Home Buses On NYC bus drivers and their Vision Zero problem

On NYC bus drivers and their Vision Zero problem

by Benjamin Kabak

As MTA jobs go, a bus driver may have it the worst. Until recently, drivers had no protection from unruly passengers and were tasked with keeping passengers in line while attempting to collect fares. They have to compete with the city’s streets and other drivers who are seemingly always in it for themselves. It’s a stressful job made slightly easier and safer by partitions in newer buses, but the threat and reality of violence from passengers has always loomed large in the minds of drivers.

Bus drivers though have a responsibility to everyone else around them as well. They drive very big, very heavy, often plodding vehicles up and down the city’s busiest streets. The city’s buses tower over the streets and loom large as a threat to pedestrians, bikers and other drivers. They help get cars off the streets, but they present a separate set of dangers in and of themselves.

Last week, not for the first time, this situation came to a head when a 15-year-old crossing the street with the right of way in Williamsburg was struck by a bus whose driver claimed he did not see the girl. She remains at Bellevue and may lose her left leg. Francisco de Jesus, the bus driver, was booked on a misdemeanor for violating the city’s relatively new Right of Way law. He faces a $250 summons and up to 30 days in jail — though no first-time offenders have been given a jail sentence. The law is part of the Vision Zero plan that is supposed to protect pedestrians from the dangers of vehicles in a dense urban area.

The injury is horrific; the aftermath to the incident has been ugly. A few days before the incident, three City Council members, under intense lobbying from union officials, had introduced a bill to exempt bus drivers from the Right of Way law, and nearly immediate, TWU officials denounced the arrest. “We drive for a living on the busiest streets in America,” J.P. Patafio, a TWU spokesman, said. “The law of averages has it we’re going to get into an accident.”

Over the weekend, TWU President John Samuelsen threatened — if one can call vowing to drive safer a threat — to slow down buses in the name of the safety:

The incidents this past Friday and several weeks ago in which two Bus Operators were arrested for “failure to yield” and “failure to exercise due care” are both heartbreaking tragedies. But they were accidents, not the result of “criminal” reckless driving. Yet, our Operators were treated as if they were criminals by the Highway Police, and they face TA discipline as a result of the arrest. To add insult to blatant injustice, there are some misguided people out there applauding the criminal treatment of our Bus Operators.

Now we must respond appropriately, recognizing that we are being disgracefully and unfairly scapegoated and targeted. It is imperative that we immediately move to defend our livelihoods and protect ourselves against these attacks. Therefore, we MUST Yield/Stop “when a pedestrian or bicyclist has the right of way.” If there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk, Yield/Stop your bus until they are on the sidewalk. We must exercise extreme caution at intersections and on roadways.

Do not move your bus until all is clear. It you do not make your schedule, so be it. If traffic backs up as you await the ability to make an unquestionably “safe” left turn, so be it. If the bosses are displeased, so be it. Do not jeopardize your future for the sake of NYC Transit’s on time bus performance. And if you are pressured or threatened by supervision for taking these necessary steps, notify your union representative immediately.

Samuelsen’s comments intimate that MTA bus drivers are encouraged by supervisors to put speed over safety. An MTA spokesman vehemently denied that characterization. Meanwhile, along the fringes, the sniping has continued. Pete Donohue wrote an incendiary column accusing advocates fighting for sensible street designs and laws aimed at protecting pedestrian safety of having “zero common sense” while the person operating the TWU’s Twitter feed on Saturday and Sunday tried to turn the debate into class warfare. (Gothamist captured some of the comments, but it was a stunning display of how not to run a P.R. campaign.)

The issue is not about class or about online fighting. It’s not about which advocate — those who must protect union members or those who are trying to protect pedestrians — can be the most zealous. This is about an all-encompassing push for safety. It shouldn’t take an arrest for the TWU to promise to allow pedestrians the Right of Way, and driving in New York shouldn’t inherently involve some number of pedestrian casualties or fatalities. The law should apply to everyone driving a vehicle, and it should recognize the power a huge vehicle has over a person. The person will always lose.

