A Public Brooklyn Bus with Discriminatory Rules?

Since 1973, Private Transportation Corporation has been running the B110 bus between Williamsburg and Borough Hall in Brooklyn under a franchise with the City. The fare for this bus is $2.50 but this is probably the only similarity between a MTA bus and the B110.

The MetroCard is not accepted, the exterior colors of the buses are different from MTA buses; but the most stunning difference is the bus guidelines posted inside. In the B110, men sit in the front, women in the back. The guidelines state “when boarding a crowded bus with standing passengers in the front, women should board the back door after paying the driver in the front” and further “when the bus is crowded, passengers should stand in their designated areas.”

Most of the B110 commuters are Hasidic Jews who explain that their religion dictates the separation of the sexes. A 30 year-old mother who boarded the bus last Wednesday told the New York Times that she never wondered what it would be like to sit with men.

While these rules have been applied for a very long time with little to no surprise or indignation, last week, The New York World, a Columbia Journalism School publication reported that a female rider was told by other riders that she had to leave the front. The story quickly made its way on the Internet and even came to the attention of Mayor Bloomberg.

At a news conference last Wednesday, the Mayor said that segregating men and women was “obviously not permitted” on public buses. This route was awarded to Private Transportation Corporation through a public competitive bidding process which is why Anne Koenig, head of the Transportation Department’s franchise division, just sent a letter to the bus company’s president asking him to provide any complaints filed about its practices and to show what the company was doing to prevent discriminatory practices. The City gave the company one week to respond and threatened to terminate their agreement over these discriminatory rules.

The Department of Transportation commented to the New York Times that while privately operated, the B110 bus is for public use and cannot discriminate against its riders.