Poor Staten Island. It is, by far, the most transit-neglected borough in the city. Once envisioned as a destination for a subway line spurring off the R in Brooklyn, the city’s least connected borough enjoys a slew of buses and one fare-less subway line that runs from the ferry terminal to Tottenville along the island’s south side.
Now, though, Staten Island’s borough representative to the MTA Board wants to increase transit offerings on the car-dependent island. Allen Cappelli told the Staten Island Advance’s Maura Yates over the weekend that the time is now for SI-based transit improvements. From the sound of it, the SI transit outlook may actually be a rosy one. Yates writes:
With Albany’s approval of a bailout package back in May that included a payroll tax and other revenue sources to help the MTA address its forecasted $1.2 billion budget deficit, the MTA board can now turn its attention back to moving forward with much-needed projects, including the borough’s proposed light rail system.
“I’d like to see us have rail access,” Cappelli said. “We’ve got to get cars off the streets. We’ve got to give people a real way to commute, because we’re not going to be able to handle the cars to a greater extent than what we’re doing now.”
With projections of population growth that will further tax the borough’s clogged road network over the next two decades, “We’ve got to plan this now, or 20 years from now, somebody will ask, ‘Why didn’t they do anything about this’?” Cappelli said. He said he hopes funding will be included in the MTA’s 20-year capital plan.
Cappelli has made progress on the bus front as well, with Staten Island receiving the first of the city’s brand new hybrid-electric local buses. The new buses will eventually account for more than half of the borough’s local bus fleet, he said.
Staten Island is ripe for transit experimentation. The borough could really benefit from a light rail system and from legitimate bus rapid transit plans. Ideally, of course, those BRT routes would connect into and through Brooklyn and Manhattan for faster commutes. The light rail would be an intra-borough mode of transit.
In the end, the MTA should probably look at reviving the Brooklyn-to-SI underground subway connection. While the project would be expensive and wouldn’t become a reality for decades, a subway to Staten Island would do wonders for the mobility of a part of the city often considered the forgotten borough.