In a reasonable world, the union would have looked at Friday’s tragedy as an opportunity to gain the upper hand in this debate. Samuelsen could have ordered the same slowdown but under the guise of promising to work together with city leaders who have prioritized Vision Zero initiatives and want to stress safety. The TWU could have demanded that de Jesus receive a fair trial but stressed that the union will not tolerate members who do not stress safety or follow the laws. Instead, we have a mess and one that highlights the real physical risks that people walking face everyday. A teenager losing a leg shouldn’t be dismissed as the cost of doing business in New York City.

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Joseph Alacchi February 16, 2015 - 11:36 pm

There is one way to ensure rapid bus service and on-time performance, without compromising on safety, and that is absolute signal priority for buses. The technology exists to replace every traffic light in every city with smart signals that “use” transponders on every bus to offer priority.

On streets where (at least in-service) buses need to turn, when a bus is there, give the no-walk to pedestrians.

To me, it’s just non-sensical that in this day and age, a true public-service vehicle, carrying 15-75 times more people than any other vehicle competing for the signal time, and whose operator’s salary comes right out of the public purse, does not have absolute signal priority. The cost savings from all the drivers that could be cut would pay for the signal improvements and then some.

Duke February 17, 2015 - 12:10 am

When discussing signal priority, the question must be asked: why are buses hitting so many red lights while cars are hitting comparatively fewer?

The answer, of course, is that local buses stop a lot and take time to load/unload passengers. So if signals are timed decently for traffic that keeps moving, traffic that keeps stopping will keep falling behind cycles of the lights.

Giving signal priority to buses may work in some circumstances but if overdone would likely just make matters worse since it would tie up traffic. The light turning green for the bus is irrelevant if the bus is stuck in gridlock and can’t get to the intersection.

So, before we fuss too much over signal priority, I’d look at:
1) Every bus service should be a “limited” bus service. The bus does not need to stop every two blocks.
2) Pre-boarding fare payment should be implemented on every route, “Select Bus” or not.
Both of these things would speed buses up a lot.

As for giving a don’t walk when a bus pre-empts a light, that is irrelevant in a city where pedestrians never obey signals anyway.

Ed February 17, 2015 - 11:46 am

Speaking of speeding up boarding, I’m wondering why buses still accept quarters? This seems to be much slower than swiping a Metrocard. I understand that there are no vending machines by bus stops, so one would have to plan ahead to be able to take the bus, but I know few people who carry 10 quarters on them without also planning ahead. Accepting quarters slows the boarding process, it prevents riders who use them from receiving the pay-per-ride bonus, and it probably costs quite bit to collect and transport the quarters at the end of the day. What is the benefit?

Bolwerk February 17, 2015 - 12:58 pm

Buses de facto cater to poor people who may not have more than a fare and might not live near a vending machine. The people the political class values get new subways.

Theorem Ox February 17, 2015 - 4:43 pm

To add on to Bolwerk’s comments:

While most NYC bus routes and some suburban NY bus routes have a stop near some station with vending machines (subway, major bus interchange or intermodal centers), plenty of bus passengers travel between intermediate stops of a route without ever reaching those stations.

Out of system Metrocard vendors are few and far between. From personal experience, most vendors carry very limited stock – both in terms of denominations and total quantity. (It’s not surprising as they have to pay the MTA upfront for their entire Metrocard inventory less a modest commission for certain denominations). And very few accept all methods of payment that a vending machine would. So if you don’t have enough cash, you’re outta luck there

Alan February 17, 2015 - 7:21 pm

Ah, yes, that’s why the South 4th Station is being activated now that Williamsburg is fancy.

Bolwerk February 18, 2015 - 9:38 am

It’s not *that* fancy. It gets ferries.

