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 the communities are met.
This is the fifth 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 Brooklyn || TGIF Bronx.
The Transit Gap Investment Fund
It’s hard to deny that most Manhattanites enjoy some of the best subway access in the City. Yet, it’s also no secret that there’s a serious problem on the Upper East Side: the Second Avenue Subway has been in the works for nearly a century, and its perpetual setbacks have created severe crowding issues for those using the 4/5/6 on any given day, at any given time.
There is some good news: Phase I is scheduled to open in December 2016 — connecting commuters from 96th to 63rd Streets on the Q line. Funding for Phase II — connecting 125th to 96th Streets — was on the chopping block until $1 billion was added to the State Budget in the eleventh hour this year.
But there’s still a budget gap of $500 million.
That’s where Move NY comes in.
Of the $3.5 billion dedicated to investing in major transit expansion projects, Phase II of the Second Avenue Subway has been identified as a project that provides transit to an area that has little to no transit options now. Many of the TGIF proposed 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. While the legislation does not dictate which projects must be chosen, it identifies projects, such as Phase II, that have been vetted by transit and engineering professionals and must be considered by the TGIF board.
In addition, 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. For the first time in history, communities will have a say in where they need funding the most to improve their neighborhoods — elevators, station entrances, rehabbed staircases, and streetscape designs for plazas and pedestrian and cyclist safety.
In 2010, MTA budget cuts created transit headaches for commuters across New York City. In Manhattan alone, 14 bus routes were cancelled. And because the Second Avenue Subway line has been under some form of construction for nearly 100 years, overcrowded trains are now a daily occurrence. The 6 line ranked 3rd worst in the system for the “chance to get a seat.”
Ferry expansion will provide service between Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.
New Select Bus Routes & Faster Travel Times
New routes will be established on the crosstown corridors at 14th, 42nd, 57th, and 96th streets; and a new SBS route will be established at 125th Street to LaGuardia airport. Due to heavy congestion in Manhattan, the borough’s bus service has some of the worst punctuality records in the City: M101/102/103 and M1 arrived late 37% of the time; M6 averaged 3.1mph. The Move NY legislation will increase mobility for users of every mode of transportation:
- 15-20% improvement in travel speeds south of 60th Street;
- 6-8% improvement in travel speeds on approaches to the Central Business District (south of Central Park); and
- 4-5% increase in taxi usage.
Fairer Fares for Manhattan Commuters
Under the Move NY Fair Plan legislation, NYC residents are eligible for weeklong intracity discounts on the CityTicket program, which currently only allows for weekend discounts. Thus, using this new route will be much more affordable than with current Metro North and LIRR prices. 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 Bridge
Under the legislation, pedestrian and bicycle lanes are expanded on the Brooklyn Bridge, where cyclists and pedestrians currently suffer congestion comparable to the cars underneath.
The Bottom line for Manhattan Commuters
We all can agree that Manhattan 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 Chinatown, the Lower East Side, the East Village, Midtown East, the Financial District and Soho so they can take one of the free East River bridges en route to other parts of 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.
If you use taxis or other for-hire-vehicles, you will not pay a toll to cross into and out of the Central Business District or over one of the East River bridges. Instead, you will pay a taxi surcharge within the taxi hail zones (96th/110th Streets south), which on average will be about $1.30 every three miles. What you get in return, is more taxis and faster travel to your destination.
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.