Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/997 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 12:30:05 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) 7 Transit Commitments Advocates Want From Candidates This Year http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7052:seven-transit-commitments-advocates-want-from-candidates http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7052:seven-transit-commitments-advocates-want-from-candidates img 7012

Transit advocates rally near City Hall (photo: Sam Raskin/Gotham Gazette)


Activists from eight transportation advocacy groups gathered near the City Hall R train subway station on Thursday calling on candidates running for elected office in the city to adopt a seven-point plan to improve New York’s crumbling transit infrastructure.

“We’ve put together the steps that New York City can take to make transportation work in New York,” said John Raskin, executive director of Riders Alliance, who led the news conference. The coalition released a four-page document titled, “Transportation and Equity: A 2017 Agenda for Candidates” which included seven proposed solutions -- increasing funding for public transportation, improving bus service, reducing the cost of mass-transit, increasing bicycle usage, reducing traffic fatalities under the Vision Zero campaign, improving how street space is divided, and providing alternatives for the L train riders who will soon see an expected disruption of service.

The advocates believe that the time is ripe to hold politicians’ feet to the fire on transit issues, ahead of the upcoming city elections. “Transportation is now a top-tier issue in our city,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “There's never been a better time for our city to make progress on streets and transportation. So if you’re running for office, ignore our issues at your own peril. New Yorkers are hungry for solutions and we have them.”

The coalition of advocates did acknowledge that much of the city’s transportation management is the responsibility of the state. The subway system is managed by the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is controlled by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The governor recently declared a state of emergency for the MTA to ease procurement rules and speed up improvements to the subway system but critics believe the measure was too little, too late. “We’re not here to let the governor in Albany off the hook,” insisted StreetsPac Executive Director Eric McClure, noting that city dwellers are “unfortunately trapped” in a situation in which city matters are determined by representatives from outside the city. But the activists believe the city can take certain matters into its own hands. “In a world where the governor controls the MTA, we are answering the question: what can the mayor do? What can the city council do? What can other city level elected officials do to help New Yorkers get around town, access jobs and build a fair and sustainable city for the future,” said Raskin.

The organizations coalesced around popular transit fixes such as increasing capital funding to the MTA, adding and improving bike lanes, funding the Fair Fares proposal to provide half-priced MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers, committing to improving safety on the street through the Vision Zero campaign, augmenting the express Select Bus Service and enhancing bus lane enforcement.

“We’re not here promote flying cars or monorails, or new tunneling for autonomous vehicles,” White said. “These are all proven solutions that simply need to be expanded.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly touted expansion of the Select Bus Service, Citi Bike additions, and ferry service expansions as transportation accomplishments under his tenure. These received tepid support from White. “The mayor deserves credit for trying a multitude of solutions that are under his control, ferries included,” White said. “If you look at the subsidies per ride, investments in bus service, improving bus service, investments in walking and biking provide much more bang for your investment buck if you’re the mayor of New York. Ferries are important, but there is more to be had with investments in bus service in particular.”

The coalition, notably, did not take a collective stance on the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar, which would run between Sunset Park and Astoria. Certain activists have expressed doubts about investing in a costly new streetcar as opposed to improving existing transit options. The proposal has few strong supporters among transit advocates and there are doubts about whether it can be adequately funded. There are a variety of business and other organizations supporting BQX.

Along with policies with consensus among activists and electeds, the transit groups also pushed for more ambitious, imaginative proposals such as a Brooklyn-Manhattan Bus Rapid Transit route over the Williamsburg Bridge to deal with the planned 15-month shutdown of the L train beginning in 2019.

Additionally, the advocates called on the administration to further its current use of a portion of real estate value added by upzoning to fund transportation projects. “[T]he city is in a position to make sure that part of that value goes to build and rebuild the infrastructure that the real estate relies on,” Raskin said. “That’s something we’re asking the city to do in a widespread way.” The groups also expressed support for the Move NY Fair Plan, which would reform bridge toll prices to simultaneously raise revenue and reduce traffic congestion.

Confident in the achievability and efficacy of their suggestions, the advocates believe the next step is to spread awareness and apply pressure on current and potential New York lawmakers. “The agenda that this group has put together for New York City is doable,” said Marcia Bystyrn, executive director of New York League of Conservation Voters. “The real challenge for all of us is making it clear to every elected official in New York that we expect them to deliver.”

Note: this article has been adjusted to more carefully characterize support for the BQX.

