Mayoral Contenders Talk Transit, Part 2: Bill de Blasio

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. Image: Office of the Public Advocate

Election Day is more than a year away, but the race to become the next mayor of New York City is well-underway. In the last two issues of its magazine, Reclaim, Transportation Alternatives has been asking the would-be mayors for their thoughts on transit (in the more recent interviews, one question about cycling was added). So far, TA has received responses from all of the major candidates except 2009 Democratic nominee Bill Thompson.

All this week, Streetsblog will be re-printing the candidates’ responses. Here are the answers TA received from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

Q: What role does a well-funded public transit system play in New York City’s economic growth?

A: Public transit is an economic pillar . It’s what connects workers with employers and customers with businesses. And it’s one of the reasons New York is so resilient even in hard economic times. The transit system drives down the costs of transportation for everyone, helping New Yorkers of all income levels have access to jobs and opportunity in every part of the city.

Q: What would you do as mayor to address transit deserts, which are locations where riders are faced with hour-plus commutes, multiple transfers or multi-fare rides?

A: We’ll need to rely heavily on improving bus service—which already reaches many of these areas—to reduce the long travel times so many New Yorkers face. The introduction of real-time bus tracking or offboard fare collection presents promising tools here. We need to recognize that the increase in economic activity that comes with giving more New Yorkers access to the transit system can help make these expansions viable and cost-effective in the long-term.

Q: When transit fares go up on 1/1/13, it will be the fifth fare hike since 2008. Do you think transit riders are paying their fair share, and is it time for elected officials to seriously consider new sources of revenue for public transit?

A: I’m concerned that built-in, guaranteed fare increases put too much pressure on working families. Raising the cost of transit is akin to raising the cost of working. Going back to the fare box over and over creates a bad mentality for those making the budgets—it becomes about what they can get out of the transit system, instead of how to ensure the service we need is adequately funded.