Mayoral Contenders Talk Transit, Part 5: Scott Stringer

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Image: ## President's Office##

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 Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

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

A: Simply put, the public transit network enables the City to be the world’s financial center, a magnet for tech startups, a global leader in culture and art, and a place that people of all backgrounds can call home. During the “bad old days” of the 1970s, subways broke down once every 7,000 miles. Today, after the City, State, and MTA committed to investing over $100 billion for capital improvements to the system, subways break down once every 170,000 miles. It’s no surprise that the rebirth of the subway system—both its reliability and its safety— went hand in hand with the economic boom 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: The fact is that there is no single solution to the problem of transit deserts. Some possible solutions include transforming the dilapidated North Shore Rail Line to BRT or light rail, expanding bus rapid transit to Nostrand Avenue and other crowded corridors and examining the potential for expanded ferry service. No matter what the proposed solutions, one thing is certain: these deserts disproportionately affect working class New Yorkers, and working class New Yorkers need a true advocate in the Mayor’s office. That starts with a Mayor who prioritizes public transit.

Q: If 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: Continued fare hikes will only put more pressure on a middle class that is increasingly being squeezed out of New York. Today, the State and City provide only 13 percent of the MTA’s operating budget. We can and must do better. Only by examining all options will we be able to create a fair, sustainable revenue stream for transit. But if we’re going to talk about new revenue, we also need to talk about the cost of MTA Capital Projects compared to projects in other cities. MTA projects end up costing five, six, even seven times as much as similar projects in London, Paris, Berlin, and Tokyo. So, yes, let’s work for new dedicated revenue streams for the MTA, but let’s also make every dollar count.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “MTA projects end up costing five, six, even seven times as much as similar projects in London, Paris, Berlin, and Tokyo. So, yes, let’s work for new dedicated revenue streams for the MTA, but let’s also make every dollar count.”

    So why is that, and what are you going to do about it?  Who benefits from the high prices, and with which state and local politicians does their influence lie? 

    Would you be willing to debate Denise Richardson and a spokesperson for the construction unions on this issue?  Would you demand that the TWU scrap certain rules so that more work could be done more cheaply in house?

    Otherwise, that’s meaningless.

  • I’ve read all these interviews, and not a single one of them has mentioned the need for more subway lines, especially in underserved areas of the outer boroughs.

  • bill b

    Did Scott say that New Yorkers were paying their fair share. He said something about the middle class being squeezed out of New York. If you think the suburbs are cheap like in the 1950’s or 1960’s,Scott you been in Manhattan too long, the suburbs are just as expensive as NYC ,high real estate taxes , high gasoline prices, high electric rates,high water rates , high car prices , and high car repair prices. The kids in suburban schools are just as dumb as NYC kids. You do have low or no crime compare to NYC, but if you did a drug test on the local suburban high school half the students and teachers would fail. 
    The MTA never has enough of our hard earned money the city should take the subway and buses back.
    I have a good source of new revenue for the subway do away with all the borough presidents and their staffs.

  • Joe R.

    @facebook-523311334:disqus I agree wholehearted. A bus is a poor substitute for a subway in terms of both comfort and speed. It’s a shame those in charge have stopped thinking big. Every dollar invested in subways would eventually return a hundred times that into the economy. Moreover, many people who wouldn’t think of setting foot on a bus will gladly ride a subway.

    @f9b2cb395abd5a101456b3b0a40912e1:disqus  I personally don’t understand why capital projects here cost so much more than they do elsewhere. And I have an easy solution. They built hundreds of miles of subways in Chinese cities for a fraction of what it would cost to do here. Have the  Chinese companies which built those lines come here and build our new subway lines.  And promise there will be no micromanaging of their work rules, salaries, or any other aspect. Just pay them x dollars per mile of subway, stand back, and let them build.  Maybe have some American workers watch and learn from them.

  • fj

    And what will you do when the next 1-in-100-year storm hits New York City this year or next — or most likely within the next 10 years — and floods the subway system knocking it out for a month or more and devastates the power system; greatly impacting NYC’s daily $4 billion in economic activity?