Brandon February 17, 2015 - 6:57 am

Just to point out, it doesn’t have to be every light. It probably doesn’t even have to be every light on a bus route (thought his would be an eventual goal), just those most likely to slow the bus down the most.

anon_coward February 17, 2015 - 9:53 am

have you ever seen kids run across the street? don’t know what exactly happened in this case, but i drive near two schools daily and it’s a madhouse. especially kids running late and scared that the teacher is going to ruin the rest of their life over one lateness

VLM February 17, 2015 - 10:00 am

don’t know what exactly happened in this case

Really? Instead of back-handed victim-blaming, why not read up in the case? Everyone involved admitted that the teenager was walking across the street with the light when the bus, making a turn, failed to yield. It’s pretty cut and dry.

anon_coward February 17, 2015 - 11:30 am

people said the bus was turning too fast and should have seen her, but it still doesn’t change the fact that i see a lot of people literally walking in front of buses and cars to get across the street 2 seconds faster. same with kids running to school.

Bolwerk February 17, 2015 - 12:03 pm

You’re right. Everyone who gets in the way of motorists should be maimed or (preferably) killed.

Bronx February 17, 2015 - 9:51 pm

Perhaps we should reduce the speed limits around schools to a more appropriate one which allows immediate response (5 MPH?). I usually drive extremely slow through school zones and other areas where interaction with pedestrians is likely, well under the speed limit.

sonicboy678 February 17, 2015 - 8:21 pm

There are two things I feel must be said:

1. Although the driver should have been more responsible while operating the bus, a bus also has considerable blind spots. Despite the massive windshield, it is not easy to measure everything with such a large vehicle.

2. Although the pedestrians had the right-of-way, they should have been more responsible by paying more attention to their surroundings. People are unpredictable — drivers, pedestrians, you name it — and ensuring safety for all is only possible when everyone is aware of their surroundings — especially pedestrians, the first to fall in accidents.

Simply put, it may seem cut and dry, but by acknowledging these ideas, exactly how black and white is this situation?

NattyB February 17, 2015 - 11:34 pm

Simply put, it may seem cut and dry, but by acknowledging these ideas, exactly how black and white is this situation?


This is a strict liability violation. In other words, yes, it really is that simple, even when accounting for your “ideas.”

And frankly, shame on you. Your idea #2 is pure conjecture and victim blaming and idea #1 –> supports the notion that driver’s should drive slower and more safely when handling turns in densely populated areas. Like, I’ve nearly been wiped out by buses and I don’t walk around with my head up my a$$. This “freak out” by the TWU is evidence to me that the law is working. It’s a misdemeanor FFS.

sonicboy678 February 18, 2015 - 12:47 am

Pure conjecture? When walking anywhere, it’s important to be alert; it only becomes more important when walking near vehicular traffic. Am I victim blaming? If you actually read what I said, you would notice that I said both parties were at fault to some degree. Clearly, neither party had provided the appropriate level of attention. On the other hand, both parties also have other factors to deal with. A pedestrian may have the right-of-way, but a bus has large blind spots. Knowing these things, I can’t help but question exactly how cut and dry this situation truly is. Unless you have an immediate remedy for the blind spots and can prove that the victim was devoting the appropriate attention, I would have to say that you do indeed have your head up your ass for not actually considering all possibilities.

Nathanael February 20, 2015 - 4:44 am

It’s quite clear that the bus driver was at fault. And that the pedestrian was not.

Ever heard “check your blind spots”? I learned that in the first week of driver training.

Duke February 17, 2015 - 12:32 am

“driving in New York shouldn’t inherently involve some number of pedestrian casualties or fatalities.”

Regardless of whether anyone believes it should or not, the reality remains that when two moving objects pass through the same point in space there is, statistically, some chance that they will do so at the same time and therefore collide. As the frequency with which objects pass through this point in space increases, so do the odds of a collision occurring. Hence, in a congested urban area, there will be more accidents.

So long as motor vehicles share space with pedestrians, there will be collisions between them. Street design and traffic policy can reduce the number by avoiding the most dangerous situations, but ultimately drivers and pedestrians are all human and accidents will happen. Only two things could prevent this 100% of the time:
1) Grade separation, so cars and pedestrians can pass harmlessly over/under each other
2) Removing either all motor vehicles or all pedestrians from the street

In most cases neither is practical, so we live with some risk.

al February 17, 2015 - 11:13 am

There is a 3rd option: vehicles fitted with automated pedestrian safety devices. It would also make using automobiles in homicides much harder.

