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Jesuit-Educated NYC Transit Prez Blasts Fordham U. For ‘Fighting Equity’ For Bus Riders

"I went to three Jesuit institutions in my lifetime, so I was actually very disappointed to see Fordham signing on to this," Davey told reporters. "Jesuit institutions are about equity and about social justice."

12:01 AM EDT on June 20, 2023

Former Jesuit student (and current MTA New York City Transit President) Richard Davey is none too happy with Fordham University.

This Jesu-ain't-it, boss.

New York City Transit President Rich Davey took Fordham University to task on Friday for betraying its founding Jesuit principles when its administration revealed its opposition to any bus improvements on Fordham Road.

"I went to three Jesuit institutions in my lifetime, so I was actually very disappointed to see Fordham signing on to this," Davey said at news conference in the Bronx to announce bus lane camera activation elsewhere in the borough.

"Jesuit institutions are about equity and about social justice. ... Buses are the engines of equity. I'd ask those institutions to maybe think about what they signed onto."

The appeal to university leaders' Catholic guilt came in response to the Fightin' Rams throwing their heft behind an effort to block not only a potential busway on traffic-clogged Fordham Road — to which City Hall acquiesced — but even a 2.5-mile offset bus lane that the DOT now wants to put down on the corridor.

The school recently joined the Fordham and Belmont Business Improvement Districts, St. Barnabas Hospital, Monroe College, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Bronx Zoo in a private appeal to Mayor Adams to halt any project that would change the layout of Fordham Road to the benefit of the 85,000 bus riders who use it daily.

Fordham's anti-bus stance isn't only at odds with Jesuit principles of "justice, the protection of human rights and respect for the environment." In a similar bit of cognitive dissonance to the way that the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden tout their environmentalist credentials and urge visitors to get to the institutions via mass transit, Fordham has an entire section of its website devoted to hyping up the college's commitment to sustainability, reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality in the city.

The DOT has been looking at how to fix bus speeds on Fordham Road for at least four years, and initially suggested installed a one-way or two-way busway on the busy commercial strip. Officials earlier this month relented to pressure from moneyed interests in the area and said they would install an offset bus lane but no busway, which is predicted to speed up buses by about 20 percent, compared to 30 percent of 40 percent expected improvements from a busway.

Transit President Rich Davey speaking in the Bronx on Friday. Photo: Ray Raimundi/MTA

Per Fordham University and its anti-bus allies, though, none of the plans to improve the lives of bus riders were acceptable. Their letter to Adams claimed even shifting bus lanes away from the curb would result "more traffic than already exists."

The concerns of powerful institutions aside, bus riders on Fordham Road are in dire need of a lifeline. Average speeds on the Bx12 route dropped from 9 miles per hour in 2014 to 6.3 miles per hour as of April 2023. On one stretch of Fordham Road between Webster Avenue and Grand Concourse, westbound buses average just 4 miles per hour at best.

Davey on Friday threw his support to the city's offset bus lane plan, saying that the MTA was "lockstep with the DOT to get preferential treatment for buses." the plan will be expedited for this year, DOT First Deputy Commissioner Margret Forgione said.

Advocates for bus riders praised Davey's fighting words, and said they've heard similar things from actual students at Fordham University.

"President Davey is exactly right," said Riders Alliance Director of Policy and Communications Danny Pearlstein.

"We've heard identical responses from current Fordham students who ride the bus, including one who spoke up eloquently in favor of the busway plan at the May 31 meeting with DOT. We anticipate a growing base of support for the project on the Fordham campus."

Fordham University is sticking to the script though, still suggesting that even a bus lane would put both students and the environment at risk.

"There is no perfect outcome here," said Bob Howe, the special adviser to the president. "Fordham University is concerned about potential increases in traffic being diverted into the Belmont neighborhood where large concentrations of our students live, both from a traffic safety point of view and increased emissions from idling vehicles."

While a DOT traffic study suggested some small traffic impacts to streets in Belmont just south of Fordham Road if the city installed an offset bus lane, that study did not predict any severe traffic impacts from the bus priority project.

Friday's announcement from the MTA and DOT focused on camera enforcement activation on the Bx36, which as the MTA demonstrated, has had its buses stuck behind drivers parking in bus lanes and bus stops for too long. The camera activation brings the total number of buses with automatic enforcement cameras up to 503 on 18 different routes.

Bus-mounted enforcement cameras keep surface-level transit service moving. Video: MTA

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