City Council Candidates on the Issues: Tom Siracuse, District 6

We continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with Green Party candidate Tom Siracuse, who’s running to represent District 6 on the Upper West Side. Earlier this week, we ran responses from real estate executive Ken Biberaj, Democratic Party District Leader Marc Landis, and former Community Board 7 chair Helen Rosenthal. We will continue later this week with former Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore. Streetsblog did not receive questionnaire responses from Democratic State Committeewoman Debra Cooper and education activist Noah Gotbaum.

City Council District 6 candidate Tom Siracuse. Photo: ##https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=227938043974665##Elect Siracuse/Facebook##

Streetsblog: The effort to bring protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side continues to face hurdles from some community board members. Do you think the lanes are a benefit for the neighborhood? Do you want to see them expanded and, if so, where?

Tom Siracuse: I am in favor of bringing protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side. The more people using bikes, the less air pollution. A study would have to made so that bike lanes will not cause undue traffic congestion such as on Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.

SB: Outgoing Council Member Gale Brewer has been a strong supporter of closing the Central Park drives to automobile traffic. Do you also support a car-free Central Park? If so, how would you like to see a car-free Central Park implemented?

TS: I favor a car-free Central Park all year. The only roadways open to traffic should be the crosstown transverses that do not affect the interior roadways.

SB: Citi Bike was launched last month. Plans call for the program to be expanded to the Upper West Side in the future. Do you support the siting of bike-share stations in the neighborhood?

TS: Yes.

SB: On the East Side, Select Bus Service on First and Second Avenues has led to faster bus speeds. Do you want dedicated bus lanes and other service improvements for bus riders on the Upper West Side, and if so, where?

TS: We already have an express bus on the 5 bus that goes on Riverside Drive and then to Broadway. Express buses can alternate with regular buses on the 104, 7, 10 and and 11 lines.  My experience with installing machines to buy bus passes before entering the bus is not good. People approaching the bus stop often do not have enough time to buy the pass at the machine before a bus takes off, delaying their travel time. Seniors and the disabled can get stressed out with this extra step.

SB: How can the Council best use its powers to reduce vehicular deaths and ensure traffic justice citywide?

TS: Taxis must be required to pull over to the curb or as close as possible to pick up riders and they must not be allowed to cut across lanes to pick up riders; the police and ambulance drivers should only be allowed to use their sirens and go through red lights and stop signs in case of emergencies; more time should be given to pedestrians at cross walk lights; and traffic violations should be strictly enforced. Speed limit signs should be out on our streets and avenues.

SB: The MTA is a state agency, but what actions would you like to see the City Council take to fund and expand transit service?

TS: The MTA should be turned over to NYC and its board should be appointed by the mayor with Council approval. Its finances should be under close public scrutiny. The riding public should not be made to shoulder the major cost of a mass transit system. Mass transit is an essential public service benefitting all sectors of our economy, just as the public schools. It should not be run as a profit-loss enterprise resulting in a cut in service when its budget is in the red. If fares are reduced, more people will use mass transit. A small transit tax on businesses, hotels and private cars would help finance mass transit as well as increasing subsidies from the Port Authority.

  • Trying to parse his answer on the MTA, and just no. It doesn’t make a lick of sense.

  • kevd

    He does have a point about off-board SBS ticket buying.
    A simple fix is (inventing, and the) giving inspectors wireless Metro Card readers so if you have a valid unlimited MetroCard you don’t need to get a ticket at a machin – you just swipe it when an inspector boards and you’re good.

    Pay per ride would still need the machines, though.

  • Boris

    “The riding public should not be made to shoulder the major cost of a mass transit system.”

    The driving public should not be made to shoulder the major cost of a highway system. The warring public should not be made to shoulder the major cost of a defense department. The schooling public should not be made to shoulder the major cost of a public education system.

    In general, the public should not pay for any government service that may benefit said public.

  • Daphna

    While parts of his platform are good, others parts FAIL!!!! He is one of those people who says they “want bike lanes but…” He wants a study to make sure a street design that more fairly allocates space (ex protected bike lane) to all road users does not cause traffic congestion. Ugh! Requesting such a study is a definite way to postpone a project or delay indefinitely. Then a politician can claim to be in favor of an improvement but can refrain from making any actual changes to the status quo.

