Quinn Ties Transit Growth to NYC’s Economic Health, Stops Short on Funding

Photo: ##https://twitter.com/ChrisCQuinn/status/322338380291665921/photo/1##@ChrisCQuinn##

Christine Quinn outlined her transit platform at a campaign event at LaGuardia Community College this morning. With a focus on Select Bus Service and ferries — elements of the transit system that the mayor can actually control to a large degree — Quinn’s proposals tie the expansion of transit to the city’s economic health. She also called for local control of the MTA.

Transit users in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island have commute times that average 20 minutes longer than those in Manhattan, Quinn noted, echoing data from a 2009 report by the Center for an Urban Future. Most who commute for more than an hour make less than $35,000 a year.

Quinn said that by 2023 no New Yorker should spend more than an hour commuting in either direction. To that end, she unveiled a five-point plan called “Fair Ride NYC”:

  • Quinn says NYC should “be given control of the MTA,” and the mayor should have the authority to appoint the president of New York City Transit. She likened this proposal to mayoral control of city schools.
  • Quinn proposed the rollout of 10 new Select Bus Service routes in the next four years, with routes based on potential travel time savings and where the city sees potential for job growth. Quinn specifically called for SBS on Staten Island’s North Shore.
  • Ferry service should be expanded with stops at Atlantic Avenue, Red Hook, Astoria, Roosevelt Island, 91st Street, and Ferry Point Park in the Bronx. Quinn has been a big booster of the East River Ferry service that launched in 2011, which is subsidized directly by the city and requires much more public funding per passenger than subways and buses.
  • The MTA would extend Metro-North service to Penn Station, with new Bronx stops at Co-Op City, Parkchester, Morris Park, and Hunts Point. This plan is already in the works, and though it isn’t something she could control, as mayor Quinn would be in a position to counter opposition from Long Island politicos who don’t want to share space in Penn Station.
  • The fifth spoke of the plan would “bring targeted economic development strategies” to areas with the longest commute times. “It’s not just about getting people to their jobs,” said Quinn. “It’s also about bringing jobs to where people live.”

Unlike Select Bus Service, ferries, and transit-oriented development, where the mayor can affect real change, gaining mayoral control of the MTA would be an enormous lift, and is highly unlikely.

While Quinn’s platform recognizes the city’s transit system as the heart of its economy, at this point there is no mention of the fiscal health of the MTA itself. How Quinn plans to pay for her proposals is yet to be seen. (The SBS improvements would at least be very affordable in the context of the MTA capital program.) Quinn moved congestion pricing through the City Council in 2008 and says she still backs the concept, but hasn’t given road pricing the kind of full-throated backing that we’ve seen from fellow Democratic mayoral candidate Sal Albanese.

  • Joe R.

    No subway expansion in the outer boroughs? That’s what we need to seriously decrease commute times. A lot of people in Queens and Brooklyn need to take buses to the subway. Often a 2 mile bus ride to the subway station ends up taking longer than the 8 or 10 mile subway ride to Manhattan. No matter how you slice it, compared to subways buses are slower, far less comfortable, far less reliable, and more expensive per passenger. The only major issue with subways is the huge initial capital outlay but that pays for itself many times over.

  • Elena Conte

    For more on the underlying research on transit inequities and the disproportionate burden on transit users in the 4 boroughs, especially lower income and people of color, check out: http://prattcenter.net/transportation-equity-atlas

  • Mark Walker

    I appreciate what she did for congestion pricing — and if she still intended to do something along those lines, she probably wouldn’t disclose it now and give other candidates a stick to beat her with. At the same time, if funding isn’t part of her pitch, then it’s all just talk at this point. Albanese is looking more interesting now that I’ve crossed Liu off my list.

  • Jonathan R

    The reason why people commute for more than an hour to a
    crappy sub $35 K job is because the jobs are crappy, not because the transit
    system is inadequate. Employers don’t have a lot of leverage for low-wage
    positions and can’t sort for better qualified people who live closer by and
    have fewer getting-to-work-on-time issues.

