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Vamoose owner Zamvel Bluzenstein
Vamoose owner Zamvel Bluzenstein checks tickets on a bus before it departs Manhattan. (John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times)

Bus line's plan runs awry of cities' rules

City regulations and the threat of fines are posing problems once again for a discount bus company shuttling passengers between Boston and New York - and this one hasn't even hit the road yet.

Vamoose, a New York-based family business, plans to launch a daily New England route on Nov. 8 that will take riders from the Hub to Manhattan for $22 one-way on motor coaches featuring free wireless Internet and guaranteed seating - perks similarly priced competitors don't offer. But Vamoose plans to load and unload passengers in front of Harvard University's Widener Gate and in front of a Dunkin' Donuts one block from Copley Square - illegal curbside activity Cambridge and Boston city officials say will rack up parking and pollution tickets ranging from $20 to $1,000 a piece for Vamoose.

Other Boston-New York buses - Fung Wah, Lucky River Transportation's Lucky Star, and Greyhound Lines Inc., which shares buses and routes with Peter Pan Bus Lines - offer one-way fares for $15 to $35. Each of those companies rents passenger pickup and drop-off gates at Boston's South Station bus terminal at an annual cost of $24,000 to $31,000 per gate.

Transportation officials are disconcerted by Vamoose's plans to stop on the street.

"Ay-yai-yai-yai-yai. That's what South Station was for," said Susan Clippinger, director of Cambridge's Department of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation, when informed of Vamoose's plans, adding that "we have barely enough room" for local buses and Harvard University shuttles.

Vamoose, which has run buses between New York and Washington, D.C., for the past four years, asked South Station's property manager last week about leasing a bus loading dock, but was told all 29 gates are filled. The terminal doesn't have any ticket booths available for lease either, said property manager Michael Brennan. Sixteen more gates are slated to be constructed, but they probably won't be finished for at least another year.

But Vamoose doesn't want to wait that long. Owner Zamvel Bluzenstein said his company then met with Boston's transportation department this month and "got verbal OK" to pick up passengers near the Dunkin' Donuts at 430 Stuart St.

Vamoose's manager of operations on the Boston route, Isaac Wollner, reiterated yesterday that a city transportation planner, Bob D'Amico, was actually the one who suggested designating the sidewalk in front of the doughnut shop as one of the 15-minute Vamoose stops and offered a few alternate curbside locations.

Boston's transportation department said that's not true. "The City of Boston and Bob D'Amico never gave them any permission that they could use the space. They're lying," said Jim Mansfield, the transportation department's director of community affairs. "We reiterate that they find a location off the street to do business. We're not going to use the city streets for that."

This isn't the first time a bus line has gotten into trouble for curbside pickups in the area: Boston's transportation department swept Lucky Star and Fung Wah off the streets of Chinatown and into South Station back in 2004.

"There was a constant problem with the idling of engines, the blocking of traffic, the illegal selling of tickets, the signs, things like that," said Mansfield, noting that companies must have a license to sell tickets in person.

Whether Vamoose will drive down the interstate with its first busload of Boston passengers on Nov. 8 is now unclear. After the Globe raised questions about the bus company's planned pickup practice, Vamoose said it would straighten the situation out with Boston and Cambridge officials.

"We're not going to be doing anything illegal," Wollner said yesterday afternoon as he drove to Boston to meet with officials and find a new bus stop.

Nicole C. Wong can be reached at

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