A week and a half ago, we spoke to Joel Azumah, the 27-year-old who began running charter buses along the X25, X29, X90, QM22 lines recently cut by the MTA. The city Department of Transportation sent him a cease and desist letter at the end of June, when he started his service, but he kept his buses running, zigzagging his way around city bureaucracy with his charter bus company TransportAzumah, which has all the necessary state approvals, he says. Today, however, a Manhattan Supreme Court Justice approved the city Law Department’s temporary restraining order, halting his service until July 15.
We followed up with Azumah, and while he says he “will not disrespect the judge,” he’s not happy. “We’re going to fight these guys as hard as we can, but unlike them, we’re going to follow the law.”
Azumah contends that it’s the city acting illegally, not him. “I am not a public bus line. Therefore the city has no jurisdiction over my buses,” he says. “My purpose is to make sure people get from point A to point B…Right now, the city has gotten in the way, and people are stranded.”
Azumah says the city’s claim that the restraining order is in the interest of public safety is a farce. “You will not find a bus more qualified than I’m using to do this job.” His buses have liability insurance of $5 million, are inspected by the New York State Department of Transportation every six months, and he hires contractors with satisfactory safety ratings to run the services, he says.
When we first spoke to Azumah at the end of June, initial business was slower than expected. Over the past week and a half, he says, “It was getting better.” He was in the midst of a “transitional phase,” limiting service to once every half-hour to be more reliable and building his customer base to a few hundred people per day at his busiest. Now, his progress has been thwarted for at least two weeks. The fate of the business we dubbed MTAzumah is still uncertain.
The hearing on July 15 will determine if the bus service can move forward — if the Manhattan Supreme Courts approves his bus line, could this imply a competitive future in the public transportation realm?