Mayoral Contenders Talk Transit, Part 4: Christine Quinn

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Photo: ##http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2011_September_27_Christine_Quinn_gesturing_cropped.jpg##Wikimedia##

Election Day is more than a year away, but the race to become the next mayor of New York City is well-underway. In the last two issues of its magazine, Reclaim, Transportation Alternatives has been asking the would-be mayors for their thoughts on transit (in the more recent interviews, one question about cycling was added). So far, TA has received responses from all of the major candidates except 2009 Democratic nominee Bill Thompson.

All this week, Streetsblog will be re-printing the candidates’ responses. Here are the answers TA received from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Q: What role does a well-funded public transit system play in New York City’s economic growth?

A: Investing in our transportation system must be a central part of any plan to grow our city’s economy. We want residents and businesses to be able to make long-term decisions based on the belief that our transit system is dependable and will continue to improve. Often a lack of transportation is one of the biggest obstacles for businesses looking to expand in a particular community and create jobs for working families. That’s why the Council’s efforts to expand the city’s booming tech industry from DUMBO and the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Downtown Brooklyn have focused in large part on increasing transit links between all three areas.

It’s also one of the reasons I worked with the Mayor to launch the East River Ferry last year, which currently serves 10,000 commuters a week. The East River Ferry has helped bring additional development to the Queens and Brooklyn waterfront, and business owners are already reporting an increase in economic activity. And just as importantly, we need to ensure that New Yorkers—no matter where they live—can commute to work or school in a timely fashion. This provides residents the opportunity to devote more time to their families and communities.

Q: What would you do as mayor to address transit deserts, which are locations where riders are faced with hour-plus commutes, multiple transfers or multi-fare rides?

A: When I meet with New Yorkers in communities around the city, one of the most common issues they raise is long commute times and lack of access to transportation. I believe New York City and the MTA need to continue to invest in infrastructure projects in underserved communities, to make our transit system more equitable. But we also need to aggressively pursue more immediate solutions. That’s why I support the expansion of Express Bus and Select Bus Service in all five boroughs—two ways we can quickly speed commute times for many New Yorkers. Ferries are another way we can shorten transit times without major construction, and the City Council has been leading the charge to expand ferry service to waterfront neighborhoods in all five boroughs.

Q: If transit fares go up on 1/1/13, it will be the fifth fare hike since 2008. Do you think transit riders are paying their fair share, and is it time for elected officials to seriously consider new sources of revenue for public transit?

A: I have spoken out numerous times in opposition to recent fare hikes, which have put an increased burden on New Yorkers at a time when many are already struggling to make ends meet. The MTA needs to develop a consistent funding stream for the future, instead of balancing their books on the backs of working New Yorkers. I also believe we need to be exploring alternative sources for transit funding at all levels of government.

Q: With the nation’s largest bike share program scheduled to open in the city this summer, can you give us your thoughts on bicycling as part of NYC’s larger transportation network?

A: Bicycling is an extremely important part of the city’s transit system. Community engagement is important to ensure that our new programs are meeting the needs of all New Yorkers. That’s why the Council recently passed legislation requiring DOT to engage community boards before installing new bike lanes, to make sure we’re expanding bike lanes in a way that is thoughtful and sustainable. We also passed legislation requiring parking garages to add bicycle parking spaces, and requiring commercial buildings to allow employees to enter with bicycles. In addition, we must continue to make every effort to protect the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians alike as these programs expand.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The MTA needs to develop a consistent funding stream for the future, instead of balancing their books on the backs of working New Yorkers. I also believe we need to be exploring alternative sources for transit funding at all levels of government.”

    And the City will kick in what?  And ensure it isn’t just offset by lower contributions by the rest of the metro area how?

    I’ve given an answer.  Have the City and counties take over all responsibility for bus service and paratransit, with them receiving their portion of the payroll tax and the city no longer sending the MTA money for MTA Bus and paratransit.  The city would be left with a shortfall to cover, but could perhaps squeeze out some efficiencies too.

    The state operating assistance that now goes to downstate suburban bus lines could go to the MTA for subway and rail instead, perhaps for the capital plan.  The suburbs could keep the payroll tax and the buses or ditch both, but would have to shut up.

  • Miles Bader

    “If you do not vote for me, I will run you over in my enormous SUV!  …@#$*! bike paths…mumble…”

  • Tyler

    Judging by her size she has not ridden a bike or walked any distance in quite some time.   She is ported about city in huge Chevy Suburban which runs lights every now and then (Right on red is still illegal, no?).   I might be wrong but she comes off as TA unfriendly.    Judging by her actions and words she may not reverse policies but she will let the current  one whither and die.

