NYC Mayor Calls for Transit Improvements

Bloomberg giving a speech.
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Mayor Mike Bloomberg, despite having no significant influence over the MTA, which runs city trains and buses, and is a state agency, has called for a variety of different improvements.

  • F Line Express Service in Brooklyn
  • Reopening closed LIRR stations in Queens
  • Expanding the CityTicket program, which offers discounted tickets on weekends to riders of the LIRR and Metro-North from stations within city limits to all times.
  • Reopen the Staten Island North Shore Rail Line to passenger service
  • Install countdown clocks on subway routes to provide time until next train
  • Pilot light rail or streetcar service in North Brooklyn and Western Queens waterfront neighborhoods
  • Fix stations more effectively and efficiently.
  • Free Crosstown bus service on select Manhattan lines.
  • Create commuter van service to provide cost-effective mass transit service in underserved neighborhoods.
  • Provide City bus routes with location tracking technology.
  • Use smaller buses during less crowded periods to reduce costs in order to boost nighttime service.
  • Create an integrated smart card
  • Expand pre-tax commuter benefit programs.

A lot of these ideas have been batted around for years, and are good ones. To address a few:

  1. Location tracking and countdown clocks are good to increase efficiency and educate the public about how buses are running…but is it really the best use of our resources? It won’t make them run any faster.
  2. Smart Card – The Metrocard system requires a great deal of swiping and reswiping when the card readers are difficult. A smart card could be held close to a reader and could be read at short distances. Fare collection can be a big bottleneck. London’s Oyster Card, a popular example, offers a great deal of options we’d love to see in New York. For example, you can fill the card online, although you will have to go to a station/reader to have the information applied to your card. It can be swiped entering and leaving, which would work will for the commuter rails to calculate fares. It can be programmed for daily/weekly/monthly passes or pay per use.
  3. Reopening Closed LIRR stations in Queens – The stations in question, Elmhurst, Richmond Hill, and Glendale would have to be seriously renovated to be rebuilt. Of Elmhurst, which closed 1985 and was on the Port Washington Branch, only platform supports remain and a new platform would have to be built. There never was a platform at Glendale. Richmond Hill, Glendale, as well as Fresh Pond, Haberman, and Penny Bridge on the Long Island City branch were closed in 1998 and had little use at the time. The branch does not see frequent service. In our opinion, with the exception of Elmhurst, this plan needs more meat to it.
  4. Free Crosstown Buses – Most people going across town are likely changing over to the subway or uptown/downtown buses in Manhattan, ensuring the fare would ultimately be paid.
  5. Expanding Ferry Service – Why Not? We’d like to see the return of ferry service to LaGuardia Airport, for one. Mayor Bloomberg in May unveiled a plan to bring ferry service to all five boroughs.

In regards to Light Rail/Streetcar Service, New York City is significantly behind in this regard. While cities are planning and expanding transit, New York City hasn’t produced more than a few small additions to its network in years. The last big subway improvement was the 63rd street connection, which took a stub line that ran to 21st-Queensbridge and connected it to the Queens Blvd. Line, allowing trains off that line an additional route into Manhattan. Before that was the 1989 Archer Avenue Extension, which replaced the turn-down Jamaica Avenue El and tied together two lines.

We did have a new South Ferry Terminal station earlier this year. The Fulton Street Transit Center creates additional connections between close-together lines. Very nice and it will improve efficiency, but also no significant improvement there.

Projects under construction include the 7 Line Extension. The current 7 terminus at 42nd Street- Times Square would be extended down to 11th Avenue, turning and running down to 34th Street and a new Javits Center Station. A second station as 42nd and 10th avenue was dropped, but there is periodic talk of reinstatement. The layup tracks for the extension would extend down to 23rd street, creating the possibility of a future station extension to Chelsea. But the project is still merely a single station addition.

That brings us to the Second Avenue Subway(Map available here). Phase One, which is delayed again, will be an extension of the existing Q line from 63rd street and 2nd avenue to 96th street. That will add three new stations at 72nd, 86th, and 96th. The second phase will extend that to 125th, with stops at 106th and 116th. Phase 3 will extend the line down from 72nd to the existing 2nd Avenue station at Houston Street, with new stops at 55th, 42nd, 34th, 23rd, and 14th. Phase 4 will extend to Hanover Square, with new stops at Grand-Chrystie St, Chatham Square, and Seaport.  A new train, the T train, as well as the existing Q will operate on these lines.  The first phase will not be ready for at least another seven years.

The last project of note is the Long Island Railroad‘s East Side Access, not a possibility for another five years It will connect the Long Island Railroad, through the existing lower level of the 63rd street tunnel and through a new tunnel into a constructed lower level at Grand Central Station, adding midtown capacity to the railroad as well as funneling many passengers wishing to go to the East Side directly to their destination.

Tunneling and construction in New York takes years. Revamping bus schedules, adjusting equipment, policy changes, and ferries can be put into place with less time, and can, with proper planning, help the city immensely. New York has the largest subway system in the country. But we are falling behind on transit innovation.

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