to be woefully mistaken,” said Glenn R. Every, President of the BUS4NYC Coalition. “Buses are not only environmentally friendly, the most efficient method of moving people, the choice of millions of commuters, and the key to alleviating traffic jams – they are also an economical lifeline that directly benefits Broadway. , restaurants, hotels, museums and virtually every other facet of the New York tourism industry.

He is not alone in his assessment. George Lence, former COO of NYC & Company, also sees sightseeing buses as essential to New York’s economic success and efforts to reduce congestion.

“Tourist buses are an extremely important part of New York’s tourist infrastructure, and from an environmental standpoint, each bus on the street takes up to 80 cars off the road,” Lence said in a message to Bus & Motorcoach News. “When you see a crowded bus go by, you should smile. “

Comments are “reckless”

For Stephanie Lee, Wylde’s comment borders on recklessness.

Lee is the President and CEO of Group Sales Box Office, a subsidiary of John Gore Organization. His father, who founded Group Sales Box Office 62 years ago, taught him the importance of the coach industry to the success of their family business before selling it to him almost 20 years ago.

“There’s no way to get all of these tourists into the theater district without a bus,” Lee said. “Kathryn Wylde’s claims that she wants to rid Manhattan’s central business districts of tourist buses are reckless.”

“She claims that there is a growing consensus to rid tour coaches in these areas. Who is the growing consensus? I have never been asked. I couldn’t imagine sightseeing buses being excluded from Times Square. We rely on tourism as a lifeline for Broadway. These groups don’t just come to Broadway. They stay in hotels. They are having dinner at the restaurant. They see all the attractions that the world’s largest city has to offer.

A power broker

Wylde is president of Partnership for NYC, a nonprofit organization that advocates with New York City and the state government on behalf of big business. She is a powerbroker whose name frequents the lists of the most influential figures in the city. His office on the fifth floor of One Battery Park Plaza is next to a major tourist bus stop, which may play a role in his aversion to bus traffic.

The Crain article noted that domestic tourists are returning to New York in greater numbers despite concerns about the Delta variant and increasing cases of COVID. Sourcing from the Times Square Alliance, the article said more than 200,000 people per day passed through the iconic entertainment district in August, double the foot traffic compared to March.

The city is on track to recover more than half of the 66.6 million tourists who visited in 2019, with a projection of 36.1 million tourists in 2021, Crain’s NYC & Company, the official organization of marketing of city destinations.

“There is an extraordinary draw to the arts, culture and food scene in New York City,” said Chris Heywood, executive vice president of global communications at NYC & Company, which launched a $ 30 million ad campaign in June. to promote the city. publication.

A Hale Transportation coach moves tourists around New York City. (Photo by Jeff Goldwasser)

When the Broadway theaters reopened, they relied on coaches to bring groups to performances. In its final season, Broadway had an annual economic impact of $ 14.7 billion and employed 97,000 people, according to the article.

Lee, who sits on the board of the American Bus Association like his father did, said ABA research shows the buses carry more than 7 million group visitors per year. Almost all of the 600,000 Broadway group tickets Lee sold in 2018 traveled by bus and coach. These groups range from college students to seniors and all types of middle groups.

“What’s Mrs. Wylde’s solution?” Lee asked. “Can’t I imagine a group of 52 kids taking the subway together, or having them cycle together or walk together in traffic?” Do you drop the old people off at West Side Highway and make them walk? “

“I am New Yorker. I even have a car and I don’t like traffic jams. I am convinced that there must be a practical solution to deal with the traffic congestion and related problems. Ridding New York City of tourist buses is certainly not the solution.

Buses are a solution

In her letter to Wylde, GNJMA asked for the opportunity to strike up a conversation with her in the hopes of educating her on the value of sightseeing buses to New York City.

“Our goal is to open a dialogue about the value of our industry to NYC and to see ourselves as a solution to the issues facing NYC, including congestion and tourism,” GNJMA wrote. “We are very involved in conversations with the port authority on parking, tolls, and congestion issues, including congestion pricing.”

The letter explained that global annual sales to New York City for coach tourists totaled $ 4.15 billion. The bus operators, hotels, entertainment venues, restaurants and retailers that serve these travelers, as well as the businesses that provide them with services and equipment, provide well-paying jobs in New York City, and pay significant taxes to state governments. and local.

tourist bus
GNJMA included this photo in its letter to Kathryn Wylde to illustrate the role buses play in reducing traffic congestion.

Statistics show New York serves more than 6 million people equivalent to tour groups by coach on day trips, and an additional 1.5 million in overnight stays, for a total of over 7.5 million visitors .

Patricia A. Cowley, Executive Director of GNJMA, said she received this succinct response from Wylde refusing to continue the conversation: “Let’s agree to disagree. There is a growing consensus that sightseeing buses have no place in Manhattan’s central business districts. “

Causes of congestion

Responding to Bus & Motorcoach News’ context request for comment, Wylde responded, “The streets of the Central Business District are suffering from excessive congestion and we are wasting space on the streets every day. The cost of excessive traffic congestion is over $ 20 billion a year, and touring coaches are a major contributor to the problem. New Yorkers are modal shifting from private vehicles to public transit and bicycles. Visitors to the city should do the same.

But that argument is insufficient, said Every of the BUS4NYC coalition, which pointed out that a closer examination of the causes of congestion will show that cars, vans and personal parcel delivery trucks and rental vehicles occupy much more. of available streetscape, leave a larger carbon footprint and are much less efficient at transporting passengers than a bus.

He noted that this was proven with the 14e The street corridor and other bus lane extensions, which show bus lanes without cars, create much smoother traffic.

“We totally agree that congestion is a major problem in the central business district and that a modal shift to public transport (and bikes) would definitely help,” Every wrote. “When we go our separate ways, it’s to the exclusion of buses as an acceptable mode of public transportation. It does not mean anything. Buses offer the equestrian public (residents and visitors) the most efficient means of transport available. Buses delivered our frontline workers during the pandemic, but now shouldn’t they be allowed on our streets to carry tourists, commuters, and people coming to Broadway?

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