    “That’s why the Council recently passed legislation requiring DOT to engage community boards before installing new bike lanes”Community boards were engaged before this “recent legislation” 
    “to make sure we’re expanding bike lanes in a way that is thoughtful and sustainable. “They were thoughtless and unsustainable before?   To whom?”We also passed legislation requiring parking garages to add bicycle parking spaces, and requiring commercial buildings to allow employees to enter with bicycles.” Bike in buildings is basically a failure.  SL Green for example requires all bikes to be out of the building by 5pm each day”  They make getting your bike into the building a lengthy bureaucratic process.”In addition, we must continue to make every effort to protect the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians alike as these programs expand.”
    So the focus should be the safety of pedestrians vs bikes?  Or does she mean pedestrians vs cars?  I think she means bikes because that was the focus of the interview. 

  • Ben Kintisch

    First off, let’s lay off the comments re: her appearance. Not nice, folks.
    Second, if Quinn is a likely front-runner, given her prominence, how can we help her improve her stance on cycling in the city. Yes, the recent City Council law about new bike lane installation was an unnecessary layer of red tape, but now we need to move on. Right now, in London, the Mayoral candidates are trying to best one another in who can be the most pro-bike. How can we get that kind of conversation going in NYC, beyond the Streetsblog/Reclaim Magazine universe? Any ideas people?

  • vnm

    “The MTA needs to develop a consistent funding stream for the future.”

    Most of the words in this sentence are correct, but they’re in the wrong order. By phrasing it this way, she’s evading government’s obligation to fund public transportation, and making it seem as if the MTA could magically find a revenue stream other than fares. I’d be with her if she phrased it this way: “The City Council needs to develop a consistent funding stream for the MTA.” 

    As it is right now, thanks to inaction by elected officials, the MTA actually HAS developed a consistent funding stream for the future: raising fares.  

    “I have spoken out numerous times in opposition to recent fare hikes.”  

    This is a correct statement.  She has spoken out against fare hikes numerous times. But she hasn’t DONE anything to stop them. (See first point, above.)

  • Morris Zapp

    Any chance interviewee number five is an adult?

  • Mark Walker

    I agree with vnm about Quinn’s evasive wording. But the MTA is a state agency that serves several suburban counties as well as the boroughs. So the onus is on the state legislature, not the city council.

  • Anonymous

    Christine Quinn hijacked a bill designed to regulate pedicabs and made it so restrictive to almost regulate them out of existence. It had something to do with coziness with the taxi lobby.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Second, if Quinn is a likely front-runner, given her prominence, how can we help her improve her stance on cycling in the city.”
    I wouldn’t say she’s hostile.  The best way to get her to improve her stance is to convince her to try it 30 times.  Just 30 round trips from her apartment to City Hall.  That’s all it would take.

  • Tyler

    Bloomberg is not my favorite human but he is a leader and has had a direction.  Sadik-Kahn being a brilliant choice.  Quinn comes off as evasive and a back-room deal maker.  Witness the City Council shutout for the parking sticker thing,  The Sanitation Dept seemed more confused than anything else by that move.

    Her size does matter.  If I had to pick a candidate who understands the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists it would be someone who at least looks like she walks and rides.  

    She is the defacto next mayor so how to engage her?   How do you engage someone who has not displayed any political vision yet but understands the use of political pressure?  TA seems to be holding back on this one I assume out of political wisdom.

  • bill b

    Since Quinn and the NYC council think they are doing such a great job I think they should run the MTA board and have full taxing authority. Transit problem solved!  

  • Guest 2

    Do not vote the witch.

  • WJC2013

    Draft Bill Clinton.

  • Anonymous

    We’ll see what happens after bike share becomes established, but I’d say the only issue that we can use to win over politicians and the general public is police indifference to pedestrian safety. Bikers are just too tiny (and too despised) a minority to garner substantial support.

    The problem is that this is essentially an epistemic issue: we’ve got to retool the normal way people think about auto “accidents.” And there are few things more fundamental to the American mentality than that.

  • Tyler

    Christine is a successful politician so it is important to identify the potential constituency she is soliciting for votes next year.  The NY Post and Daily News have jumped on this issue with both feet so who are their constituents?

    As several polls have shown bike hating is far from universal in fact in the minority..  Several community boards have actually proposed bike lines, plazas and road rationalization.  It would appear that they would be people who own cars, the working class with tiny a “political class” based on Prospect Park West that was effectively shut down.

    My personal experience shows the upper middle class Lycra set on very expensive bikes treating the City’s parks as their own personal race track are a genuine source of some danger and a lot of annoyance.  They are a tiny very visible minority.  During my working class upbringing they were seen representative of privileged “rich people.” 

