Today’s Headlines

  • Meet the Fortunate Few Who Get Paid by the City to Avoid the Subway (Voice)
  • Storms Knock Out MNRR and NJ Transit Service (GothamistNYT, AMNYPost)
  • It Took Five Months for Phil Murphy and Andrew Cuomo to Clash Over PANYNJ (Politico)
  • Trump’s FTA Pick Won’t Talk About Gateway (WNYC)
  • Two Stories About Subway Announcements: Post, News
  • Distracted Driving Is a Way of Life for TLC Licensees (Outline)
  • Uber Big Calls for Road Pricing in Crain’s Op-Ed
  • Motorist Knocks Bus Onto SI Sidewalk (Advance); Driver Into House in Queens (Gothamist)
  • Larry Littlefield, This One’s for You (NYT)
  • Damn Velocipedes (NYT)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Maggie

    From that Voice article:

    Marylou Grimaldi, a 50-year-old media professional who commutes from her home on Rockaway Beach to Wall Street, vowed to never return to the subway. “I would rather wait two hours for this boat. Because of the quality of the commute and the people on the boat and the rules and regulations and what doesn’t go on on the boat. It’s a cleanliness thing, it’s a safety thing, it’s a cursing and playing music thing, it’s garbage, it’s everything.”

    Ann Martin, a 52-year-old legal secretary making the same commute, spends 20 minutes longer per day on the ferry versus the A train, but believes “the A train wasn’t safe. The crowd isn’t good on it. It’d go through East New York. This is more comfortable, more relaxing. It’s a different type of clientele and people.”

    These quotes are stunning to me. (Just say you don’t like sharing a subway train with black people… this is taking forever!) In the “fairest big city in America”, de Blasio is spending his energy and all our money subsidizing these few people while trashing fair fares – is he serious? I wish I understood why it’s so incredibly tortuous to watch the mayor avoid doing the right thing.

  • Larry Littlefield

    While the spirit of the NY Times article is right, a couple of details are wrong. NYC local government employment has not been rising relative to population, it has been falling compared with the same point in the economic cycle as more and more money goes to the early retired.

    The fact, moreover, that NYC has five pension funds is not that big a deal, because all are fairly huge. I could see combining police and fire, and merging the Board of Ed retirement fund into the NYC teachers retirement fund. But this is nothing like Pennsylvania or Illinois, where each little burg has its own little police and fire pension fund, all of which are broke. There are hundreds of pension funds in those states, compared with fewer than ten in New York State.

    The big issue is this. The NYPD and NYFD have a long history of disability fraud, especially among Generation Greed officers and firefighters. Those who are disabled get 75 percent of their last year’s pay as a pension instead of 50 percent. Some of that fraud has been legalized by the legislature, through “presumption” policies, and some of it has not been. The NYPD and, in particular, the NYFD pension plans are deep in the hole as a result, despite high taxpayer contributions.

    Disability fraud has been going down as fewer Generation Greed officers and firefighters are left to retire. But why would you put the former head of the firefighters’ union in charge of the fire pension fund? Isn’t that just an invitation to get that fraud level back up? Particularly given that individuals values, as evidenced by this bust.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Are the people who would benefit from the right thing those who would contribute to his Presidential campaign? Or Cuomo’s?

    These are careerists. Stop paying attention to the rhetoric and just focus on that and it all becomes understandable.

    As I said, I don’t mind the capital expenditures to start a new form of transportation, nor the operating subsidies for the period when only early adopters are using it. But if that is the level of operating subsidy when the boats are full, the best possible scenario, then this is just another ripoff of the serfs.

  • Vooch

    $300 million subsidy for the ferries would pay for SIX HUNDRED MILES of PBLs.

    600 miles of PBLs would increase mobility for millions of NYs.

  • Maggie

    I’m not a huge fan of the transactional lens over what’s in the public interest, but even using it, I tend to disagree that de Blasio has nothing to gain politically by funding fair fares, or that in aggregate, 52-year-old legal secretaries from southwestern Queens are the likely donors to bankroll de Blasio or Cuomo’s next campaign. This is not how I see it. Waterfront Brooklyn developers – yes, I could see it – but that’s why we keep pushing for government in the public interest.

  • Knut Torkelson

    Yeah some A+ dog whistling in that article. I actually ride the ferry most days even though it adds about 5 minutes to my commute. I don’t support subsidies for the ferries- they’re upper middle class/tourist fun cruises for the most part, but racism aside, it is a much nicer commute than being stuck underground packed in like sardines.

    Absolutely ridiculous that the chump in charge of the city thinks these are more necessary than vastly improving the PBL network, or adding signal priority for busses, or funding fair fares, but BDB has never been a progressive when it comes to transportation and the environment.

  • Knut Torkelson

    I mean the idea that waterfront developers has an undue influence over de Blasio, especially when it comes to transportation policy, is basically a fact at this point. His only two big transit initiatives are literally focused on that one area, which already has decent transit compared to many parts of the city, and which is overwhelmingly dominated by well to do white New Yorkers (with a few exceptions).

