Bloomberg 2009 Unveils a Transit Platform, But No Way to Pay for It

Michael Bloomberg’s re-election campaign released a 33-point plan for transit today [PDF]. This being a campaign plank, the mayor’s transit agenda is full of
ideas that few will oppose: lower fares, better service, and more
efficient management. While there are some smart ideas on the list, the mayor has limited power to deliver on much of what he’s promising.

The proposal getting the most ink is his call for
free crosstown bus service, which might be doable. Buses lose a lot of
time as each passenger swipes a MetroCard. Eliminating the fare on poky
crosstown routes could speed service to such a degree that some of the
lost revenue would be recouped by running fewer buses.

Here are more bullet points from Bloomberg’s campaign site:

  • Create new commuter van service to provide cost-effective mass transportation service to underserved neighborhoods.
  • Expand CityTicket program to all LIRR and Metro North stations at all times so Bronx and Queens riders pay reduced fares.
  • Install countdown clocks on subway routes to provide riders with time notifications.
  • Pilot light rail or street car services in North Brooklyn and Western Queens waterfront neighborhoods.
  • Expand Bus Rapid Transit to reduce travel times on bus routes in congested areas in all five boroughs.
  • Expand ferry service along the East River.

It’s great to see BRT in the mayor’s platform (and also a reminder of how long it’s taken to deliver on the promise of East Side BRT he made all the way back during his first campaign). Still, some of these ideas are duds. Expanding ferry services, for instance, won’t come cheap. Last year, the annual subsidy to run citywide ferry service was pegged at $100 million, and that doesn’t include the cost of expensive capital improvements like building docks.

Other ideas, like expanding the CityTicket discount (which will also cost money), are simply tough for the mayor to control, since his influence over the MTA doesn’t extend far beyond the bully pulpit.

Congestion pricing — and the revenue it would generate — is still the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Bloomberg’s platform contains several cost saving recommendations, but no mention of new revenue streams. So, while the thought of investing in light rail for northern Brooklyn and western Queens may send thrills down many a spine — mine included
— it’s tough to take seriously given the current financial
state of the MTA and the city.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Well I guess one could hardly have an election platform that indicates what transit service to eliminate or degrade, which would be more honest.

    Private vans seem to make money, albeit at the expense of workers who only get paid while working and have no pension other than Social Security like most of their customers.

    As we’ve discussed here, I suppose if an effort was made to make the subway, LIRR and Metro North cover their costs, including fare hikes, then perhaps subsidies could diverted to buses which could be free. I wonder how many bus riders transfer to or from the subway or commuter rail, are school children who ride free, or are disabled who ride for half price, and how much revenue is left?

  • Um… if we’re just listing bullet points from campaign web sights shouldn’t we give other candidates some space too?

    As Comptroller, Bill Thompson:

    Opposed the massive MTA fare hikes, and called for adjusting the distribution formulas for MTA Bridges and Tunnels.

    Opposed hikes in MTA Access-A-Ride fares.

    Joined a coalition of State and City elected officials in opposing tolls on the East and Harlem River bridges.

    Proposed weight-based transit-dedicated registration fees for new vehicles that would raise $350 million dollars from the city and $1 billion from the 12-county MTA region.

    Advocated for the reinstatement of the commuter tax, which could generate $2 billion dollars annually for the subways, buses, and commuter rails.

    Published a report of the MTA Capital Expenditures plan, which found that New York City Transit is not getting its fair share of Metropolitan Transportation Authority Core Capital funding.

    Recommended peak and off-peak pricing at area airports.

    And of course Rev. Billy is running on the Green Party Ticket

    We want to get New Yorkers where they need and want to go with efficiency and ease by implementing free mass transit and congestion pricing.


  • free bus service — now we’re talking. nobody should have to pay for bus service. hopefully the service can be extended to all transit.

  • oscarfrye

    Of course he has the power to enact none of this. So just empty campaign promises

    how bout promising to take control of nyc transit so that its run by, you know, nyc?

  • Marge Farrow

    Bloomberg’s also proposing the reopening of LIRR stations on a line that doesn’t go into Manhattan. This guy is losing it.

  • J. Mork

    Free bus service is great (too bad we can’t get all Kheel on it and make all buses free).

    But the one that I really like is to increase bus service in off-peak times by using smaller vehicles. This could break the catch-22 of “we made that bus infrequent because no one rides it because it’s so infrequent….”

  • The mayor’s free bus service plan seems to be straight out of the Kheel plan, right down to the claim that faster crosstown buses mean less buses to provide the same service. Of course, the Kheel plan proposed to speed buses by two means – free fare AND reduced traffic due to motorist fees like congestion pricing or the Ravitch toll plan. Has the mayor’s folks done any number-crunching on this or did they just cut-and-paste a couple of paragraphs from Kheel into their campaign platform?

  • dw

    I find it very interesting that Mayor Bloomberg is proposing that the MTA crosstown busses be free of charge after his proposterous congestion pricing plan fell flat. This supposed MTA “overhall” is another hollow campaign promise from the Mayor. As a volunteer for the Bill Thompson for Mayor campaign I have seen fisthand how much Comptroller Thompson cares about the middle and working class people that make New York City a great place to live. After 8 long years of Mayor Bloomberg, it is time that we elect Bill Thompson the next Mayor of New York City.

  • Go Bloomberg but bus tracking tech: that’s a laugh…

  • Inside You

    Eliminating the fare on poky crosstown routes could speed service to such a degree that some of the lost revenue would be recouped by running fewer buses. jasa pengiriman barang jasa ekspedisi


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