Theorem Ox February 17, 2015 - 4:48 pm

Don’t put too much blind faith in technology eliminating the troubles we face today.

Technology breaks down over time, can be deliberately tampered with or becomes ineffective with overuse.

adirondacker12800 February 17, 2015 - 12:31 pm

I haven’t gone searching for recent statistics. Something really shocking like half of all pedestrian deaths in the US occur in New York City.
…. there are no pedestrian deaths in places without pedestrians… They occur in New York because there are pedestrians in New York.
…. out in the hinterlands no one commits suicide by jumping out the window because the tallest building is two stories tall. No one dies in train accidents because there are no trains.
There are too many pedestrian deaths in and around New York. We have a lower overall automotive death rate because we have alternatives to automobiles and when we do get into cars they move slow.

lop February 17, 2015 - 7:54 pm



Unfortunately, pedestrians were one of the few groups of road users to experience an increase in fatalities in the United States in 2012, totaling 4,743 deaths.

Ivan February 17, 2015 - 1:46 pm

“the reality remains that when two moving objects pass through the same point in space there is, statistically, some chance that they will do so at the same time and therefore collide.”

You make it sound as if we were talking about mindless particles in a gas. I would hope we could demand that drivers, especially bus drivers, were smarter than a gas molecule.

sonicboy678 February 17, 2015 - 8:23 pm

How about everyone? You’re seriously giving too much credit to pedestrians.

Larry Littlefield February 17, 2015 - 7:36 am

It’s the same thing we’re heard from the teachers and police. Be grateful for what you get, or that you get anything at all, and don’t you serfs question us, examine us, pretend that we are acceptable for anything.

After all, Wall Street wasn’t accountable either.

Christopher February 17, 2015 - 8:06 am

NYC already has no-turn on red which is a huge benefit to pedestrians and motorists. Every time I’m walking or driving in another city I realize how unsafe right-turn on red is and feels. Why not take this to the next logical step and separate walking signals for driving signals? Get everyone through the intersection is separate groups? Combine it with scramble intersections for good measure.

JJJ February 17, 2015 - 10:03 am

Because when you do that, you severely cut down on the amount of time pedestrians have to cross. I think 9th Avenue has this on the side with the bike lane.

Take this made up example:
Current: 58 seconds green for N/S, 58 seconds green E/E (4 seconds all red)

Every 2 minutes, you have 58 seconds to cross, 62 seconds to wait. So over 50% of the time youre waiting (note in this hypothetical, the street has the same timing as the avenue, which isnt the case, but it doesnt change the point).

Proposed: 30 seconds green for N/S and peds, 26 seconds for turns, rest all red. N/S cars continue the full 58 seconds green.

30 seconds green for E/W and peds, 26 seconds for turns, rest all red. E/W cars continue with the full 58 seconds green.

Now for every 2 minutes, you have 30 seconds as a ped to cross, and 1:30 to wait! What a rip-off!

Meanwhile cars not turning get the full 58 seconds. So by adding safety, youre really prioritizing cars.

Also, Id love to see stats for how many deaths are caused by bus drivers in Germany, UK, Japan, etc.

BrooklynBus February 17, 2015 - 10:20 am

Anyone remember the Barnes Dance?

Christopher February 17, 2015 - 11:24 am

Japan has smart traffic monitoring systems that monitor speed, stalled cars, and general traffic flow. Also separated crossings and barn dances. (They also have fewer sidewalks.) But they have an extremely low pedestrian fatality rate.

The question is why it would mean less time for pedestrians to cross? That would only be if you lowered the time for crossing instead of keeping it the same? Why must we privilege car movement?

JJJ February 17, 2015 - 12:34 pm

Because youre adding more phases to the same amount of time. You cannot add more phases while not decreasing time everybody gets, its impossible. Play with the numbers if youd like.

