Joel Azumah, 27, who runs a small charter bus company, TransportAzumah, replaced recently cut public bus routes (X25, X29, X90, QM22) with his own private routes today in an attempt to turn a profit while helping people get to work. “Some of these routes are in very good locations with very loyal ridership,” he told the Voice.
But the loyal ridership broke its bonds with its MTA-axed daily commute. “Today was definitely not what I was expecting,” Azumah says. “Some routes were off by 50 percent.” He wouldn’t reveal the numbers he had hoped for, but says, “Suffice it to say, the numbers were a lot lower than I expected.” For a ride on the less-than-full 57-seat buses, he charges $3, $5.50, or $6, depending on the length of trip ($6 for inter-borough travel), and runs his buses mainly at rush hours.
He deserves a high-five for having the cojones to put this operation in motion, although prospects for its success look dim. “This project is, to some extent, very, very risky. It’s always a risk for a private company to operate an unsubsidized service,” Azumah says. The routes clearly weren’t faring well for the MTA so it remains to be seen whether Azumah can drive this operation into profitability.
What has the city done to stop him? “Sent me nasty letters, and said mean things about me that aren’t true,” Azumah says. According to the Daily News, a cease-and-desist letter from the DOT accusing Azumah of lacking proper authorization is the “nasty letter.”
Azumah is concerned that the city’s accusations will negatively impact customer loyalty, but says he’s legally covered because he has state authorization to operate charter buses and that his customers join a free club, the Apple Core transportation club, to commute via his service. He contends that this business setup keeps him on the right side of legal yellow lines.
True? That’s up to his lawyers versus the city’s, if it comes to that. A future MTAzumah seems an unlikely prospect at this point, but, hey, at least he took action instead of just complaining about the MTA like the rest of us.