    Also, he is against Select Bus Service because of off board fare payment. SBS is very popular. Off board fare payment speeds trips. He might have anecdotal evident of people not liking off board fare payment or feeling slowed but it, but reality disproves his anecdotal evidence.

  • Anonymous

    In some cities, inspectors are equipped with wireless transit pass readers called “eyes”. They work because said transit passes have a human-readable expiration date. 😉

  • Mark Walker

    Yes, it’s a bold idea, but the MTA is a regional agency serving the city and its suburbs and his proposal for funding it would come solely from the city. I’m also irked by his stated concern (re bike lanes) about the potential for “congestion” on Amsterdam and Columbus. One of these speedways has just taken another life. Repurposing space for protected bike lanes could only make them safer for neighborhood residents.

  • Mark Walker

    Yes, it’s a bold idea, but the MTA is a regional agency serving the city and its suburbs and his proposal for funding it would come solely from the city. I’m also irked by his stated concern (re bike lanes) about the potential for “congestion” on Amsterdam and Columbus. One of these speedways has just taken another life. Repurposing space for protected bike lanes could only make them safer for neighborhood residents.

  • kevd

    Oh I know.
    Every city in the German speaking part of Europe for example.
    Its a good system. But I don’t see NY going to it anytime soon. Too much fear of people not paying their fair share! Though in Germany I get “controlled” about twice a week, so I’m to scared to ride black.

  • kevd

    Oh I know.
    Every city in the German speaking part of Europe for example.
    Its a good system. But I don’t see NY going to it anytime soon. Too much fear of people not paying their fair share! Though in Germany I get “controlled” about twice a week, so I’m to scared to ride black.

  • Guest

    As far as SBS is concerned, I haven’t taken it so I can’t speak from personal experience, but couldn’t the MTA allow unlimited holders to get on without a slip, and enforcers can carry a machine that will verify whether your unlimited card is unexpired? Alternatively, MetroCard machines can be rigged to display the type and expiration of the card directly on it.

  • How would that work with MetroCards? The countdown to expiration doesn’t start until you use it. Do you propose we rip out all our turnstiles and bus fare machines and replace them with ones equipped to print?

  • Anonymous

    I’m not proposing anything; I’m just jealous of the system some European cities have, which I think is better and cheaper, even if old-fashioned. Would it work here? Who knows.

    Obviously, ripping out the existing MetroCard infrastructure would be a huge, expensive project, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

  • Bolwerk

    One option would be to put the TVMs on the buses instead of the streets. Then if someone claims to have an unlimited, the enforcement agent can run it through the TVM and give the person a receipt.

    But, the MTA seems to see POP as an opportunity to exert power over people, not make transit more efficient.

  • Bolwerk

    Sorta repeating my previous comment, but off-board payment is really doing it wrong. It should be on-board so people can get their tickets en route if the bus comes. It saves on maintenance too, since TVMs can be administered in one place.

    You can still supplement on-board with off-board, of course.

  • Another Guest

    He says, “My experience with installing machines to buy bus passes before entering the bus is not good. People approaching the bus stop often do not have enough time to buy the pass at the machine before a bus takes off, delaying their travel time.”

    Yeah… delaying their travel at EVERY bus stop while the bus waits for people to fumble for change one at a time is SO much better…

  • Andrew

    It’s in the works.

  • Andrew

    On-board payment is what we have now on every other bus line. So the bus has to wait for everybody to wait in line and pay their fare before it can leave.

    The subway has off-board payment. While nobody’s happen to see the train doors close while they’re fumbling to swipe at the turnstile, we all understand that it sometimes happens.

  • Andrew

    Said machine doesn’t exist. The MetroCard system is in its twilight, so paying Cubic to custom-design it at this point would be wasteful.

    None of this will be an issue with Son Of MetroCard.

  • Andrew

    He’s pandering.

    I’m not convinced that the Upper West Side is the best place for SBS – the two subway lines carry most of the long-haul traffic, with bus riders mostly traveling shorter distances – but any candidate who opposes SBS on principle is not a candidate who I can see myself supporting.

  • Bolwerk

    We have the wrong kind of onboard payment on buses. There is no reason something like SBS can’t let you board, purchase your fare, and “cancel” your fare (in actuality, just get a receipt) without ever involving the driver.

    In a sane system, most people will have a long-term pass anyway, so this would be usually moot.

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