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7 Transit Commitments Advocates Want From Candidates This Year Thu, 06 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, December 7 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6020:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-dec-7 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6020:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-dec-7 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


 ***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Monday
On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend the memorial service for John E. Zuccotti. At 12:30 p.m., "the Mayor will deliver remarks at NYPD's Clergy All-In Conference at One Police Plaza." At about 2:45 p.m. at the Staten Island South Shore YMCA, "the Mayor and First Lady Chirlane McCray will host a press conference to make an announcement related to substance misuse."

On Monday morning in Albany, leading experts on the New York State Constitution and the prospects for a Constitutional Convention will hold a media “boot camp.” The event will include Gerald Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz; constitutional scholars Christopher Bopst and Peter Galie; Richard Brodsky, senior fellow at Demos and former Assembly member; and Henry M. Greenberg, chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on the New York State Constitution and former counsel to the New York State attorney general. “The event is sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government of the State University of New York, New York State Bar Association, Government Law Center of Albany Law School, state League of Women Voters, Siena Research Institute and New York News Publishers Association.” 

On Monday at 10 a.m. at City Hall, the push for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) intensifies: “Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Donovan Richards, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and the “BRT For NYC” Coalition will co-host a press conference to announce increased community support for bringing high-quality bus rapid transit to Queens. The “BRT For NYC” Coalition will be represented by ABNY, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, Pratt Center for Community Development, Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, Transit Workers Union Local 100, and Working Families Party. Bus riders and members of the Queens community will also be in attendance.” [Read our recent look at the issue: All Abord the BRT Express?]

At the City Council on Monday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Finance will meet to discuss a bill about expanding the Metrotech Area Business Improvement District.
  • At 11 a.m., the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will meet, agenda TBD.
  • At 1:30 a.m. on Monday, the City Council will have a Stated Meeting, prefaced as always by the Speaker’s pre-stated press conference, set for 12:30 p.m.

At noon, before the Council’s stated meeting, there will be a rally at City Hall to unveil “First-of-its-kind NYC Council legislation to be unveiled cracking down on deadbeat companies that stiff the city’s 1.3 million.” Members of the Freelancers Union, other labor reps including from the UFT and 32BJ, other activists, and several City Council members led Brad Lander, Laurie Cumbo, Rafael Espinal, Steve Levin, and Margaret Chin will hold a rally at the steps of City Hall to pass legislation protecting New York City’s freelancers. [Read our recent look at the issue: City Council Developing New Protections for Workers in ‘Gig’ Economy

As the week begins, City Council Member Jumaane Williams is in Washington, DC from Sunday to Tuesday “attending the Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies' bi-annual Roundtable Discussion being held at George Washington Law School.” It is a conference “for a select group of 25 elected officials of color from across the nation will feature discussions regarding policy innovations.”

At the State Legislature on Monday: at 11 a.m., the Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Assembly Climate Change Work Group will hold a joint hearing on climate change.

On Monday at noon, The New York City Bar Association is hosting a “Lunch and Public Policy Discussion” with Gale A. Brewer, Manhattan Borough President.

On Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Queens Borough Hall, “The Queens Borough Board, chaired by Borough President Katz, will hear details from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP about the department’s new “Parks Without Borders” program, which aims to make New York City public parks more open, welcoming, and beautiful by focusing on improving park entrances and edges, and park-adjacent spaces.”

Monday at 7 p.m. at The New School, “Politics and Policy: The Latino Vote and The 2016 US Presidential Election” with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, among others, offering “a fresh examination of the role of Latinos in the 2016 election. Featuring a panel of journalists, pollsters, and political insiders, we’ll explore political, demographic and economic trends that will shape the outcome in 2016.” The event is organized by Feet in 2 Worlds, The Center for New York City Affairs and the Milano School.

On Monday at 8 p.m., city Comptroller Scott Stringer will deliver remarks "at West Side Federation of Neighborhood and Block Associations Annual Holiday Party."

Tuesday
At the City Council on Tuesday: at 10 a.m., the Committee on Public Safety will meet to discuss two bills related to New York City crossing guard deployment.

