With the news late yesterday that Ronald Lauder, the champion of New York City term limits, now supports Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts at overturning the term limits, four more years of a Mayor Bloomberg seems almost inevitable. While my mom, among others, is rather outraged as this news from a populist perspective, the transit buff in me is thrilled with the idea that Janette Sadik-Khan could be around for a few more years.
Sadik-Khan is the current head of the city’s Department of Transportation. The department has long been car-friendly and seemingly anti-transit in its policies. With Sadik-Khan behind the helm, NYCDOT has vastly increased the bike lane mileage in the city and has ushered in an unprecedented era of cooperation between DOT and the MTA.
Last week, when I spoke with New York City Transit President Howard Roberts, he praised Sadik-Khan for her approach to transit. While in the post, the two agencies worked together in an atmosphere of what Roberts called “grudging cooperation,” under Sadik-Khan, the partnership between DOT and the MTA has been “extraordinary,” he said.
Tops on that list of course is the debut of bus rapid transit — or as the MTA calls it, Select Bus Service — in New York City. With preboarding measures and dedicated lanes, DOT and New York City Transit are trying their hardest to speed up notoriously slow bus service in New York City. It is, as Roberts said, “the real future on the bus side.”
It hasn’t all been wine and roses though for Select Bus Service. When David Gantt killed a potential home-rule BRT enforcement measure, the MTA and DOT had start from scratch and figure out how to initiate effective lane enforcement. “That hurt a lot,” Roberts said.
But over the next few years — and even longer if Bloomberg pulls off another reelection — DOT and the MTA are aiming to expand this bus service. The two agencies have their eyes on the East Side. As Roberts related, they would like to give two lanes to buses along 5th Ave., and in fact, studies have found that car traffic flows better if buses have their own lanes along the avenue as well. With less interference from buses that are unwieldy and slow to accelerate, cars can move uninterrupted.
In the end, I’m on the fence with regards to this term limit issue. The term-limit foes should put this vote to a referendum, but at the same time, the last vote on term limit was skewed by the fact that term-limit proponents outspent and had the resources to outcampaign the term-limit foes by a significant amount. On another level, I would welcome four more years of pro-mass transit policies from the Bloomberg Administration, and we’ll probably get just that.