  • Anonymous

    Expanding bike share to commuters who need to take a bus to the subway, would be a start.

  • Bolwerk

    Ugh, Quinn is sorta right on the structural side. NYC should have control of NYCTA, which should be equal in stature to the MTA, with fares at least being integrated by state law. But, she’s not going that far.

    Where she is wrong and unimaginative is on the operations. All SBS does is bring buses closer to what buses should be doing anyway. Still no support for light rail or outer borough subway improvements? No integration between commuter rail and rapid transit? So much for that <1hr commute.

    Quinn should run for mayor of Mayberry.

  • Bolwerk

    The MTA exists primarily to pay salaries and secondarily to kinda operate trains and buses. Major capital improvements like subways and light rail are probably not something they’re terribly competent at, given that they can barely figure out how to maintain the facilities they have.

    Meanwhile, buses’ inferior reliability and scalability translates into higher wages/overtime, and consequently higher dues, for the TWU – and higher costs for everyone else.

  • Bronxite

    How about ferry stops at Class on Point and City Island?

  • Bronxite

    How about ferry stops at Clason Point and City Island? Two areas with very long commutes to Midtown (Over an hour).

  • Bronxite

    I seriously feel we should consider modern elevated lines to expand rapid transit in the outer boroughs. It’s the only way in a reasonable time frame. Washington DC expects to complete the 23 mile/11 station Silver Line in 8 years (Phase one opens soon, took 5). Most of our expansions are less then half that distance. Third Ave El anyone?

  • Bronxite

    That all depends on the expansion. Even phase 3 neglects neighborhoods that are out of range of the nearest subway (See East Queens and SI). Hopefully once the initial 3 are complete, expansions will cover these areas.

  • Bolwerk

    And…out of purely morbid curiosity, why is someone impersonating my handle? I didn’t post this comment, or the other one about “Class on [sic] Point.”

  • No one is impersonating you.

  • Bolwerk

    Yes, I see that now. His comments seriously were showing up with my name at the time he posted (at that point, his posts had been up 11 and 13 minutes). I took a screen shot.

    Anyway, it must have been a Disqus issue. My apologies, @8fef61d6cc9da55fe327bd2fd8269292:disqus. I wasn’t bothered by it, just thought it odd.

  • Bolwerk

    Yes, I see that now. His comments seriously were showing up with my name at the time he posted (at that point, his posts had been up 11 and 13 minutes). I took a screen shot.

    Anyway, it must have been a Disqus issue. My apologies, @8fef61d6cc9da55fe327bd2fd8269292:disqus. I wasn’t bothered by it, just thought it odd.

  • Bolwerk

    Yes, I see that now. His comments seriously were showing up with my name at the time he posted (at that point, his posts had been up 11 and 13 minutes). I took a screen shot.

    Anyway, it must have been a Disqus issue. My apologies, @8fef61d6cc9da55fe327bd2fd8269292:disqus. I wasn’t bothered by it, just thought it odd.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If Quinn is willing to raise taxes/cut other services by $800 million, and can do it without the city being ripped off by the rest of the state, there is a more realistic proposal.

    1) Eliminate all state funding for downstate bus systems. Use that money for the MTA debts, leaving MTA funds to pay for ongoing normal replacement without borrowing.

    2) Turn the bus systems, paratransit and the payroll tax revenues, over the city and the counties. The counties could keep the payroll tax and have buses, or not keep the payroll tax and not have buses. But no Albany money for them. Just for Albany’s debts. This would leave the city short $800 million, including the money the city would no longer pay for MTA bus.

    3) If you have a free bus to subway transfer, it is subway money and free for the bus. Let the city appropriate for it every year, to shut up the ungrateful pols from what used to be two fare zones.

    4) Both the buses and their ROW would be under control of DOT. No excuses for bad service. There are plenty of bus agencies and companies around the country, and plenty of trucks, so it’s easy to get people who can manage and work in bus systems. The MTA would keep running railroads on its own ROW, which the City of New York does not know how to do.