At the New York State Legislature on Tuesday:

  • At 10 a.m. in Manhattan, a joint committee hearing on Daily Fantasy Sports in New York will be held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Racing and Wagering, the Assembly Standing Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection, and the Assembly Legislative Commission on Administrative Regulations Review.
  • At 10:30 a.m. in Albany, a joint committee hearing about law-enforcement officials using body cameras will be held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Codes, the Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary, and the Assembly Standing Committee on Governmental Operations.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday, a “Public Projects Forum” hosted by City & State NY will have Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle, NY; Reginald Spinello, Mayor of Glen Cove, NY; Commissioner Feniosky Pena-Mora, NYC Department of Design & Construction; and Holly Leicht, Regional Administrator, Housing & Urban Development; speak about the upcoming public projects in the tristate area.

On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at Queens Borough Hall, “The Queens Borough Cabinet, chaired by Borough President Melinda Katz, will hear a briefing from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) on its current counterterrorism efforts in light of recent events in this county and abroad. The briefing will include a review of new counterterrorism technologies employed by the NYPD. In addition, the Fire Department of New York’s (FDNY’s) Fire Education Safety Team will deliver a presentation on how City residents can best keep their homes safe during the holiday season. Also, the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation will deliver a presentation on the implementation of the Neighborhoods.nyc domain, which has launched nearly 400 online hubs for civic engagement, information sharing and economic development.” 

Wednesday
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Chairman's Breakfast will take on the presidential transition and the need for the most carefully planned transition in United States history in anticipation of January 20, 2017. [Read an op-ed on the subject from Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Chair Ken Biberaj and David Eagles of Partnership for Public Service: Let’s Be Prepared for America’s Biggest Corporate Takeover

At the City Council on Wednesday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Health will meet to discuss a bill to create two new health-focused city government bodies and another that would require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene “to post a New York City map on its website of the clinics they run, comprehensive care and primary care facilities run by the Health and Hospitals Corporation, voluntary non-profit and publicly sponsored diagnostic and treatment centers, and federally qualified health centers.”
  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on General Welfare will hold an oversight hearing on the city’s efforts to address “the homelessness crisis.” [Read our recent look at issues related to how and where homeless shelters are sited.]
  • At 1 p.m., the Committees on Aging and Finance will meet for a joint oversight hearing on the city’s “efforts to conduct outreach” and boost registration for the Rent Freeze Program; and on a new a bill that would “require the Department of Finance to include a notification regarding preferential rent on certain documents related to the NYC Rent Freeze Program.”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Civil Rights will meet to discuss four bills regarding the city’s human rights law.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Immigration will have an oversight hearing about “Resources Available in New York City for Unaccompanied Minors.”

At the New York State Legislature on Wednesday:

  • At noon in Manhattan, the Assembly Standing Committees on Labor and Small Business as well as the Assembly Commission on Skills Development and Careers Education will hold a joint oversight hearing on the state’s apprenticeship programs.
  • At 1 p.m. in Albany, the Assembly Standing Committee on Real Property Taxation will hold an oversight hearing on the 2015-2016 budget plan.

Thursday
At the City Council on Thursday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Housing and Buildings meet on three bills. The first would create a Department of Buildings-headed task force that would assess the dangers posed by construction sites to motorists and pedestrians and submit recommendations to the City Council and mayor about measures proposed to minimize the hazard. The other two bills would raise penalties for working without a permit and for violating stop work directives.
  • At 10:30 a.m., the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will review two land use applications.
  • At 11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use will review five applications.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Civil Service and Labor and the Committee on Higher Education will have a joint oversight hearing on “Establishing the Murphy Institute as a new CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.”

At the New York State Legislature on Thursday: at 10:30 a.m. in Manhattan, the Assembly Standing Committee on Election Law and the Assembly Standing Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement will hold a joint oversight hearing about “Enhancing the voter experience, preventing voter disenfranchisement and improving emergency voting protocols.”

At 8:30 a.m. at Civic Hall on Thursday, Scott Stringer’s Red Tape Commission will meet in Manhattan to hear suggestions from small business owners and others.

On Thursday, the Staten Island Borough Board is expected to vote on Mayor de Blasio's two rezoning amendment proposals. It will be the fifth borough to do so - the other four have voted against them, sometimes with lists of conditions that the advisory boards would like to see made to revised proposals.

At 4 p.m. Thursday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board holds a “New to the CFB” session.

At 6 p.m. Thursday: “Power Lines: Race, Class, The City & Its Schools,” a discussion about segregation in New York City schools.

