Transit groups turn up heat in Albany 1

Mass transit backers have released their coordinated plan for funding and overhauling the city’s transportation systems from bike lanes to subways of the future. The intent is to spur elected state officials to back and stick with a fully funded plan.

Just in time for the run-up to elections for governor and the state Legislature, eight of the New York region’s leading transportation advocacy groups have laid out their agenda for funding, modernizing and reshaping transportation in the city.

“These days, no one should be able to run for office in New York without telling their constituents how they’re going to fix the subway system and make buses more reliable,” said John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance in a statement issued Tuesday.

“No more excuses, no more obfuscation and no more delay,” he added. “This transportation agenda is a ready-made package that every candidate for state-level office should adopt, and then we the people have to hold them to their promises when they’re in office.”

Among the groups’ goals are:

• full funding for NYC Transit President Andy Byford’s Fast Forward plan to modernize major parts of the subway system for $37 billion over the first 10 years, including new cars, modern signalization and greatly increased numbers of elevators;

• implementation of congestion pricing as a way to reduce traffic in Midtown and Downtown Manhattan while creating a revenue stream for the MTA’s mass transit systems;

• increased use of speed, traffic light and bus lane enforcement cameras; and

• more bus and bike lanes.

The latter had special appeal to Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

“Our streets are a tremendous asset, but we need to make better use of these rights-of-way,” he said. “New York can’t continue to be a world-class city if we squander this valuable space by handing it over to cars. We know what it takes to make our streets safer, more efficient and more equitable for all users, but it will require leadership from elected officials, a commitment to proven solutions, and critically, an end to the deference to drivers.”

Jaqi Cohen of the NY Public Interest Reserch Group Straphangers Campaign, said mass transit has been neglected far too long.

“With this agenda, we hope to inspire New York State’s policy makers to lead the way towards better, more accessible and more affordable public transportation for the millions of New Yorkers who depend on subway, bus and Access-A-Ride service each day,” she said.

Other groups joining the effort include the Regional Plan Association, The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the New York League of Conservation Voters, Streets PAC and New York Lawyers for Public Interest.

While many of their stated issues could come down to party lines in Albany, and many Queens representatives at the capitol could agree with much if not all of the agenda, Danny Pearlstein, a spokesman for the Riders Alliance, denied that the groups’ proposal was preaching to the converted.

“On mass transit funding, no one’s vote is taken for granted,” Pearlstein told the Chronicle in a telephone interview. “This is addressed to Albany because they are the only ones who can fund mass transit fairly in the amount needed to fix the system.”

Raskin made that same point.

“With the release of our transportation agenda, candidates may say they don’t want to fix the transit system, but they can’t say they don’t know how.”

While he does not hold state office, Mayor de Blasio appears to have some difference of opinion with their agenda, or at least the part about Byford’s Fast Forward proposal.

The mayor met Byford for the first time on Tuesday. Byford has been on the job since January.

In a statement from his press office, de Blasio said the two agreed to future meetings and a joint working task force.

The Daily News reported on Tuesday that Byford advocated for his plan and pressed for a financial commitment from the city, while de Blasio remains dedicated to a millionaire’s tax to fund the MTA. He also reiterated that any money raised from the city for mass transit must be used in the city for that purpose.

The News also said de Blasio “cast doubt” on what Byford could accomplish.

“Again, I know where the power resides at the MTA,” the News reported hi saying. “I’m not going to kid myself or New Yorkers on that. The ultimate decisions are being made in Albany.”

(1) comment


And this year's state election season could determine if congestion pricing and/or millionaire's tax could be included in the budget for the next year's legislative session. Meanwhile, the MTA needs to spend our own money wisely. [innocent]

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