    Agree with the rest, though.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “That’s why we keep pushing for government in the public interest.”

    I wait to see how many pushers will be running against the incumbents in the state legislature. With Preet Bharara having been gotten out of the way, I don’t think we can wait around until they are all convicted.

  • Complaining over the level of “subsidy” of the ferry rides make sense only if one uncritically internalises the market model. The ferries are a public service; therefore taxpayers should rightfully be paying 100% of it, with no fare at boarding. Likewise with the subway. The fares are subsidising the public expenditure, not the other way around.

    The complaints about the ferries’ ridership tend to ignore the fact that the service can be drastically increased overnight. There is no real obstacle to tripling or quadrupling the service; all that would need to be done would be to purchase boats and hire crew members, as well as creating a few more ports along the coastlines. This would counter the race- and class-based exclusivity problem by opening the boats to many, many more people.

  • qrt145

    There has to be a limit to how much taxpayers should pay for highly inefficient public services. Otherwise why not offer subsidized helicopter rides, too, with a $2.75 fare and a $200 (or whatever) subsidy?

    Of course that’s an extreme example, but it’s just to show the line has to be drawn somewhere. I’d say that the ferry already crossed it given the existence of more efficient alternatives.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The “progressive” policy seems to be to provide such extreme benefits to a select group of politically active workers in the vanguard, with the expectation that this will force “them” to eventually provide additional workers with the same benefit someday, with money from somewhere.

    Therefore, the more you can provide for SOME people, even at the expense of other people or running up debts that will cause basic services to collapse, the more “progressive” it is.

    Retirement at 55, parking placards, etc.

    Also works for generations. The more is provided for older generations at the expense of younger generations, the more younger generations will also have to somehow pay for for themselves.

  • Simon Phearson

    This has been pointed out to Ferdinand virtually every time he has repeated the exact same argument he has re-asserted here. I am sure his responses to you will further track things he’s already said in identical fashion dozens of times before.

    I would encourage you not to be trolled too heavily by this pest.

  • Knut Torkelson

    Ok in theory, but in the real world there’s still a finite budget and finite subsidies to go around, and this booze cruise for the wealthy and relatively wealthy (who almost universally have other mass transit options or the money to pay a much higher fare) comes at the very real cost of not devoting transportation dollars in the city budget to communities that actually need it, or to transportation options that would help a vastly greater number of people.

    In some fantasy world where we’ve done all we can to increase viable mass transit options for all New Yorkers, sure, I agree with your argument. Until then, this is a colossal stupid vanity project for BDB.

  • Even though there ideally should be no fare on this or any public transit, the sad reality is that we’re stuck with the fare model. So it might be tempting to offset the ferries’ cost to taxpayers by raising the fare. The problem with that is that it would only further the existing favouritism towards wealthy professionals over working-class people.

    Perhaps costs could be managed by getting rid of some of the perks, such as the bar. And the seating could be more dense, allowing for more riders per boat and thereby reducing the per-rider cost. These changes would not only improve efficiency, but would also replace the luxury feel with a mass-transit feel.

    New York has so much water internal to its borders. There simply must be a way to utilise our waterways in a reasonable fashion within our mass-transit system.

  • You are correct that there has to be a limit to how much ineffeciency we should tolerate. But these ferries don’t come close to any reasonable conception of that limit.

    This is not to say that costs should be ignored; an excess such as the bar should be eliminated.

  • ohnonononono

    “New York has so much water internal to its borders”

    …but most people don’t work or live on the water anymore because transit allowed us to conveniently live inland. We shouldn’t go back to concentrating all the activity on the water’s edge. We did that back when it was the only way to get around.

  • It’s true that most people in Queens and Brooklyn don’t live on the water. But they don’t have to. Plenty of people live within walking distance.

    And consider the extrordinary thinness of Manhattan; the farthest you can possibly be from one of the shorelines is just a little over a mile. A ferry ride with a short walk on either side of it is a commuting style that would suit many people.

    Considering our City’s density, it does not make sense to downplay mass transportation by means of our internal waterways. We’re reaching only a small fraction of the people who could make use of a robust ferry system several times the size of the current one.

  • Knut Torkelson

    The vast majority of the city does not both have a job within walking distance of the water AND live within walking distance of the water, a prequisite for the ferry to be a useful form of transportation for the masses. What you do is downplay needed improvements to the bike and bus infrastructure that could have been included in this budget, that would help significantly more people get around than this ridiculous vanity project.

  • AMH

    Took some scrolling to find the velocipede section! Hilarious, and the Buster Keaton video is a gem.

  • While I acknowledge that this money could have done more good if it had been applied to bike or bus infrastructure, the characterisation of ferries (“vanity project”) is grossly exaggerated.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Modestly exaggerated.

    The light rail is worse. People aren’t expected to actually use it much. It’s just for the condo marketing materials, like the “mindfulness room.”

