Home Asides Not commiting to much of anything at a transit forum

Not commiting to much of anything at a transit forum

by Benjamin Kabak

Some of the city’s august candidates for mayor gathered on Friday at a union-sponsored forum on transit issues. I wasn’t invited to cover the event, and I believe that’s due to my stridently anti-TWU stance in recent years. That’s neither here nor there though as according to reports form the event, I didn’t miss all together too much. In other words, the current crop of mayoral candidates — with one glaring exception — are comfortable proposing solutions that won’t happen to problems they can’t control.

Stephen Miller from Streetsblog, Zach Stieber of The Epoch Times and Matt Flegenheimer of The Times all filed reports from the event. The themes were, by and large, familiar: Boo congestion pricing, boo increasing city contributions to transit operations, hooray commuter tax, hooray ferries and buses. The commuter tax is a non-starter in that any mayoral candidate can support it without risking political liability or any action. Buses and ferries are pieces to a larger puzzle that requires Albany action and forward-thinking policies.

One candidate has been calling for more city control of the MTA though. Sal Albanese, a long-shot Democratic challenger, wants the city to have tighter control of its subways and buses, and he recently unveiled a transportation plan explaining why. Christine Quinn and Tom Allon have both made noises around city control over the MTA, but politicians with their hopes on Gracie Mansion know that the MTA can be a political hot potato. Ultimately, the next mayor can help speed up transit innovation by shortening the amount of time it gets for NYC DOT to roll out new bus lanes and by spearheading a true BRT movement. Otherwise, without challenging the current political structure, it will be business as usual for the MTA, Albany and City Hall, no matter who becomes the next mayor.

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Alek February 25, 2013 - 6:21 pm


reminder tonight (A) fastrack between 168th-207th Inwood stations.

(C) service ends early (A) runs local

Post in here thanks!

BrooklynBus February 25, 2013 - 8:00 pm


Your report isn’t altogether accurate. First of all, you didn’t have to be invited to cover the event. Anyone who registered in time could have attended.

I was there and wrote a very detailed 3 part report on Sheepsheadbites. http://www.sheepsheadbites.com.....qus_thread The first part appeared today.

Second, three of the candidates came out and supported Sam Schwartz’s Fair Toll Plan which is similar to Congestion Pricing and makes slightly more sense. In fact, Albanese is calling it his own plan.

In the second part of my series, which will appear either on Wednesday or next Monday, I mention all the financing issues that were discussed. Safety was the third major topic of discussion.

Benjamin Kabak February 25, 2013 - 9:54 pm

By the time I heard of the event, it was already closed. From what I’ve heard from other sources, with me, it’s definitely personal. Let me know when your posts are all up though. I’m curious to read the full report.

BrooklynBus February 25, 2013 - 10:03 pm

Will do.

The Streetsblog report also was pretty complete, however, much more complete than the Times.

Bolwerk February 25, 2013 - 11:34 pm

Why does the Schwartz plan make more sense? I could see where it’s more politically viable, but it frankly seems crappier even for drivers.

(Well, except one thing: reduce or dump the far outer borough tolls.)

BrooklynBus February 26, 2013 - 1:12 am

Fair question. It makes more sense because it lowers the tolls for non-Manattan bridges. However, I still don’t like it for a number of reasons. First, there is no assurance that within a few years those lower tolls will not once again rise to their previous levels and I think the tolls to enter Manhattan are too high.

I’m for equalizing the tolls between the toll bridges and the free bridges to improve traffic flow because every time the tolls rise, more cars shift from the BBT to the Brooklyn Bridge, but would prefer if the free bridges were somehere between zero and what is currently charged on the toll bridges and those bridges come down also to the same amount so it costs something like $3 or $3.50 each way rather than $7 for one bridge and zero for the other. Of course the revenue would also be lowered. There are much better ways to raise money for transit than either congestion pricing or the fair toll plan. Liu mentioned some like reducing corporate subsidies for corporations that don’t create jobs as they promise they would do. I mention that in Wednesday’s article. Also, the raising of tolls every two years by 50 cents each way has to stop. I see nothing in Shwartz’s plan that promises that.

There also needs to be discounts for those making multiple trips a day. I don’t think Schwartz’s plan calls for lower or no tolls after 6 PM like congestion pricing did. That is also bad.

Also, the City causes some of the congestion. Traffic would move much better if there wasn’t that merge into one lane before getting off the FDR and going onto the Brooklyn Bridge. That could easily be a two lane exit with just some repainting and save cars ten to fifteen minutes right there. Many years ago there was also a squeeze into one lane upon entering the Brooklyn Bridge. It was turned into a two lane entrance and ten minutes was saved and that involved some reconstruction, but that is getting off the topic.

John S February 25, 2013 - 9:28 pm


You’re not alone in failing to get an invite. I read the Times piece the other day, and Joe Lhota didn’t get invited! I guess you’re in good company. 🙂

BrooklynBus February 25, 2013 - 10:01 pm

The Joe Lhota thing definitely was suspicious. NY Magazine covered that.

Someone February 25, 2013 - 9:40 pm

Did the TWU block you from all of their recent events because of your anti-TWU stance, or was it just this time?

Benjamin Kabak February 25, 2013 - 9:55 pm

They don’t really host too many events, but I’m not on their press list. Only transit-related org in NY that doesn’t include me. As I like to say, draw your own conclusions!

Spendmore Wastemore February 26, 2013 - 1:55 pm

“I wasn’t invited to cover the event, and I believe that’s due to my stridently anti-TWU stance in recent years.”

That does it.

If Ben wants to run for mayor, I’m writing a check!


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