Friday and the weekend
At the New York State Legislature on Friday: at 10:30 a.m. in Manhattan, a hearing of the Assembly Standing Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development regarding “Injuries in combative sports.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is launching a Manhattan Youth Council, and is holding an initial information session on Friday afternoon at her offices. “High school students from across Manhattan are invited to meet and talk with Borough President Gale Brewer about the issues that matter most to you...Young people who live, work, or attend school in Manhattan can sign up here.”

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Konstantine Beridze, Ryan Brady, and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, December 7 Sun, 06 Dec 2015 21:57:46 +0000
All Aboard the BRT Express? http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5991:all-aboard-the-brt-express http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5991:all-aboard-the-brt-express bus mta photo m86

(photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)


Google Maps estimated an hour-and-a-half for a trip from near City Hall to a location in Southeast Queens, leaving at 5:30 p.m. on a recent Tuesday. On the E train to its final stop and a bus crawling along jam-packed Merrick Boulevard, the trip took about an hour longer, two-and-a-half hours from door to door.

“Now you know what we go through every day,“ City Council Member I. Daneek Miller told Gotham Gazette following that night’s event, which he co-hosted with Council Member Donovan Richards and focused on, what else, transportation.

The commute to and from downtown Manhattan that the Council members and some of their constituents face was part of the motivation behind the town hall, set in the outer reaches of the city and called to examine the challenging state of public transit in St. Albans, Laurelton, and surrounding neighborhoods - often referred to as a “transportation desert.”

In a recent op-ed for Crain’s New York Business, Miller laid out the extent of the problem: people from Southeast Queens spend roughly 15 hours a week commuting, 238 percent more time than the average New Yorker.

The residents of the area share this plight with several other neighborhoods considered transportation deserts because of their lack of public transit options - places including the Rockaways, the North Bronx, and the South Shore of Staten Island.

With the subway map sure to stay mostly as it is, communities in greatest need of good transportation options that can get residents to the city’s main jobs centers are reliant on a bus system lacking in capacity and dependability. Even though 97 percent of the city‘s population lives within a quarter mile of a bus stop, the collective problems with the service--it is one of the slowest systems in the nation and the slowest among big cities--render residents far removed from subway lines and feeling helpless.

With increased scrutiny of transportation deserts and lengthy New York City commutes come increasing calls for creative bus solutions: with more selective bus service (SBS) and bus rapid transit (BRT) at the forefront.

transpo deserts[NYC "subway deserts" - map by Chris Whong)

According to an audit released by Comptroller Scott Stringer in April, buses are not just slow, they are also often late: Stringer‘s study revealed that more than 30 percent of the city’s express buses do not run on schedule. Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island are hit the hardest, the comptroller said. The report also found that the MTA had inconsistent inspection standards for wheelchair lifts across their bus fleet, which, in addition to failing disabled riders, also slows bus time.

“This is more than just a statistic,“ Stringer said at the press conference unveiling his audit, “a late bus could mean a missed job opportunity, missed wages, or missed time with children.“

One possible antidote for lagging buses and transit hungry commuters is Bus Rapid Transit, and the idea is gaining momentum, as the Miller-Richards town hall showed. The questions ahead are about political will and community buy-in toward expanding BRT in New York City. BRT was a piece of a recent City Council hearing on transportation deserts, but the city’s Department of Transportation has already been made to study BRT through a law passed in the Council and signed by Mayor de Blasio that will lead to a report on areas where BRT should be implemented.

Started in Curitiba, Brazil in 1974, BRT was originally formulated as a cheaper alternative for a city that didn‘t have the money to build a subway. In its fullest form BRT combines a variety of features to make it operate at a speed comparable to light rail (an option also talked about for Queens and Staten Island). Long accordion style buses--in Curitiba they hold up to 250 people--shoot up and down bus-only lanes of large streets, stopping at intervals akin to a subway line (rather than the shorter ones of typical bus service).

Traffic signals have sensors in order to hold green lights for buses approaching intersections. People pay their fare before they board the bus and stations often feature elevated platforms or curbsides that coincide with the floor of the bus, making it quick and easy for elderly or disabled people to board. All this amounts to more on time, reliable, and efficient bus service.

Since the turn of the century cities across the globe including Paris, Istanbul, Bogata, and Los Angeles have all adopted BRT to curb car use and improve public transit overall.

Now, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to bring BRT to New York as part of his efforts to help the city’s lower and middle classes. The argument also goes, of course, that if workers have shorter and easier commutes they are more productive when they’re at work.

