New York City’s hidden commuter network

Many neighbourhoods in the Big Apple don't have access to trains or regular buses, so locals sometimes turn to a lesser-known, sometimes illegal network to get around

New York City’s subway commuters are in the midst of a “summer of hell,” a phrase used by the state governor to describe the delays, service interruptions and overcrowding plaguing the city’s sprawling rail network.

But in areas where the subway and bus system doesn’t reach, those wanting to get from A to B rely on “dollar vans,” a little-known network of small, unmarked buses.

Dollar vans don’t use bus stops. Instead, commuters flag them down from the street, learning the system by word of mouth or by having someone show them the ropes.

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There are 344 licensed vans on the network, with more planned, but many unlicensed vans operate illegally to meet demand. There’s a real need for them – often, the vans operate in low-income areas underserved by public transport.

As rider Felecia Jones says: “Every gap transit has, there’s a dollar van in the middle.”

 Video by Daniel Goodman. Additional editing by Paulina Cachero and Trevor Sochocki.

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