Despite ongoing silence in Albany over how to fund the MTA’s capital plan, support continues to build for the Move NY Fair Plan as the answer to the agency’s $14 billion gap. Make Queens Safer is the latest organization to join the diverse coalition of over sixty stakeholders representing regional business associations, trade unions, clergy, civic leaders, transportation and environmental advocates, and good-governance organizations. The Queens-based group that works on street safety for pedestrians and cyclists issued the following statement in support:
“Make Queens Safer believes that a robust, well-maintained public transit system promotes walking and biking and makes our city streets safer for everyone. To that end, we support full funding for the MTA capital program.
In particular, Make Queens Safer endorses the Move NY Fair Plan because of its additional potential to reduce dangerous through traffic on neighborhood arterials in Western Queens. Currently, many drivers go out of their way to use Northern Boulevard, Roosevelt Avenue, and Queens Boulevard to reach the free Queensboro Bridge, in order to avoid tolls on the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and the RFK Bridge. Under the Move NY Fair Plan, the incentive to do this will be eliminated, helping improve conditions on these dangerous streets.
If tolls are implemented on the East River Bridges, we urge policymakers to give special attention to the needs of senior citizens and others who currently rely on a free Queensboro Bridge to reach medical appointments in Manhattan. The City of New York stands to save perhaps ten millions of dollars each year from avoided bridge maintenance costs under this plan (more when major rehabilitation projects are required). We believe it should be feasible and inexpensive to develop a program under which tolls for emergencies or medical visits by qualifying participants can be reimbursed from these savings.”
As Make Queens Safer notes, the Move NY Fair Plan would bring increased street safety to many Queens neighborhoods. With “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz‘s proposed toll swap, the incentives to drive through neighborhoods in pursuit of cheaper travel routes will be removed from the equation. The Move NY Fair Plan charges more where there’s more traffic and better transit options, and lowers tolls on all other MTA bridges. Tolls will be reduced by up to 48% on all MTA bridges (5 of 6 Queens bridges will see dramatic decreases), and tolls will be instated when crossing into and out of Manhattan’s Central Business District, whether on a bridge or at 60th Street, and be tolled at the same rate as the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.
As the heat map to the right shows, many of the pedestrian and bike crashes occur on the streets leading to the four free East River bridges. In the Op-Ed, “Why Sam’s Right and Rory’s Not on Move NY,” that appeared in the Queens Chronicle last week, former Chairman of the MTA and Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, Lee Sander, described the rational behind Sam Schwartz’s toll swap:
“The Queens Traffic Guru had his office at Queens Plaza for more than 11 years and watched the traffic paralysis, pollution and crashes grow on Queens and Northern boulevards each time tolls increased. He has traced more than 40,000 cars, trucks, and buses daily that drive away from the Queens Midtown Tunnel and RFK Bridge to the streets of Sunnyside, Long Island City, Astoria and Hunters Point en route to the “free” Queensboro Bridge. Without this toll shopping, these neighborhoods will see traffic reductions.”
Specific to Queens residents, there will be less traffic, safer streets, and fewer crashes, injuries, and fatalities in Hunters Point, Long Island City, and Astoria, while pedestrian safety at Queensboro Plaza will be dramatically improved. The Move NY Fair Plan dovetails with the goals set forth in 2014 by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who launched his signature Vision Zero program to end traffic deaths and injuries on city streets within the next two decades. The statistics provided by the city are daunting:
“Approximately 4,000 New Yorkers are seriously injured and more than 250 are killed each year in traffic crashes. Being struck by a vehicle is the leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14, and the second leading cause for seniors. On average, vehicles seriously injure or kill a New Yorker every two hours.”
Make Queens Safer has partnered with WNYC and Streetsblog to compile the names of people who have been killed in crashes. Their In Memoriam page is “dedicated to remembering the pedestrians and cyclists killed on the streets of the city as neighbors, not just as statistics,” and brings home just how many people — pedestrians and cyclists — lose their lives every year on Queens streets.
Move NY is not the only solution to traffic crashes, but it will remove unnecessary through traffic — often heavy vehicles — from the streets that are used by Queens residents every day, making daily life as a Queens resident much safer. Let your elected officials know you support Move NY — the faster, safer, fairer transportation plan for all New Yorkers.
To learn more about Vision Zero, visit Move NY’s coalition partner, Transportation Alternatives.