The great New York bus tour battle

New York has plenty of intracity rivalries — Yankees versus Mets, Ray's Pizza versus all the other Ray's Pizzas, and now tour buses are getting in on the action. According to Curbed, the hop-on-hop-off bus lines that shuttle tourists around the Big Apple are all trying to take a bite out of each other.

The combatants are Top View Buses, Gray Line and Big Bus. Dust ups and lawsuits have been going on for years. In 2018 scuffles between rival drivers and ticket sellers grew so intense that the companies drew up a conflict avoidance memo called the Conduct Guidelines.

This agreement included explicit directions to not physically assault competitors and guidance around smack talk, which was also rampant among ticket sellers. (Forbidden statements include: "They don't have buses," "They are being investigated by the FBI and Homeland Security," "They don't show you Statue of Liberty," and "Their bus drivers are mean.")

The battles died down during Covid, since there were no tourists to poach. But now the peace has been broken. The New York State Court of Appeals has recently reinstated a claim from Top View against Big Bus and Gray Line, accusing them of operating a clandestine monopoly. 

A former Big Bus tour guide seemed delighted that the companies spent so much time squabbling: "They are two miserable companies," he tells me. "Let 'em fight it out and spend their money on lawyers." 

New Yorkers may love an underdog, but they also love a "take no prisoners" dog fight.

Previously: It's now official: No pooping on NYC subways and buses