In the current system, peds and turning cars share a time slot. Theoretically, this means peds have up to the maximum amount of time, as sufficient pedestrian traffic could block all turns. Turns are fighting for scraps. Give turns their own time and you have to take it from peds. Theres no other option.

Alon Levy February 17, 2015 - 11:17 am

What JJJ said. In Tel Aviv, the separation of turn signals and pedestrian signals makes it difficult for the pedestrian to cross the street, and ends up prioritizing vehicle speed over either pedestrian wait times or safety.

adirondacker12800 February 17, 2015 - 12:19 pm

One would have to get pedestrians that pay attention to the signals for that to be effective.

Bolwerk February 17, 2015 - 1:26 pm

I rather doubt pedestrians don’t pay attention. Their risk is greater than drivers’ when crossing the street, so you can bet they’re at least as alert.

Theorem Ox February 17, 2015 - 4:59 pm

You would think, but there’s plenty of pedestrians walking completely oblivious to their surroundings.

And more often than not, many of them have their eyes glued to their phones and blasting music in both ears. Otherwise, they seem to walk with a severe case of tunnel vision.

The absolute worst I’ve seen was a young mother with a baby & stroller crossing against the light at Queens Boulevard two years ago. Her eyes were glued to her phone and did not see oncoming traffic. She was quite indignant too when the unlucky drivers nearest her had to slam on their brakes and honked.

sonicboy678 February 17, 2015 - 8:27 pm

Try saying that at many intersections, including busy ones like Flatbush & Nostrand Avenues. Few actually pay attention to the pedestrian traffic signals; this is especially insulting because this intersection is one of the few in NYC which has three phases, two specifically for vehicular traffic while the third is for pedestrians.

Bolwerk February 18, 2015 - 5:47 pm

I think you’re conflating inattention and disregard.

John February 17, 2015 - 11:55 am

I’ve seen some intersections where they do that – have completely separate light cycles for vehicles and pedestrians. It works great, but really only makes sense at intersections with a LOT of pedestrian traffic.

And right turn on red is only unsafe if people don’t do it right. Pedestrians should be aware of it and act accordingly. And vehicles need to stop before the crosswalk to check for pedestrians, before turning right on red.

adirondacker12800 February 17, 2015 - 12:21 pm

Right on red is banned in NYC except where posted. It’s not posted very often.

sonicboy678 February 17, 2015 - 8:29 pm

If I remember correctly, Avenue K & Flatbush Avenue still allows for right on red if one is on Flatbush Avenue (facing NW), thanks to Avenue K’s split.

ajedrez February 17, 2015 - 8:51 pm

In the outer boroughs, it’s posted a decent amount of the time, especially on Staten Island. (Usually at T-shaped intersections where there would be no traffic on the cross street who would be passing through the intersection in the same direction as the people making the right turn)

Bronx February 17, 2015 - 9:53 pm

I can’t even recall one in the Bronx. The only one I’m familiar with is in Queens off the LIE in LIC.

ajedrez February 18, 2015 - 2:52 am

There’s plenty out here. Port Richmond & Post, Victory & Goller, Richmond & Platinum, Richmond & Independence, Richmond Hill & Merrymount, Richmond Terrace & Broadway, Richmond Terrace & Nicholas, Richmond Terrace & Lafayette, Victory & Forest, Bay & Cross, Bay & Vanderbilt, Hylan & Richmond.

Though apparently, we’re the only borough that allows it: http://www.silive.com/news/ind.....re_ri.html

BenW February 17, 2015 - 4:45 pm

“Only unsafe if people don’t do it right:” best dodge ever.

