London Mayor Boris Johnson, whose entertaining quotes about Mike Bloomberg have been ricocheting around New York’s political circles today, could teach a thing or two to the candidates running for mayor here in NYC. Yesterday, “Boris from Islington” called in to a radio talk show with a recorded question for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg about Parliament’s profligate spending on cars for political leaders. It’s a question New Yorkers can appreciate.
“Get all those government ministers out of their posh limos and on to public transport like everybody else,” Johnson said. “How can we possibly expect government to vote for increases in infrastructure spending, which we need in this city in upgrading the Tube, which we all need, when they sit in their chauffer-driven limousines payed for by the taxpayers?”
Imagine, for a second, if any of New York’s crop of mayoral contenders stood up for transit riders like this. Instead, the NYC hopefuls are driving around the city, trying to convince New Yorkers, most of whom depend on transit to get around, that they feel their pain.
Although residents outside Manhattan struggle with long commutes on pokey buses, the candidates vying for votes in Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island have yet to mention Bus Rapid Transit on the campaign trail. At the same time, streets where you can walk or bike without fear of getting run over by a speeding driver have apparently become something to campaign against.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has been busy proving his bona fides as a man of the outer boroughs by repeating misinformation about bike lanes. Meanwhile, Comptroller John Liu has been trying to undermine bike-share, and Manhattan’s own Christine Quinn hasn’t even mentioned transit in the transportation reports she issues from the City Council.
In his quest to become mayor in 2009, Bill Thompson, like his primary opponent Tony Avella, campaigned against safe streets and bus improvements. That worked out tremendously for Democrats that year, so why switch strategies now?
Johnson, who was born in New York, joked with the Times that he might want to run for mayor here once he’s done in London. Given the current options, straphangers just might want to take up the offer.