Quinn’s Policy Book Skews Toward Transpo Issues the Mayor Can’t Control

Slowly, the major mayoral candidates are fleshing out their platforms, including their positions on transportation issues. Last month, Bill de Blasio used his policy book to stake out street safety goals. This morning, Anthony Weiner stumped for a bike commuter subsidy he proposed in April. Last week, Christine Quinn released her own policy book, in which she adds some new information about her previously-announced policy goals.

Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/shankbone/6943398244/##David Shankbone/Flickr##

As with many of the mayoral candidates, some of Quinn’s key transportation promises are about things the mayor does not control, like MTA commuter rail investments. Her planks on bus improvements and pedestrian safety fit better with a mayoral policy platform. However, her policy book does not discuss the expansion of bike lanes, public plazas, or bike-share, all of which are up to City Hall.

Before getting to campaign promises, the document provides an overview of legislation that passed during Quinn’s tenure as City Council speaker. She trumpets her support for congestion pricing in 2009, the passage of the Bicycle Access Bill, laws requiring NYPD to make crash data public, legislation targeting commercial cyclists and e-bikes, and laws mandating DOT data collection and consultation with community boards and other agencies.

Quinn also highlights her record of “improving parking for city drivers,” with nine bullet points devoted to things such as five-minute grace periods at parking meters, the elimination of “humiliating” stickers for alternate-side violators, and the creation of parking passes for clergy. She does not discuss expanding PARK Smart meter reforms or eliminating off-street parking requirements.

The East River Ferry features prominently; Quinn wants to expand the heavily-subsidized service north to Roosevelt Island, Queens, and the Bronx, and south to Atlantic Avenue and Red Hook.

Quinn’s top goal is for all one-way commutes for city residents to clock in under 60 minutes. To accomplish this, Quinn says she would make “targeted investments in the boroughs outside Manhattan,” but her policy book does not say what those investments might be. It does, however, promise ten new Select Bus Service routes in four years, and the goal of SBS expansion is one thing the mayor can actually deliver on by setting aside the street space for dedicated bus lanes. The route Quinn says she would start with, though, is Staten Island’s North Shore, which would not use city streets, for the most part. The MTA is currently planning a bus rapid transit project for that route, mainly on what used to be an elevated rail right-of-way.

Another big-vision goal — reducing traffic fatalities 50 percent by 2021 — is something the mayor can influence, and the policy book reiterates Quinn’s pledge to set up a multi-agency task force to tackle traffic violence.

The policy book also contains some new detail about how Quinn proposes to increase city control of the MTA. She says the mayor should appoint a majority of board members and the head of New York City Transit, while the governor would continue to appoint the MTA’s chair and CEO. In addition to being a political longshot, this proposal doesn’t give the city the ability to end Albany transit raids, or to gain more say over the MTA’s capital spending, which is determined by a separate board composed of four appointees — only one of which is chosen by the mayor.

Quinn calls for the installation of countdown clocks outside subway stations and more bike parking, especially at transit hubs. She also endorses the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel, a project championed by U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler that aims to reduce truck traffic, and Penn Station Access, a project already being planned by the MTA to build new train stations in the Bronx and bring Metro-North trains to Penn Station once some LIRR trains are diverted to Grand Central Terminal.

  • Bolwerk

    If candidates aren’t supporting at least subway extensions and preferably endorsing investing in light rail too, they’re crappy on transit.

    She is making meager promises to get elected, mixed with some “meh, I tried” anecdotes to show how great she is, and these ideas can be abandoned when she is in Gracie Mansion. They aren’t that impacting anyway.

  • Barney

    Bolwerk, I think Stephen’s point is that mayoral promises of subway extensions are worthless because the New York City mayor doesn’t control the MTA (and has little hope of wrestling control away from Albany).

    Dollar for dollar, I’ll take Select Bus Service/BRT over light rail everyday.


  • Eric McClure

    Weak tea.

  • Bolwerk

    The only candidate even supporting the idea of more subways is Sal Albanese, to my knowledge. And maybe they shouldn’t be promising them, because maybe you’re right and they can’t get them. But they should be advocating for them, because it’s their job to advocate for what is in the interest of their constituents.

    “Dollar for dollar” LRT is cheaper per-rider than buses and faster in many, many cases. When that is the case, LRT should be on the table. But the mayoral candidates are all either pig ignorant of best transportation practice or are pandering to the TWU with promises of more jobs instead of trying to help the riders have a better, more sustainable ride. I’m really not sure which.

  • Bolwerk

    For that matter, there should be no SelectBus. Or, rather, every bus
    should use as many SelectBus practices as possible. Certainly 100% of
    them should have POP fare collection. SelectBus is a cynical way to
    offer a few buses kind of the way buses are supposed to be run, while keeping
    the rest in the doldrums.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Broke City, State, Country.

    As for more innovative ideas to help younger generations adjust to their diminished circumstances, understand that none of the candidates are likely to know as much about transportation as the average person on this blog. But they have to know about lots of other things too.

    Which is why I would prefer statements of principle to laundry lists of ideas, many of which (as the post noted) are the province of another level of government, most of which are unfunded.

    If Quinn or others are worried about travel times to destinations outside Manhattan, they might well consider some of the dynamic carpooling that is starting to percolate after many false starts. But it is unlikely that any of them know what that is.


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