”Bus riders are the most neglected part of our transportation system,” de Blasio’s policy book from his 2013 mayoral campaign reads. “Bus Rapid Transit has the potential to save outer-borough commuters hours off their commute times every week and stimulate economic activity in neighborhoods the subway system doesn’t reach.”

While it’s been somewhat slow to materialize, de Blasio’s pledge to bring New York City a “world-class bus rapid transit system” has been gaining steam. When signing the BRT study bill in May, de Blasio reminded that, “We all know that mass transit is particularly critical for those New Yorkers for whom resources are very tight, whose incomes are very tight - mass transit is their lifeline. It connects them to jobs, schools, everything.”

In March the state-run MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the official plan for the city‘s first full-scale BRT route on Woodhaven Boulevard, in Queens. The project will stretch 14.4 miles, cost around $200 million, and be fully operational by 2017. (By contrast, the Second Avenue subway is supposed to cover 8.5 miles, cost upwards of $17 billion, and be done at a to-be-determined date.)

Previously the two organizations’ efforts to speed up bus time came in the form of Select Bus Service, a paired down version of BRT that also utilizes off-board fare collection, along with traffic signal priority, semi-exclusive bus lanes, and longer distances between stations. The first SBS route was launched in 2008 on the Bx12 on Fordham Road in the Bronx, and has enjoyed relative success. According to statistics collected by the MTA one year after the launch, running times increased up to 19 percent, ridership by 8 percent.

Over the past seven years the MTA and the DOT have added seven other SBS routes, including ones going up First Avenue and down Second Avenue in Manhattan. All routes have enjoyed faster service and a 2013 DOT report claimed that SBS had saved eight million hours of travel time.

Still, SBS is not BRT. The former appears more suited for the busier sections for the city, the latter for moving people from the city’s outer reaches to its transit and business hubs.

With the Woodhaven route, which will have exclusive lanes and robust, fully-outfitted stations with shelters, seats, and real-time information on bus arrivals (along with off-board fare collection and transit signal priority) the city is setting a new standard for its above-ground transportation. The fully exclusive bus lanes, which will also allow traffic signal priority to be more effective, are particularly exciting given that Kevin Ortiz, spokesperson for the MTA, told Gotham Gazette that traffic congestion and red lights are the top two causes for bus delays.

woodhaven2 int[Woodhaven BRT rendering, via NYC DOT]

The line, which will run north-south, perpendicular to the A, E, F, J, M, R, and 7 trains, is indicative of the type of improvements BRT could offer in the so-called “outer boroughs.” Joan Byron, Director of Policy at the Pratt Center for Community Development and a member of the advocacy group BRT for NYC, sees this improvement as imperative to the economic empowerment of New York’s outer-borough residents.

“We have a problem right now of people not being able to get to their jobs and employers not being able to get to their workforce. Work locations are shifting. Job growth is much faster in the boroughs than it is in Manhattan…and the subway system isn‘t set up to serve them. You can do things with BRT that would take decades to do with rail,“ Byron told Gotham Gazette.

As it stands, she explains, “if you live some place like Far Rockaway…the number of jobs that are within a reasonable commute range for you are much smaller than if you live someplace like Park Slope.”

The Woodhaven line plans to change that for its service area. BRT lines along the North Shore of Staten Island (something City Council Member Debbie Rose called “a necessity, not an amenity”) and Southern Brooklyn—two possible routes the MTA and DOT are investigating—would also serve similar purposes.

Council Member Donovan Richards, who represents part of the area the new BRT route will serve, sees this project as only the beginning. Ultimately, he wants a full-scale BRT network throughout the city, viewing the issue as one that is also key to environmental justice.

“[BRT] needs to become as natural as breathing air,“ he said to Gotham Gazette after the town hall. “We have got to remember that if we don’t get cars off the road, climate change is going to wipe out communities in New York City. Overall the city needs to adopt it,” he said, referring to BRT.

Car Ownership blog[Rates of car ownership, via NYC EDC]

Richards, along with city DOT officials, recently had lunch with and gave a tour of the planned Woodhaven route to a federal transportation secretary. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has promised to push for federal funding.

The excitement continued into May when the mayor signed into law the new BRT-related bill.

According to the City Council website, “Under the bill, DOT would work with the MTA and gather input with the public to develop a citywide BRT plan, due to the Council no later than September 1, 2017. The plan would consider areas of the City in need of additional rapid transit options, strategies for serving growing neighborhoods, potential intra-borough and inter-borough BRT corridors DOT plans to establish by 2027, strategies for integrating BRT with other transit routes, and the anticipated operating costs of additional BRT lines.”