    Again from my working class upbringing in the boroughs the true “hate” was sourced from now extinct messengers who were paid to be fast.   As a pedestrian I’ve had a few close calls with them but hardly enough to generate all that hate.  When safely home in my Queens neighborhood people would let loose on what they really hated.  

    These riders were African-American, young, male and from poor parts of town.  The haters I grew up with were working class car owning white ethnics often “forced out” of the very neighborhoods the young men now occupied.  The tough talk and promises of vengance didn’t really cover up the fact that they are genuinely frightened not as much of the bikes but the riders. The haters live in the car oriented fringes of the boroughs and are surrounded by like minded people at work and at home and don’t really see or read anything that counters their perception.  

    Being caught in the middle by the wealthy over them and the poor under them is not a new experience for these people.  Owning and driving a car is right and a symbol of success to them and they believe you are trying to take it away.  Remove parking and they will park the damn thing on what used to be the front lawn.

    The New York Post, The Daily News and Christine Quinn have found them and are addressing them.

  • Has anyone in our “booming tech industry” taken a heavily subsidized east river ferry to work? Quinn would know that more of us are cyclists than ferry riders, if she paid any attention at all. We’re certainly taking note as she brags about unrolling reams of bureaucratic red tape around our most efficient and cheap transportation. As she mildly increases the odds of pedestrians and cyclists being run over by garbage trucks and drunk New Jersey club goers. Go Quinn!

    Tyler, your comment gets right to the point. But does Quinn have any chance of connecting with the people you’re talking about? To me the answer is “obviously not, what the hell is everyone smoking” which makes the whole presumptive mayor thing seem ridiculous. It’s like the assumption the Ferrer campaign was built on, which was really annoying when I had no reason to support another Bloomberg term. Now are we going to end up with some random Republican, because Democratic elites weirdly assume working class whites will pull for whoever panders to them the hardest, obvious cultural and economic gulfs be damned?

  • Tyler

    How do TA believers engage whoever will be the mayor?  Do an end-run around them and reach the damn working class yourselves.

    You know that they believe in and hate the elitist and thug stereotypes.  There is one more they hate.  The upper middle class know-it-all straight-line liberal voting Park Slope doofus with big helmet, knee pads and socks pulled up high on a clunky hybrid with a baby strapped to the back wrapped in something that looks like it should launched in Sputnik.  It’s very alienating.
    People like bikes.  A ride down the Westside Greenway will demonstrate the amazing diversity of bikes and riders.  That would be something you never see if you live and work in Bay Ridge.
    Kids on BMXs and mountain bikes are everywhere in the boros.  They seem to like the semi outlaw vibe.

    Organizing regular doofus-free events arranged by people who live and grew up in the boros that go unrecorded in Manhattan would go a long way.  Then the first mountain bike riding dad that is almost sideswiped by some clueless narcissist putting on makeup and talking on her cell phone while driving a three ton truck would be on the phone to the mayors office in no time.

  • Simcha22

    If mass transit helps to reduce congestion and improve air quality and get people to work why must it be carried by tax subsidies. Why can it not pay for itself??

    Why is New York not operating a FOR-PROFIT rail and bus transit system that is clean and on time and provides a quality service???
    Are the operators afraid of competition showing them up????

  • Anonymous

    For profit mass transit has a terrible past ahead of it.
    All the NYC subways had their capital construction costs paid for by the city.  Even the “private” IRT and BMT only covered operating expenses from the fare box, and that only for their first few decades.

    I agree “mass transit helps to reduce congestion and improve air quality and get people to work…”
    But the costs of congestion and air Q – plus costs of maintaining highways, costs of crashes, injuries and deaths, and the lost opportunity costs of roadways and parking spaces, are spread across the general population, while the benefits of driving fall on a few individuals.  Look congestion pricing’s economic arguments – who benefits and and who pays – is very imbalanced. 

    Economists may say that everything can be reduced to a dollar value, and that every value is fungible (cash can buy off everything), but then economists will admit that it’s not always possible to actually collect and transfer the cash efficiently.  There is no good way to transfer the savings from reduced congestion,
    etc. directly across to the fare paying public so they can individually put enough in
    the fare box to provide that private profit. 

    The role of public transit is to get nearly everyone from where they are to where they want to be, efficiently and effectively.  To provide short enough headways for this to work, there will need to be service hours where buses and trains look and sometimes are empty.  This may be good transit, but it is lousy for making a profit.

    Good public transit (defined as above) cannot make a profit, rather, its financial goal is to loose money as efficiently and effectively as possible, while providing this public service.  The costs of congestion and air q are broad, the benefits are broad, so a broad based tax is not an inappropriate way to pay for the fix.

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