Yes, the guy who almost killed me at an intersection in Stamford last winter as he went straight through the crosswalk at 25mph in the dark while looking to his left to see if there was traffic that actually mattered to him coming (but not straight ahead or at the sidewalk to see if anybody was entering it) was “doing it wrong,” but it wouldn’t have mattered a lot to me if I’d happened to step off the curb under the rosey assumption that everybody around me was actually following the goddamned law.

sonicboy678 February 17, 2015 - 8:31 pm

Did you even read that entire portion or just select that tidbit and take it out of context?

terranova47 February 17, 2015 - 12:54 pm

While NYC has ‘no turn on red’ the rest of the state doesn’t. On Manhattan’s midtown east side the approaches to the Queensboro Bridge are full of drivers from Long Island turning right through red lights. No tickets are given, intersections are blocked, never mind Don’t Block the Box, when was that last enforced? Also MTA bus drivers are the worst offenders for blocking intersections. Yes, their’s is a stressful job, but spreading stress to all other road users isn’t too bright.

Ralfff February 17, 2015 - 2:31 pm

In my experience MTA drivers have no choice because cars will cut ahead of them if they don’t at those intersections. But I’m thinking mainly of the east Bronx here.

Stephen February 17, 2015 - 6:42 pm

Actually, the rest of the country has right-on-red allowed by default.

And I agree with everything you’ve said.

tacony February 17, 2015 - 10:12 am

The safety-vs-OTP trope is popular because it’s something a 5-year old would understand, and we know that when it comes to these kinds of emotional issues people develop their own theories off-the-bat and are then dismissive of “professionals” contradicting their preconceived worldview.

It actually reminds me of the “Blue Ribbon Panel” safety study that made the vague conclusion that MNR may have kind of been emphasizing OTP over safety, without much evidence of that other than the fact that they do use OTP as a performance metric and there have been a bunch of recent crashes. (Of course the trains that crashed weren’t speeding because they were behind schedule, but… facts!?) And the report actually did note that a lot of senior staff, many who had been with the railroad since its inception as MNR, had retired recently, and the railroad had trouble replacing them with experienced people because management pay has been stagnant, but this was buried and ignored in the final conclusion because “emphasizing OTP over safety” makes a better soundbite and is easier to rectify by “establishing a new culture of safety” or whatever.

Samuelsen’s statement also strikes me as playing to a false idea that buses and peds are in a fight against each other as equals and if if buses yielded to peds at all times the buses wouldn’t get anywhere. It’s obviously not true but I bet a lot of people believe it is.

Ralfff February 17, 2015 - 10:21 am

Excellent post. My own experience riding buses makes the implication that the MTA pressures drivers to rush sound completely ludicrous.

Stephen February 17, 2015 - 6:47 pm

It is easier to track the buses now, what with the GPS system and all, so the dispatch folks should be able to find out where they were.
But I have sat on a bus at a stop while the driver just sits there for a minute or two. No announcement to us, but as these occurrences generally happen on holidays where school kids and some folks have off from work, I think it’s because the driver gets ahead of schedule and sits there like the subway with holding lights so that his bus can be on-time for subsequent stops and not ahead of schedule. But then I don’t get to enjoy a shorter bus trip. Yeah, I know, the needs of the many…

BrooklynBus February 17, 2015 - 10:27 am

I wonder how close the girl was to the bus when crossing in front of it. Pedestrians can be difficult to see when they pass directly in front of the bus because the driver has to be looking down. It is difficult to look down, in front, to the right and to the left all at the same time when pulling out of a bus stop or when making a turn. An occasional mistake by someone has to happen. Samuelson is right. That does not make someone a criminal. But I don’t believe tht drivers deserve any special treatment either.

Bronx February 17, 2015 - 9:56 pm

How is out difficult to see what’s immediately in front when the front end of NYC buses are flat? The driver is literally right up on it.

sonicboy678 February 18, 2015 - 12:52 am

The buses currently operating in New York City were all built by different manufacturers in different years. Not all buses are built the same way. How easily you can see what’s in front of the bus also depends on the size and proximity to the bus. If someone suddenly jumps out of nowhere too far down on the bus (and too close to it), you may not see it until it’s too late.