  • Cain McDougal

    If it allowed free transfers to train/bus, then it would make a little more sense. The plus side to the NYC ferry is that it allows bikes on board (+$1), although I don’t know how many it can store.

    Other than that, it mainly benefits the richer population that live near the water side. The only stops I think would benefit the less wealthy would be Astoria and Soundview (coming this summer) as they have projects near by.

    If our Mayor really cared, he would also subsidize free transfers. Or just give money to improve subway, bus and bike.

  • Simon Phearson

    You can make whatever conceptual argument you like about ferries and what they could be in a city like NYC, but what you’re doing here is ignoring that BdB’s ferries simply are a vanity project. They’re amenities designed to boost waterfront property values and rents. Questions like, “How can we serve more people with these ferries,” or “How can we integrate ferries more effectively into our citywide transportation network,” or “How can we expand the system to reach more areas that are poorly served by transit,” are strictly secondary, if they are considered at all. They’re like USB ports on buses and wifi in the subways – a nice amenity, perhaps, but not what anyone was exactly asking for. Just an easy, flashy win for politicians.

    It’s uncanny how often your thinking on these issues lands you on the anti-bike, anti-transit, anti-human side of the ledger, along with the racist ferrygoers and reckless car drivers.

  • AnoNYC

    New York City Doesn’t Have a Comprehensive Plan; Does It Need One?

  • Joe R.

    There is a cost-effective way to utilize our waterways as part of our mass transit system, namely boat share. Have the shores lined with pedal boats similar to the ones used in Flushing Meadows. Have free transfers from the subway or bus to boat share.

    As for the bars, they’re probably the most profitable part of the entire operation. I’d say expand that model to other forms of mass transit. Granted, bars wouldn’t fit on buses, but make one car on every subway train a bar car. If the upper class ferry commuters can enjoy such amenities why can’t the masses on their mode of choice? I have to say back when I used to take the subway I would have appreciated such an amenity. Getting plastered was probably the only thing which could have made some of my work or school commutes tolerable.

    Maybe even have liquor stations long bike routes while we’re at it. Let everyone celebrate happy hour before work starts!

  • Some goofball’s unhinged rants notwithstanding, I am for drastic expansions of SBS (or, better, real BRT) and of protected bike lanes; I am also for a citywide speed limit of 20 miles per hour, as well as making a top enforcement priority out of the constant and unrepentant law-breaking on the part of those dangerous sociopaths known as drivers.

    More fundamentally, I hold that the personal auto is inimical to urban life, and that all policy should have at its core the aims of discouraging car ownership and of getting commuters out of their cars and on to bikes, trains, buses, and (yes) ferries.

    Those ideas, like all others, are up for critique and debate. But bizarre overreactions and ridiculous mischaracterisations only lower the quality of discussion, while making the one delivering these frothing pronouncements look very foolish indeed.

  • Larry Littlefield

    No. Comprehensive plans are used for developing areas with infrastructure being added for the first time. New York City is fully developed, and is now in a period of ongoing incremental adjustment.

    Something like a comprehensive plan has been implemented in the past 35 years or so. Low-rise areas distant from the subway have been downzoned to limit further increases in density, and areas closer to the subway have been up zoned to accommodate growth. Moreover, all of the areas that were abandoned in the 1970s have been rebuilt with city subsidy, with all the in-rem housing disappearing. Long-planned extensions of economic activity to outer borough satellite cities has finally taken place, and the Far West Side was planned and is under redevelopment. What more do you want?

    If the city and state had more money and fewer special interests sucking money away, it might or might not choose to extend subway lines to lower-rise areas and up zone them for mid and high-rise apartment houses. But that would first require more capacity in the center so the additional trains would have somewhere to go, and all we’ve managed is a three station extension of the BMT Broadway line to the Upper East Side.

  • OK, but please be aware that calling for free transfers is not compatible with the cost critique, because free tranfers would cost the City still more, and would amount to a City giveaway to a State agency (the MTA).

    Also, here and with “Fair Fares”, if people want the City to directly fund the subway, then the issue should be the return of the subway to the control of the City government.

  • While the idea of pedal boats on the East River is amusing (to me if not to the police department’s water rescue people), ordinary ferry boats would be the better choice. We just need a lot more of them.

  • Maggie

    I keep trying to make sense of this and I can’t do it.

    “So it might be tempting to offset the ferries’ cost to taxpayers by raising the fare. The problem with that is that it would only further the existing favouritism towards wealthy professionals over working-class people.”

    How would reducing the subsidy for wealthy professionals on the ferry “further existing favoritism”?

  • We could reduce the cost to the public by raising the fare; but this furthers the idea of the ferry as a luxury ride rather than as a mode of transport for the masses. If working-class people are not riding the ferry for $2.75, they certainly won’t start riding if it were to cost $5 or $6. So raising the fare would not remedy the problem of the ferries serving mostly wealthy people; it would exacerbate that problem.