A Department of Transportation regulatory board has found a double-decker monopoly in our midst! Turns out that in 2009 the two major tour bus companies semi-secretly merged into TwinAmerica while keeping their shingles separate in the name of competition. Together the two companies, Grey Line (of the red buses) and CitySights (of the blue buses) make up 89 percent of the city's double-decker market (the rest are smaller outfits like the the Big Taxi Tours). At least, they do now.

Those days may soon be past, as the DOT has ruled after the fact that the merger "creates a combined entity that possesses excessive market power and has the ability to raise rates without competitive restraint and otherwise conduct its operations to the detriment of consumers."

And the DOT has a point. After the merger, which TwinAmerica never got approved (probably for this very reason), CitySights upped its prices to match those at Grey Line. But TwinAmerica swears that wasn't a monopoly exerting its power! They're just competing with all of the other kinds of tours that it doesn't have a finger in (like walking tours, pedi-cabs, horse-and-carriage rides, and bike rentals).

TwinAmerica now has three options. They can appeal (before March 25), they can split up (which shouldn't be too hard since the two companies still operate "independently") or it can cease any interstate services taking them out of federal jurisdiction. If they go with the last option they'll still face different regulatory issues in New York State. So expect an appeal.

Either way, the buses filled with tourists keep doing their rounds. And thank goodness! The schadenfreude of watching a tall tour guide atop one of those buses have the back of their head smacked by a traffic light is one of New York's small pleasures.