Bolwerk February 17, 2015 - 10:35 am

The types of monstrous things NYC union culture openly defends really says a lot about how decadent and authoritarian this city and state have gotten. Police think they should be allowed to execute people extra-judicially like Jim Crow-era southern cops, teachers think they shouldn’t be fired if they diddle students, and this TWU stuff is mild compared to the well-documented abuses of the LIRR union. That said, at least the TWU is mostly just confused that suddenly they’re being held to standards they should have been held to all along.

Larry Littlefield February 17, 2015 - 12:04 pm

Don’t forget the de facto union of top executives and boards of directors.

Really, the attitude toward the serfs shows through.

SEAN February 17, 2015 - 1:07 pm

Don’t forget the de facto union of top executives and boards of directors.

Really, the attitude toward the serfs shows through.

That is especially true with those latter two groups – you can only imagine what kind of handshake deals were & are being made. They have nothing on unions. Unions just tend to be more vocal on there demands while the corporate people just do what they have always done behind boardroom doors while they vocalize there neoliberal world view that America would be better off if there weren’t unions to begin with & how they are being victimized by a punitive tax system that stifles innovation.

Bolwerk February 17, 2015 - 1:23 pm

I actually find the public sector union abuses worse. The only useful purpose most public officials can have to the citizenry is counterbalancing that sort of (for lack of a less loaded word) bourgeois excess. Otherwise, why even bother with government?

If it’s just going to diddle your children or kill you, it’s not useful. That’s why you should be afraid of everyone who preaches “small government.” A big, dumb government is more likely to eat its own but leave the rest of us alone.

Larry Littlefield February 17, 2015 - 9:43 pm

“The only useful purpose most public officials can have to the citizenry is counterbalancing that sort of (for lack of a less loaded word) bourgeois excess. Otherwise, why even bother with government?”

Unfortunately, that’s exactly the feeling I’ve gotten over the years. If the public sector is merely going to replicate, or exacerbate, the unfairness in the private sector, what’s the point?

At least I can choose not to patronize or invest in businesses with overpaid executives and exploited workers. I have a choice. In government, not so much.

The issue isn’t unions. It’s coercion and monopoly.

Nathanael February 19, 2015 - 8:52 am

I find the systemic frauds perpetrated by the Wall Street executives to be worse than anything done by the public sector unions.

Even the police unions — the FOP is run by a genuine seditious traitor, Patrick Lynch, and has repeatedly murdered people.

But the bank executives have forged land ownership claims by the millions, basically ripping out the heart of our entire property systems; used that to defraud would-be investors; kicked people out of their homes who had fully paid off their mortgages; trashed the homes; allowed the homes to fall into disrepair and be looted… and for this, they were rewarded with *billions* of dollars in free money from the government.

I guess they’re not as bad as the traitorous criminals at the NSA (and FBI and CIA), who spied on everyone in the world, illegally and unconstitutionally, apparently for purposes of blackmail (since it isn’t good for anything else), and managed to actually sabotage the entire US computer industry (because nobody wants to buy bugged computers).

But they’re probably not as bad as the people who lied us into multiple foreign wars so that they could sell more weapons systems — the military contractors. Who overlap with the CEOs. And overlap with the Wall Streeters…

We have a large number of corrupt institutions. The public sector unions can probably be reformed; the military contractors, NSA, CIA, and Wall Street need to be destroyed completely.

Bolwerk February 19, 2015 - 11:56 am

The pig union is far and away the worst. It knows it’s beyond reproach. What decent person doesn’t think blacks should be allowed outside without being frisked?

I don’t agree with everything the TWU does, but honestly they seem far less hostile to the public than most of these other groups. Their offenses more are about how the defend archaic work rules and processes.

Banks are usually inept at property management.

Nathanael February 20, 2015 - 4:49 am

“Banks are usually inept at property management.”

Yeah, but it’s obviously a lot worse when they’ve stolen the property through fraud. It ends up hurting the entire city when a bank steals properties through fraud and then lets them go into disrepair — when the owner-occupiers were maintaining them.

