Van Battles Keep Moving

COMET: Commuter Vehicles Break Rules

Commuter van companies operating in Queens Community Board 4′s confines did not notify the advisory body of their expanded routes, members of the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) Civic Association claimed in a letter to Department of Transportation (DOT) officials dated Tuesday, July 14.

Board 4 only learned of the expanded routes by accident, reading a note in the City Record that listed companies with expanded routes, according to COMET President Rosemarie Daraio. She claims the vans have been an issue in Elmhurst and surrounding neighborhoods for “at least 15 years.”

She authored the letter sent to the DOT Division of Traffic and Planning to express the community’s concerns, and to address the lack of enforcement for the private vehicles.

The vans are required to come up for renewal every six years and notify the community board of any changes in their routes, Daraio said.

They are supposed to only travel along prescribed routes and not pick up or drop off passengers at bus stops, a practice many disobey, according to Daraio.

Additionally, the drivers operate the vehicles dangerously, blocking intersections and stop signs, and run through red lights, she said. Daraio also claims that many drivers have incorrect or expired insurance.

“That’s all dangerous,” Daraio said. “The bottom line here is they shouldn’t even be operating outside their zones.”

“It’s an ongoing battle,” she said.

The letter was sent “cause I get a lot of complaints from people,” Daraio said. She also wanted to state COMET’s position in anticipation of a public hearing, to be held tomorrow, where residents can speak on the topic, but Board 4 was never officially notified, she said.

Calls to Board 4 for comment were not returned by presss time Wednesday, July 16.

It’s a very, very long, complicated story,” Daraio said of the fight with the city to police the vans. Adding to her frustration, “we’re never told when they come up for renewal.”

As stated in the letter, the Taxi & Limousine Commission, which oversees the operation of these vans, “is ill-equipped to do enforcement on a regular basis and some of their enforcement personnel have stated they don’t know how to write “Out of Zone” summonses.”

Some tasked with enforcement don’t know where the zone boundaries are, and have never written tickets for this offense, she wrote.

“These companies have been operating for years,” Daraio said over the phone. “Its just very frustrating.”

Dario hopes enforcement of routes, and an increase in summons for dangerous driving will result.

“I’m going to look for more enforcement to be done,” she said. “That’s all I can do. I hope that they do not allow the business to expand and will do some enforcement here.”

The letter was also sent to City Council Members Daniel Dromm and Elizabeth Crowley; Queens Community Boards 2, 4 and 5; and the commanding officers of the 104th, 108th and 110th Precincts.

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