Last month the Move NY Fair Plan went from concept to legislation under the leadership of Assemblymember Robert J. Rodriguez and fourteen New York City assemblymembers. While the general tenets remain in the legislation, there is one major difference from the plan released in February 2015 by the Move NY Coalition. A09633 establishes the Transit Gap Investment Fund (TGIF): $4.5 billion in dedicated revenues for expanding transit in the most underserved areas of the city — above and beyond what’s proposed in the MTA’s capital plan — and overseen not by government agencies but by City & State elected representatives and citizen advisory groups to ensure the transit needs of communities are met.
This is the second of a five-part series that explores the borough-specific transit projects identified for TGIF board consideration in the Move NY Fair Plan legislation. Learn about the other boroughs: TGIF Queens || TGIF Brooklyn || TGIF Bronx || TGIF Manhattan.
The Transit Gap Investment Fund
Does your Staten Island bus stop need a shelter? Or how about a facelift like the one on Bay Street in St. George? Or countdown clocks like the hundreds to be installed at targeted locations this year?
For the first time in history, communities will have a say in where they need funding the most to improve their neighborhoods — elevators, bus stops, rehabbed staircases, and streetscape designs for plazas and pedestrian and cyclist safety. Under the legislation $1 billion will be distributed equally to the City’s 59 Community Districts, whereby district members will take ideas from residents and make recommendations for improving transit accessibility.
$3.5 billion will be dedicated to investing in major transit expansion projects, particularly in areas that have little to no transit options now. The legislation does not dictate which projects must be chosen, but identifies projects vetted by transit and engineering professionals that must be considered by the TGIF board. Many of the projects are inter-borough, connecting residents to boroughs like never before; while some are intra-borough, making it easier to get around in one’s own borough via expanded service.
TGIF Staten Island
In 2010, MTA budget cuts created transit headaches for commuters across New York City. In Staten Island alone, 3 Express Bus routes were cancelled — in a borough already lacking adequate mass transit options. The last time Staten Island had major transit expansion was 1892. Yes, that’s not a typo: 1892. It’s the only borough in New York City not connected to the subway network, and excessive tolls on the Verrazano Bridge make it difficult for Staten Island businesses, medical facilities, and schools to draw and retain talent from across the region. Improving and expanding transit service and reducing Verrazano tolls are vital to the borough’s economic growth and vitality.
North Shore Bus Rapid Transit
By using the former North Shore rail line right of way, this five-mile, dedicated bus route will be independent of car traffic and bring fast and reliable public transit to Staten Island residents for the first time in over a century.
Fairer Tolls & Fares for Staten Island Commuters
A09633 makes weeklong the CityTicket weekend discount on intracity commuter rails, which is currently excluded. In addition, the Move NY bill reduces Express Bus fares and will implement the Freedom Ticket proposal for an all-inclusive monthly pass on subways, buses, Express Buses, and commuter rail within the five boroughs.
The legislation provides toll relief, too. The Verrazano Bridge toll is slashed by 48%. The resident discount, currently up for debatable renewal every year, will now be renewed every five years. There is no double tolling within a two-hour window for residents living in a borough without a subway connection. $375 million a year is dedicated to road and bridge repair and maintenance within the five boroughs.
New Express Bus Service
New routes will be developed to fill gaps either created during 2010 budget cuts or areas that have yet to be connected to the Express Bus system.
Bike & Pedestrian Access on the Verrazano Bridge
Under the legislation, this project fulfills the dreams of many Staten Island residents since the bridge was built over 50 years ago: lanes for walking and biking to and from Brooklyn.
Feasibility Study for West Shore Light Rail
This study will identify options, costs, and ridership projections for developing a West Shore Light Rail, a signature project for the Staten Island Development Corporation to service increased economic activity and an anticipated 9,000 new jobs on the West Shore over the next few years.
Ferry expansion will provide service between Staten Island and Brooklyn, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
The Bottomline for Staten Island Commuters
It’s no secret that large numbers of Staten Island residents suffer from poor transit options. They are also the only New York City residents without access to the subway system. As the Staten Island Advance noted last October, business advocates such as the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and MTA board member and SI resident, Allen Cappelli, have been working toward bringing Bus Rapid Transit to the North Shore for over 15 years. The TGIF recommends dedicating $500 million for the project — enough to cover the estimated costs from beginning to end. With deep discounts on the Verrazano Bridge for residents and non-residents alike, the Staten Island business community will be able to recruit new talent, retain talent, and lower the costs of doing business. All of which, in turn, beneifts residents.
To learn more about the Move NY Fair legislation, how the money will be safeguarded from robbing Peter to pay Paul, and how the MTA will not be able to return outer bridge tolls to previous rates without losing tolls on the East River bridges, go to www.iHeartMoveNY.org and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.