How Would MTA Control Affect Bridge Bike-Ped Access?

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Biking the Triborough. Photo: E-BAD/Flickr.

Should Albany agree to toll the East and Harlem River bridges — still a big "if" — ownership of those crossings may transfer from the city to the MTA, as would control of bike and pedestrian access. How do you feel about the MTA controlling the path on your bridge? The narrow, stairway-interrupted Triborough path and the currently off-limits Henry Hudson path are not the most encouraging examples.

  • I would think that the MTA should encourage bicycling as a solution to their own problem of trying to manage overcrowded subways and buses. More bicyclists means fewer people burdening the transit system.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Consider this: over the past few years some of the dedicated MTA taxes that are only collected in the MTA service area have been used to pay for transit in Upstate New York. And Upstate legislators are demanding a share of the proposed payroll tax be spent in non-contributing areas in exchange for approving it, a New York Observer post up now implies.

    What will suburban and upstate legislators demand each year in exchange for continued access to “their” bridges for cyclists and pedestrians? Ongoing decreases in New York City’s share of state school aid?

    Let the MTA run out of money and shut down for a while, and let the state legislature take the blame. Enough is enough.

  • By my reading of the proposed bill, the MTA doesn’t take ownership of the bridges. The city still owns them, but the MTA has the right to toll them and the obligation to maintain them.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I just read through it. Section 42 authorizes the City of New York under authority of the Mayor (just the Mayor?) to transfer the bridges to the MTA “by deed, contract, lease or any other instrument.”

    The only limitations are that the MTA be allowed to charge tolls and required to maintain the bridges, and the city turn over any federal money designated for their repair to the MTA.

    So in theory the city could elect a lease that requires the MTA to pay any amount equal to the interest on any bonds issued to finance reconstruction until they are paid and a nominal amount thereafter, and require pedestrian and bicycle access.

  • John Kaehny

    It looks to me like the exact status of the East/Harlem bridges will be determined by a future agreement between the MTA and the mayor/NYC DOT. The governor’s bill allows the MTA to negotiate with the city on the specifics of maintenance and operations. The NYC DOT currently does routine maintenance on state highways within the city and is reimbursed for the work by NY State DOT. The MTA and NYCDOT could elect to do the same with the bridges and keep the bike/ped paths and access under the control of the NYC DOT.

  • Shemp

    Mike, I think the point of this post’s question is whether maintenance of the pathways would suffer under the MTA. Where the city operates the bridges now as part of the general public right of way, the MTA runs its crossings as cash-cows for the transit system. I think it’s improved but there was a time when TBTA crews used the Triborough pathways as places to throw garbage that accumulated on the roadway (I once encountered a shattered windshield in the path). Where the city has done major makeovers on the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Queensboro Bridge pathways, the Triborough still requires negotiation of at least four stairways to cross.

  • rlb

    “The triborough still requires at least four stairways to cross.”

    That’s assuming you don’t count the two sets of five individual staircases required to get across the queens-randall’s island leg. Up, down, up, up, down.
    The charm of an Escher-like bike commute has long since faded.

  • If I were to make a short list of the five least bike friendly bridges in New York City, the Triboro and the Henry Hudson would be on that list, They’re only surpassed by the Verrazano and the Goethals which don’t allow bikes at all, and the Bayonne Bridge where the MUP leads directly to an open staircase.

    I would NEVER consider using the Triboro alone much less after dark. If these crossings are any example of what the MTA considers acceptable maintenance for pedestrians and cyclists paths, then we may as well trade in our walking shoes and bicycles for metro cards.

  • Manhattan User

    Sounds like the City is gonna get taken. The City spent almost $1B to rehab the Willimasburg bridge, has a $500M contract on the street now to rehab the Brooklyn. All that debt service gets bron by who? Is sn the final stages of a $600M rehab of one of the Harlem River bridges. Why would the MTA take that cost on? That would cut into it’s funding. Guarantted they will take the position that the City should pay them off.

  • JK

    As a cyclist and bridge user, I hope the NYC DOT/NYPD keep operational control and maintenance responsibility for the bridges under contract to the MTA. But, money wise the city has to come out ahead from an MTA takeover, even if it pays for all the bridge rehab to date. The city had no hope of getting the legislature to agree to city tolls, so it’s not giving up potential revenue. Going forward the city won’t have to spend a dime on the bridges, except for past bond payments. Better yet, the city may get the MTA to take on some of the more recent debt. Functionally, city residents will get the same use of the bridges they always have.

  • Let’s not forget that riding a bike across the Triborough/RFK Bridge is actually officially forbidden. So say the signs. They don’t enforce that rule now, but there’s no reason they couldn’t.

    But in their defense, the new ramp to and from Wards Island is nice improvement. As is the current construction, which I think is going to make the bridge almost staircase free.

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