I’m amazed at how many people still don’t understand the scale and nature of the frauds being perpetrated by the big banks. It’s been amply documented over the last few decades, but I guess it’s been carefully kept out of the mainstream media. This is a fairly good summary, despite the source:


Bank behavior has not changed since 2010 when this was published. In a couple of states (NY and Massachusetts) the courts have started to crack down on the most blatant frauds; in most states, they still get away with them.

SEAN February 17, 2015 - 1:26 pm

The types of monstrous things NYC union culture openly defends really says a lot about how decadent and authoritarian this city and state have gotten.

You think it’s just a NYC or a state issue? What about King Christie or states like Georgia, Wisconsin, Texas & Ohio who’s governors are even further down the neoliberal path.

Police think they should be allowed to execute people extra-judicially like Jim Crow-era southern cops, teachers think they shouldn’t be fired if they diddle students, and this TWU stuff is mild compared to the well-documented abuses of the LIRR union.

It’s not just the LIRR union, the same can be said of the Nassau Police union as well.

That said, at least the TWU is mostly just confused that suddenly they’re being held to standards they should have been held to all along.


Ralfff February 17, 2015 - 2:33 pm


Bolwerk February 17, 2015 - 2:56 pm

Varies. NYC generally has the strongest public sector unions in the country. We’re probably the only place where a union clashing with the social taboo against adults diddling children results in the union at least sort of winning. Relative to their employers, state unions are inherently weaker than municipal unions because states just reserve more power for themselves. That said, both Cuomo and Christie have generally been deferential to them.

Scott Walker aside, Midwestern and Southern states mostly target or simply neutralize private sector unions rather than public sector unions. Police manage a triple-whammy of generous union contracts, deferential oversight from politicians cowed by fear of being weak on crime, and judicial decrees that limit the ability of citizens to seek restitution.

Nathanael February 19, 2015 - 8:54 am

Politicians seem to be very, very weak on crime to me. No Wall Streeters have gone to prison for their RICO-level crimes. None of the CIA torturers or the NSA criminals who spied unconstitutionally have gone to prison. Very few of the murderous, criminal police officers have gone to prison….


Bolwerk February 19, 2015 - 11:38 am

I approve of many crimes, so I can’t really complain about crime with a straight face. But yes, it’s ironic that anti-crime histrionics usually involve supporting a lot of un-prosecuted criminal behavior.

I worry more about anti-social behavior. Yes, agents of the state commit lots of anti-social behavior in our society. Maybe most, but it’s hard to tell. Who keeps the statistics?

anon February 17, 2015 - 12:50 pm


Tower18 February 17, 2015 - 1:26 pm

Not at all surprised this quickly descended into class warfare. I’ve had a couple near-incidents with buses, both while walking and biking, both times I unquestionably had the right of way (both in spirit and in letter of the law), and in both cases, the attitude from the bus driver has been “hey, I’m driving a big thing here, you need to anticipate my movements, I’m not going to pay any mind to you, and if you were ‘one of us’ you’d obviously be in a car, you rich brownstone denizen.”

Note that you’re a rich brownstone denizen if you’re white and live in Manhattan or NW Brooklyn, but in the same situation in Mill Basin, you’d be “one of the poors” for getting in their way.

It really is amazing how these guys, Pat Lynch, etc. are in a bubble of entitlement. That you would even advocate in public for this position is incredible. However, this is the job of a union. It’s up to management and regulatory agencies/bodies to push back on this nonsense…but in New York City, you never know whether that will happen.

JAzumah February 17, 2015 - 8:17 pm

Has anyone experienced a pedestrian disappearing behind a mirror?

Both van and bus mirrors are bigger and higher and a person can completely disappear behind them. I have experienced it on a van and it is always a risk. However, I am thinking about investing in a dash cam. A lot of safety initiatives are creating some serious conflicts on the street.

sonicboy678 February 17, 2015 - 8:45 pm

I haven’t, but I can certainly imagine it. After all, large vehicles like those have massive blind spots, which is why it becomes all the more important for pedestrians to be alert.

pete February 18, 2015 - 1:08 am

If you want to see the slowdown in action, many M60s wont go above 20 mph on Astoria Blvd. A bicycle would beat the M60.


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