    And what will you do to drastically reduce transportation emissions in New York City while making transportation resilient to extreme events caused by accelerating climate change?

  • Joe R.

    @twitter-93223785:disqus The portion of the subway most vulnerable to flooding (i.e. in lower Manhattan) is already built. Most of the parts of the outer boroughs where subways are needed are 50 feet or more above sea level and far inland. There are ways of making the subways more flood resistant but it will cost money and take time.

    Regardless of whether or not we build more subways, NYC will need a sea wall within the next 50 years to protect vulnerable infrastructure.  This is something we should get funded and built as soon as possible, hopefully before the next 100 year storm hits.

  • fj

    Joe R., Not so according to the reports referenced below.

    It is absolutely crazy self-destructive to ignore the accelerating extreme crisis we’re in the middle of and continue to cause yet, this is what a lot of the advocacy is doing and what most of our so-called leaders are glad to avoid.

    Like the dreadful in-our-face-reality of accelerating climate change, we must be in the faces of our so-called leaders, neighbors, and even acquaintances when discussions move to even the merest idea of the future that does not include climate change; keeping minds focused and feet-in-the-fire plain and simple.

    ‘Hello Is Truth Seen Too Late’: WWII And Climate Change

  • The problem of transit being being funded by “hard earned” money doesn’t go away if it’s the city rather than the MTA running it. Transit is expensive to build and maintain, unless we want to pay a lot less to the “hard working” people who do that. The city is at least as unlikely as the MTA to reduce labor costs. But there is a really simple way finance transit improvements without harming the middle class: raise marginal tax rates on incomes above $250k. Wouldn’t it be neat if a candidate for the Democratic Party (the one on the Left, supposedly) championed such a thing?
    But since Stringer is the only candidate to acknowledge that governments generally do fund subways, and that maybe we should fund more than 13% of the operating budget for ours, he’s got my vote.

  • @n8han:disqus – problem: the richest taxpayers are also  the ones who can most easily move out of state. Instead, the MTA should be looking at ways to save—such as severing the express bus system from the local bus system and having that contracted out from express bus-only garages; the MTA would then operate directly the local buses and subways.

  • fj

    Another Question:

    Are our so-called leaders even worse than this?

    Humans Are Not Like Slowly Boiling Frogs . . .  We Are Like Slowly Boiling Brainless Frogs

  • If you believe that Adam then you get to have race to the bottom with North Carolina, Brazil, Mexico, and anyone else who wants to play. But I think we could do better by aiming higher, with a more progressive tax code and restored public services that benefit rich and poor alike. It works pretty well for many big cites in Europe.

    At a bare minimum, the supposed party of the economic left owes its members tax policy advocacy that is to the left the other party’s. Any politician can advocate for breaking off costly express bus service, and they should. But if Democrats continue to argue for exactly the same tax policy as Republicans, while making excuses for it, then the message I’m getting is that there is no reason for the Democratic Party to exist.

  • fj

    Oh gee!  Now there’s worry about costs . . .

    “The benefits of strong, early action on climate change outweigh the costs”

    (Hint, hint:  This also includes our streets and transportation.)

    The quote above is from the 2006 STERN REVIEW: The Economics of Climate Change

    Nicholas Stern later realized that he’d under-estimated the severity of the problem and the costs of delay are much larger.

  • fj

    Another question for contenders:  How has Murdoch and his news organization corrupted the public discussion of climate change and effective transportation efforts since he has been severely reprimanded and is under serious investigation in the UK for illegal activities?

    ” . . . that News Corp reporters bribed police, Army, and defense ministry officials — and possibly other British officeholders — to win scoops and perhaps other business favors . . . could for the basis of charges in the United States against News Corps. and its employees or executives under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which bars American-based companies from paying off “foreign officials” in order to obtain or retain business.”

    In the wake of one corruption proceeding in Australia he was described as an enemy of democracy by one official asked to comment of an article from one of Murdoch’s news organizations.

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