    5) Just as an add on, the state took away all municipal aid from NYC, but kept municipal aid for localities with lower poverty rates and higher average income. Because NYC charges more taxes, Cuomo said. If NYC is to take this hit, take that municipal aid away from the places that are not much worse off than NYC. Shift it to those that are, like the upstate cities and poor rural areas.

  • Joe R.

    I tend to agree. Bike share would be perfect for me. The subway station is about 2.6 miles away. On a average day the bus takes 15 minutes, plus an average of 5 minutes waiting time. Citibikes aren’t the quickest things going, but I’m sure I could ride to the station in maybe 12 to 15 minutes. Late nights is when I would see a real benefit. Miss one bus, the next one comes in 30 minutes. With bike share I’m home 12 to 15 minutes after leaving the subway regardless of the time of day.

    If you ask me NYC did the entire bike thing backwards. We should have started bike lanes and bike share in the outer parts of the outer boroughs, where public transit frankly stinks. Bike trips here would actually replace many car trips. I know the goal was to hit the most populous areas first but in the end most of the bike trips are replacing transit trips. Hopefully if bike share succeeds we’ll have a phase 4 for areas like mine.

  • Joe R.

    Els unfortunately acquired a bad rap but I think they could still be built with minimal opposition in certain places, notably above expressways like the Air Train. I also think we could kill two birds with one stone and make grade-separated bike lanes part of the el structure for very little additional cost. In fact, if we make a hollow concrete beam type of viaduct, the bike lanes can fit right inside at no additional cost. That said, I tend to agree with Bolwerk. These things are pipe dreams given that the MTA can barely operate what exists.

  • Bronxite

    No worries. My original post contained a spelling error due to my tablet’s “auto correct” feature.

  • Ben Kintisch

    If you look at how bike share has expanded in DC, it will grow and grow.

  • Miles Bader

    Els unfortunately acquired a bad rap

    Yup, modern elevated rail is vastly better than the super noisy steel-framed types of a hundred years ago, but people still seem to imagine the latter.

    The “bikes inside the concrete beams for little additional cost” thing sounds pretty unlikely though…

  • carma

    Joe, The more reason i would want bike share coming to queens, brooklyn. (THE OUTER PARTS). out here, we rely on bus service that is bunched, slow, packed and quite frankly SUCKS.

    a main reason why queens and brooklyn folks depend on the car is because public transit is a joke.

    i really hope that bike share expands.

  • carma

    i absolutely agree with you that we should expand bike share to the outer boroughs where we need it the most. i am going to disagree with you that it should come first. remember that most of the outer-outer borough mindset is to drive. (since they do have the majority of the car ownership in nyc). for bike share to succeed, it SHOULD be in the heavy commerce areas of manhattan, and the pockets of communities in brooklyn and queens that can bike to manhattan. thats where you are going to get the highest usage.

  • Jonathan R

    But who would ride the bikes back (for instance) to Fresh Meadows from Jamaica Station? We will find out more when the program starts, but I thought that it worked best when bikes got ridden more than twice a day.

  • Joe R.

    Actually, I get on at Forest Hills but point taken. There probably wouldn’t be all that many users but a bike station near each subway station and some along major bus routes where people typically get on/off might get more people riding than we think. Unless you live here, you have no idea how lousy the buses are. They’re only acceptable getting to/from subway stations during peak hours. The rest of the time, it’s often faster to just walk.

    Another idea would be to put bike lockers in or near subway stations. Bike share might not generate the numbers to make it work in Eastern Queens but safe, secure bike parking near subways would fill a definite need. Lots of people would take their own bikes to the subways if they knew the bikes would be there when they got back. I’d rather use my own bike anyway. I know there won’t be any potential maintenance issues with it, and it’s a heck of a lot faster than Citi Bikes (my place to the subway should be an easy <10 minute ride).

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