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.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Bloomberg Tests Free-Transit Waters

|
Mayor Bloomberg lifted a page straight from the Kheel Plan playbook yesterday in calling on the MTA to make crosstown buses free [PDF]. Bus riders and transit advocates should be beaming. Photo of M14 bus: Kriston Lewis/Flickr. Free buses will save bus riders time and money and will benefit everyone by luring some taxi and […]

It’s the Bus Riders, Stupid.

|
Is Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, a regressive tax, unfair to New York City’s poor and working class? That’s what Westchester Assembly member Richard Brodsky and quite a few of the other critics claim. Before last week’s public hearing before the state legislature Brodsky cited a study commissioned by City Hall showing the mayor’s plan […]

Questions Linger About Bloomberg’s New Livery Van Service

|
Commuter vans, like this one in Sunset Park, could become a more common sight on New York’s streets. Image: The Brooklyn Ink. On Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg announced a new pilot program to provide livery van service for transit-starved neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, a proposal stemming from his 2009 campaign transit platform. The push to […]

NYC’s First Bus Rapid Transit Line Debuts in the Bronx

|
L-R: Assembly Members José Rivera and Adriano Espaillat, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, MTA CEO Lee Sander and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión at Fordham Plaza today Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning unveiled details of the city’s first Bus Rapid Transit project, called "Select Bus Service," to debut on the Bx12 line, which […]

The Winning Transpo Formula for a Third Term: Sustainability + Populism

|
Mr. Bloomberg, tear down this highway. A vision of West Farms Road with housing and shops instead of the Sheridan Expressway. Image: South Bronx River Watershed Alliance. Following Tuesday’s citywide elections, Streetsblog asked leading advocates and experts to lay out their ideas for the next four years of New York City transportation policy. What should […]

MTA Cheered and Jeered, But Mostly Jeered

|
Reactions were mixed to yesterday’s MTA fare hike approval. That is to say — with the exception of the New York Post — there was enough criticism to go around as to generally avoid repetition. The Daily News, which has pounded the transit agency with its "Halt the Hike" series ("Even as the MTA is […]