It started back in 1980 when buses and subway trains went on strike in New York, making getting around the five towns very difficult. Fast forward 14 years and these modes of transport were legally able to serve parts of the city once they got a license from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission In comes dollar vans, and the rest as they say, is history.
Today, dollar vans are a great way of getting around. Over the last year, Aaron Reiss took to the streets of New York and set about investigating the pros and cons of these, as he himself hopped aboard the dollar vans, covering: Chinatown, Flatbush, Eastern Queens, Eastern Jersey and The Edenwald Line.
He shares his findings in an article that was published by The New Yorker entitled New York’s Shadow Transit. In terms of Chinatown, since increasing rents have resulted in a lot of Chinese immigrants having to leave Chinatown, the dollar vans are great for them since they are inhabiting places without decent public transportation. With these, Reiss found, transportation time is cut in half since it only takes around 35 minutes to go via this method from Chinatown to Flushing as opposed to around 90 minutes via the subway.
Brooklyn residents like the vans too. It reminds the ones who have Caribbean roots of home, resulting in inspired reggae tributes and in-van concerts known as Dollar Van Demos! Indeed, what it seems like, is that not only are these vans a great way of saving time and money, they add an entire culture to lifestyle and living in the Big Apple.