Last week 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 the communities are met.
This is the third 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 Staten Island || TGIF Bronx || TGIF Manhattan.
The Transit Gap Investment Fund
Does your subway stop need an elevator? As Katie Greifeld noted in her article, “Despite MTA Progress, Disabled Subway Passengers Must Plan Alternate Routes:”
“42 of the MTA’s 85 accessible subway stations are located in Manhattan, leaving just 43 stations scattered throughout Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The Staten Island Railway is not considered part of the subway system. There are 17 accessible stations in Queens, 25 in Brooklyn, and just 12 in the Bronx. While Brooklyn is the outer borough with the highest number of accessible stations, that amounts to just 14% of its total stations. The Bronx’s subway stations are 17% accessible, while 23% of Queens’s subway stations are accessible. In comparison, Manhattan’s subway stations are 28% accessible.”
152 of 170 subway stations in Brooklyn are not wheelchair accessible. But things can change!
For the first time in history, communities will have a say in where they most need funding to improve their neighborhoods — elevators, station entrances, 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.
In 2010, MTA budget cuts created transit headaches for commuters across New York City. In Brooklyn alone, 21 bus routes were cancelled — the most reliable way for people with disabilities to get around. In 2014, the Q/R/L lines were ranked the most crowded in the system. As more people move into Brooklyn — anticipated 11.3% population growth by 2040 — it will only get worse. Improving and expanding service to Brooklyn is vital to its economic growth.
Ferry expansion will provide service between Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Manhattan.
New Triboro Subway line
This above-ground, below grade subway line will use existing, under-utilized freight rail right-of-way to connect Brooklyn, Queens, and Bronx, with no need to travel into Manhattan. Because the right-of-way already exists, it won’t suffer the same delays in construction as witnessed with the Second Avenue Subway.
New Select Bus Route
New routes will be established along the Southern Brooklyn East-West corridor and along Utica Avenue.
LIRR Subway Conversion between Brooklyn & Queens
The LIRR Atlantic Avenue line will be converted to an express subway line operated by New York City Transit , connecting Jamaica, Queens to Downtown Brooklyn through Woodhaven, East New York, Ocean Hill, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Crown Heights.
G Train Capital Investments
This project will extend the G line to Queens Plaza and/or Queensboro Plaza.
Fairer Fares for Brooklyn 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.
Bike & Pedestrian Access on the Brooklyn & Verrazano Bridges
Under the legislation, this project fulfills the dreams of many Brooklyn residents since the bridge was built over 50 years ago: lanes for walking and biking to and from Staten Island. It also expands the pedestrian and bicycle lanes on the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Bottomline for Brooklyn Commuters
It’s no secret that many Brooklyn neighborhoods suffer from toll shopping — a phenomenon that draws drivers off of highways and onto local community streets in order to avoid paying a toll. Our current tolling system encourages drivers of commercial and private vehicles to leave the BQE or avoid highways altogether and wend their way through neighborhoods such as Sunset Park, Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, Flatbush, Bushwick and Williamsburg so they can take one of the free East River bridges en route to Manhattan and New Jersey. These choices directly impact people’s quality of life with increased noise and heavy traffic. But the also have health impacts. As data collected by NYC Crash Mapper shows, the neighborhoods on either side of the Manhattan, Queensboro, Brooklyn, and Williamsburg Bridges have higher crash rates. Air pollution, which contributes to respiratory illnesses, is also higher.
By reinstating tolls on the East River Bridges, those who drive will return to using the roads originally designed to handle traffic and get to their final destination more quickly and more directly. In order to relieve drivers who for a hundred years have been paying through the nose to subsidize these free bridges, tolls on Cross Bay, Gil Hodges, Triboro, Whitestone, Throgs Neck, and Henry Hudson Bridges will be reduced by up to 48% — leveling the tolls throughout the region. A quarter of the revenue raised will, for the first time, be directed to a dedicated fund to maintain and improve our City’s roads and bridges. That’s $375 million a year to fix potholes, seal roads to prevent potholes, and coat and lubricate bridge components so spans last longer. For commercial businesses, tolls are capped at one round-trip per day; the reduction in traffic will enable businesses to make 2-3 more deliveries and service calls a day. As Steve Hindy, President of Brooklyn Brewery, understands:
“Allowing New York City to be the gridlock capital of America while its public transit system crumbles is unconscionable. This is a fair plan that would ease congestion in and around the Central Business District, rationalize the cost of using the region’s bridges, and upgrade the city’s mass transit system.”
Upgrading our transit system will #GetNYMoving again. And by empowering Brooklyn residents and their elected representatives to determine what transit projects are needed, transit deserts that have plagued the borough for decades will be filled.
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.