SBS may continue to expand, and many note that it is a version of BRT, but the extent to which a strong BRT system will be implemented is unclear. In several other cities where the system has achieved success, says Joan Byron of Pratt, the build of these cities naturally accommodated the necessary BRT infrastructure.

“The places where that has been done, places like Bogota, Columbia, that model was implemented exactly in the parts of the city that have kind of a post-World War II physical fabric and development pattern. The street there for the main bus line, the Transmillenial, is twelve lanes wide. Pedestrians cross that street on over-passes. It wasn’t a big jump to put dedicated lanes in the center region and to have physical stations that are actually enclosed.”

Woodhaven Boulevard, eight lanes wide and notoriously hazardous for pedestrians (the station islands to be installed in the middle of the avenue also act as a safety measure), is at least somewhat similar.

Council Member Brad Lander, the lead sponsor of the BRT bill, sees Manhattan’s First and Second Avenues as streets also appropriate for the full BRT service, especially given the MTA‘s recent announcement to forgo $1 billion in funding for the Second Avenue Subway project.

Most buses, though, don‘t operate on streets the width of a small highway (even dedicating a full lane of First or Second Avenue could prove quite contentious). For these routes Lander and Byron see smaller BRT-like features being incorporated into bus operation citywide on a case-by-case basis.

“The simple idea of off-board fare payment, that’s something we want to get to on every city bus,” Lander told Gotham Gazette. After that, he said, what is doable will depend on infrastructure features and funding.

Lander cited the SBS M86 route, the MTA‘s latest SBS addition, as a prime example. Even though there is not enough room for a dedicated bus lane (the bus runs crosstown on 86th Street in Manhattan), the MTA has already installed off-board fare collection and plans to add bus bulbs - protruding, bulges of sidewalk in front of bus stops, constructed so that the bus doesn‘t have to pull over when it picks up passengers. Stations are also equipped with real-time bus arrival information. A similar approach could be effective on smaller streets in the outer boroughs as well.

imgres[A bus bulb, via Streetsblog.org]

Council Member Daneek Miller is impatient, saying that his transit-starved constituents can’t wait a decade for BRT lines.

“There are 300,000 people in Southeast Queens who it’s talking an hour-and-a-half, an hour-and-forty-five minutes to get to their job in the city, who can’t wait 20 years for a change,” Miller said after his town hall.

Miller, who ran a transportation workers union before joining the Council, takes a slightly more cynical view of SBS. He says the recent buzz around BRT has led the city to overlook basic adaptations that could yield considerable results, like those he outlined in his op-ed, such as fare reform on the LIRR. For his constituents, Miller said, “BRT might be the second best answer. I can get to City Hall in 50 [minutes] on the LIRR; it takes me an hour-and-40-minutes using public transportation.”

Still, Miller certainly wants to see extended express bus service to Downtown Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. He acknowledges infrastructure challenges of implementing BRT in some places, saying “We don‘t want to put square pegs in a round hole,” and that it is essential to have all the components, otherwise it won’t be BRT, but a “glorified express bus service.”

With an eye toward communities like those represented by his colleagues Miller and Richards, Lander points to the need for more options for commuters. Citing “low-income New Yorkers and communities of color” that “have disproportionately long commute times,” Lander said at the May bill-signing that “New Yorkers across the city – especially in transit-starved, outer-borough neighborhoods – need more mass-transit options. This law, and subsequent exploration of a Bus Rapid Transit network, will significantly improve public transportation access in the parts of NYC that need it most, at a cost we can afford, and help insure a more sustainable future.”

BRT and SBS advocates, like Lander, stand confident that their plan will deliver, and sooner than projected.

“I think it’s going to accelerate,“ said Byron. “For every elected official that will stand up and say ‘I want BRT in my district now,’ which all the Council members along the Q52, Q53 routes have said, you’ll get others that say, ‘Forget it, my constituents ride the bus,‘” Byron said, referring to hesitant Council members who she thinks will acquiesce.

When asked about the twelve year timeline in his BRT bill, a charged Lander replied, “the city - the DOT with the MTA - is already rolling out BRT at a pretty rapid rate...we are not waiting.“

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by Colin O’Connor
@GothamGazette
@colinqoconnor93

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All Aboard the BRT Express? Mon, 16 Nov 2015 19:06:12 +0000