New York City Buses

By Derek Guzman © 2008


As I left the bus I asked the driver about wheelchair accessibility on the city’s bus system.  “Every bus in the system is accessible” he told me.  Across the whole city?  “All five boroughs, the whole city”.  I was impressed.  I thought of Seattle, which to this point operated my idea of the consummate bus system – every bus in King County Metro’s fleet is wheelchair-accessible. Indeed, Seattle’s was the nation’s first transit system to be able to make this claim.  However, New York City is far bigger than Seattle, and the fact that the Metropolitan Transit Authority could also achieve 100% accessibility on its busses was doubly impressive to me.


New York is vast, not only geographically but also in its scope, numbers, and options. Manhattan alone is an island (literally) unto itself, a place where anything can happen, at any time.  There is an electric feeling here unlike anywhere else, and it is reflected in the pace of every day life.  It’s a fast, relentless pace that sweeps one along, and, “if you don’t keep up, you’ll be left behind.” 


Midtown Manhattan offers the most hectic pace, one of people, traffic, and commerce. Uptown is where the rich choose to live, in high rises that line either side of Central Park.  Downtown is more geared toward art, music, and cuisine, and a good place to find refuge from the hustle and bustle.


Yes, it’s easy to be left behind in New York.  If you are, though, there will never be a shortage of people to help you catch up.  New Yorkers are fast, tough, busy, direct, crazy, jaded – they’ve seen it all and will not be shocked. But if you need a hand, someone will step forward to give it.  For every impatient, “hurry-up-and-get-to-the-point” response you get, there will be ten people who will jump into a fire to save you.  September 11 proved the mettle of this city. You can bomb New York, but you’ll never knock it down. It’s big physically, big in attitude, big in what it can absorb – and give back.  In a time of need or crisis, people will stand and deliver.


Trademark yellow cabs run up and down the borough’s great avenues all day and night, riding between impossibly tall buildings that define this city.  Ethnic enclaves melt into one cauldron of activity, commerce, and culture. Chinatown, Harlem, Little India, El Barrio, Little Italy are the big neighborhood names, and of course there are the Irish, Jewish, and Polish people, but it doesn’t stop there.  Name a country and you’ll find a spot somewhere in the city where immigrants from this country have put down roots.  New York is the world’s great melting pot.  It’s a place where you can take a walk on the wild side, shop in Bloomingdale’s, or do something in between. Vast, fascinating, scary, amazing, insane, protective, peaceful, larger-than-life…..and accessible!   


There are subway stations that are wheelchair-accessible, but overall the subway is not the way to go for a wheelchair user. New York’s vaunted bus system is more than up to the task of transporting a wheelchair user to any point he or she wants to go. Busses run up, down, and cross-town in Manhattan, and run throughout the five boroughs.


I wanted to speak with other bus drivers, so I walked up to a parked bus in which two of them were talking and mentioned wheelchair accessibility.  Without hesitation, the driver seated at the wheel said “they’re all accessible.  Standard-size busses have the lift in the back, and the big ones have it in the front.” The driver who was standing asked me where I wanted to go, as if he thought I was with a wheelchair user.  Both of them were ready to help, seemingly proud and eager to show that their system could do the job.  I told them that I was only gathering information.  “Alright, now you know,” the standing driver said as he followed me out of the bus. “You’re ready to go.”  You bet. Kudos to you, sir, and to the world-class service you provide.   

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