Home Buses Transit to run vintage buses along 42nd St.

Transit to run vintage buses along 42nd St.

by Benjamin Kabak

Vintage Bus at the Transit Museum Bus Festival, 2007

A vintage bus at the Transit Museum’s Bus Festival in 2007. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

As part of a holiday celebration, New York City Transit is running vintage buses along 42nd St. this month. These buses, which began running last Monday, will run through December during the week. A series of 1950s buses will run the route of the M42 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., surprising midtown workers and tourists a like.

“These buses are a living, breathing part of the city’s history,” Joseph Smith, MTA Bus Company president and Senior Vice President of Buses for MTA NYC Transit, asid. “Riding on these buses is a fantastic counterpoint to the vehicles we operate currently. It’s obvious that we have come a long way since the 1950s and, despite the charm of the older equipment, our customers are benefiting from major advances in bus efficiency, design and accessibility.”

Currently, Transit keeps 19 historic buses on hand. The one shown above is a 1917 wood-bodied double decker operated by the now-defunct Fifth Ave. Coach Company. Although that 90-year-old vehicle will remain up on blocks, so to speak, the MTA will roll out Bus No. 3100, a 1956 GM model that was the first air conditioned bus in the city; Bus No. 9098, a 1958 General Motors specialty that was among the first to feature fiberglass seats; and Bus. No. 2969, a GM from 1948 and one of the city’s first 40-foot-long buses.

Despite the old school wheels, don’t worry about digging out some dimes and nickels to pay the fare. As Transit said, everything but the fare box is original, and these buses will take MetroCards.

Stayed tomorrow for an announcement about the Nostalgia Trains running throughout the month of December.

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19 comments

AK December 2, 2009 - 4:33 pm

I’m sure someone will post about how these old buses are bad for the environment, so I’ll preempt that by saying that the relative cost of the emissions pales in comparison to the unreal awesomeness of these buses 🙂 Indeed, I compare it to the lights on the Chrysler/ESB/other Manhattan skyscrapers. Would it be more ecological to turn off all the lights? Of course. Would people be incredibly upset/their happiness drop significantly if the lights were turned off? Absolutely. I hope they run on weekends!

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Alon Levy December 2, 2009 - 4:41 pm

AK, people don’t get asthma from lights on buildings.

I don’t think it’s a big deal to run this bus on one line for one day, but in general, the MTA should be striving for low emissions, not nostalgia. If it wants nostalgia, it should electrify the bus lines and restore the trolleys.

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AK December 2, 2009 - 4:49 pm

“AK, people don’t get asthma from lights on buildings.”

Alon, where does the energy come from that lights the buildings? Mainly, from burning coal and gas and emitting pollutants into the atmosphere that not only increase asthma (in areas where teh plants are located), but moreover, increase the threat of global warming.

I guarantee you that the amount energy used to light up NYC’s skyline for a single night dwarfs the emissions that will be caused by running this old bus for a couple of weeks. OBVIOUSLY the MTA should seek to be eco-friendly. But part of that task is making people believe in transit. Part of making people believe in (and use) transit is playing up the “romance” of trains/buses.

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Alon Levy December 2, 2009 - 7:57 pm

Coal plants aren’t located in residential areas. That doesn’t matter for global warming, but the health problems created by pollution are a bigger issue, especially locally.

You get people to believe in transit by building good transit, not by reminding people that New York’s transit infrastructure is 80 years old. The MTA should spend more of its resources on basic competence issues, like having bus schedules that make sense and adjusting them when the subway has major GOs, and less on telling people that what was good for their grandfathers is good for them.

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KB December 4, 2009 - 12:40 pm

“Gasoline consumption in the city today is at the rate of the national average in the 1920s.”
-Jervey, Ben (2006). The Big Green Apple. Globe Pequot Press. ISBN 0762738359.

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Jonathan December 2, 2009 - 4:48 pm

I’d rather ride streetcars from the future than buses from the past.

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AK December 2, 2009 - 4:52 pm

You guys really don’t know how to have fun, do you? People LOVE these things– the response to the old trains that took fans to the Stadium during the Series was extraordinary. Lay off the Vision 42 soap box for a minute and enjoy the fact that transit has a fun, romantic past that is worth celebrating. In fact, I’d encourage you to head out to Brooklyn to the Transit Museum if you haven’t already done so. Any SAS reader would LOVE traversing old trains and learning about the history of NY transit.

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Alon Levy December 2, 2009 - 7:57 pm

Well, I read SAS, and I think any train before the R62 is meh.

Not everyone in New York is attracted to the 1930s.

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Jerrold December 2, 2009 - 8:07 pm

WHAT is “meh”?

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rhywun December 2, 2009 - 9:27 pm

Just like it sounds.

Jerrold December 2, 2009 - 9:49 pm

It’s a new one on me.
It must be the slang of today’s young people.

rhywun December 2, 2009 - 11:42 pm

Well, I dunno what “young” is any more. I’m 40 and I use it all the time 🙂

Christine December 2, 2009 - 5:43 pm

I agree AK. I love the beauty of the old buses and trains.

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Jerrold December 2, 2009 - 5:52 pm

Are you sure that the old bus was MANUFACTURED by the Fifth Avenue Coach Company?
Wasn’t that the privately owned bus company that used to run the 5th Ave. buses?
You know, the 15-cent fare, the two-way traffic on 5th Ave., the use of part of Washington Square Park as an outdoor bus terminal, etc.

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Benjamin Kabak December 2, 2009 - 6:01 pm

You’re probably right. Sloppy word choice on my part.

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Julia December 2, 2009 - 6:20 pm

This is awesome. Too bad it’s just across 42nd Street!

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Jerrold December 2, 2009 - 7:08 pm

In those days, there were also the red-colored buses of the “Avenue B and East Broadway Bus Company”.

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rhywun December 2, 2009 - 9:32 pm

I’ve never heard of a historical BUS festival or whatnot, but hey, it’s still fun. I was absolutely thrilled when I caught a 30s F train by sheer luck a few years ago. Too bad the bus shown in the picture isn’t running–I would love to ride that.

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Nostalgia Train to run December Sundays :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog December 3, 2009 - 2:56 pm

[…] in writing about the MTA’s plan to run vintage buses along 42nd Street, a few readers started debating the merits of these gimmicky holiday specials. Although running […]

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