Around the halls of City Hall, the phrase “Sustainable City” has been making the rounds. The Mayor kicked off this focus on the future when he unveiled his PLANYC2030 initiative a few months ago.
Bloomberg, looking at how far the city had come since 1981, wants the next 25 years to be as prosperous for this rapidly growing Metropolis. Chief among New Yorkers’ concerns are issues surrounding transportation. From a congestion tax to new subway lines, to folks advocating for pedestrian-friendly traffic plans to groups calling for increased public transportation, how we will get around this fair city is on everyone’s minds.
As the mayor and his people are working to formulate concrete plans for the next two and a half decades, transportation advocates are having their voices heard. Last week, Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, testified in front of the Transportation Committee. He spoke at length about adding capacity to the city’s crowded transportation system. Noting that average daily ridership during the week is at 7.2 million, Russianoff urged curbing traffic and adding funding to mass transit. Allow me to quote at length.
Achieving the goal of traffic reduction is only possible if the transit system can handle the increase in ridership from individuals shifting from driving to the subways and the buses…The City can help add transit capacity by providing added funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s core rebuilding program.
That program — at a price tag of $11 billion between 2005 and 2009 and with four more five-year multi-billion dollar increments through 2030 — now includes some funding for projects that would expand transit capacity. These include buying more subway cars and buses to modestly increase the size of the transit fleet and modernizing signal systems to allow for computer-driven subway cars that run faster and safer at more frequent service levels…All these projects could be more quickly advanced and have more ambitious goals with additional funding.
Right now, the City’s funding of the MTA’s core capital plan is the lowest it’s been in twenty years. The city now gives $70 million a year in general transit capital funds, a total of $350 million over the life of the 2005 to 2009 MTA capital plan. That’s about 3% of the funding for the plan…Tying specific goals to the 2030 timetable would help achieve the goal of added transit capacity set by Mayor Bloomberg. For example, the MTA and the City should move to computerized signals and a large transit fleet well before 2030 if they hope to move a City with a million more people.
It’s hard to argue with Russianoff. The City, no doubt, should be spending more on mass transit and other alternatives to automobile traffic. Even with the promise from President Bush, Governor Spitzer and Senator Schumer of money for capital projects (such as the 2nd Ave. Subway and the East Side LIRR link), the city should kick in more money.
Furthermore, with concrete goals, the city could earmark money for specific MTA projects as they have done with the 7 line extension. That way, money the mayor wants to go toward building a sustainable system wouldn’t be siphoned off by routine maintenance or increased salary demands. The MTA would still of course need to find those funds, but a plan that calls for improving transportation in a city of 9 million by 2030 should be able to earmark the funds for specific projects.
While Russianoff was speaking to the right crowd, he wasn’t the only one talking sustainable transportation issues. Transportation consultant Bruce Schaller discussed similar themes as it relates to PLANYC2030 in his most recent piece for the Gotham Gazette. Later today, I’ll take a look at what Schaller has to say about expanding and maintaining transportation capacity for the next 25 years.