Home Staten Island On Staten Island, demanding, on one hand, while complaining with the other

On Staten Island, demanding, on one hand, while complaining with the other

by Benjamin Kabak

At some point, I halfheartedly expect Staten Island voters to wise up to the ways of their politicians and stop reelecting them. But then I always remember that I value transit support more than most city voters. There is no hope, and Staten Island representatives are free to, say, take away Select Bus Service indicators on the one hand while whining about lack of transit improvements on the other. It’s a time-honored tradition like no other.

The details behind Senator Andrew Lanza’s recent comments almost don’t even matter. He’s complaining that the MTA eliminated a bus a few years ago that had around 700 riders per Saturday and 400 riders per Sunday — lowest among all SI buses. A bunch of Staten Island representatives gathered to protest the MTA’s decision not to restore the bus, and with the recorders on, Lanza went to town:

Senator Andrew Lanza and Assemblyman Michael Cusick joined Matteo, alongside the Amalgamated Transit Union at Saturday’s press conference, held at the corner of Manor Road and Croak Street. In the only borough without a subway system, Cusick (D-Mid Island) stressed the importance of bus availability, saying, “We need safe, reliable bus service here on Staten Island.”

Lanza (R-Staten Island) slammed the MTA for continuously “forgetting” about Staten Island and thanked Matteo for taking up the S54 issue.

“When it comes to transportation on the Island, we’ve been forgotten by the MTA,” Lanza said. “No where has the MTA failed more miserably to provide adequate public transportation than here on Staten Island. The message today is very simple: MTA, do your job.”

Even if you feel the S54 should be restored, these statements are rich comedy from Lanza. As you may recall (or can’t forget), Lanza used Tom Prendgerast’s confirmation hearing in 2013 to rail about transit improvements for six minutes without pause. He spoke for longer than the candidate, and he dismissed MTA promises to cut seven minutes off bus commutes. He has since vowed to attempt to roll back dedicated bus lanes on Staten Island.

Meanwhile, Lanza’s petulance has a city-wide impact too. Once upon a time, Select Bus Service vehicles had flashing blue lights that easily distinguished them from a distance from local buses running the same routes. But Lanza, who was somehow offended by these lights, discovered they violated a state law, and he essentially ordered the MTA to shut them off. He hasn’t permitted movement on a bill that would allow the MTA to use purple lights instead, and it’s been 20 months since the lights on the SBS buses last were on.

So it’s easy for a politician to believe past actions won’t come back to haunt him. More Staten Islanders feel the MTA “failed…Staten Island” because there’s no subway, but there’s no subway because politicians like Senator Lanza have never believed in funding the MTA or working to support incremental and important improvements. They want more now and they don’t want to pay for it. This is the behavior of a spoiled child, and Lanza continues to be the figurehead for Staten Island’s transit problems.

As an endnote, a few weeks ago, the New York State Assembly hosted a hearing on transit for Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens. amNew York reporter Dan Rivoli was on the scene and offered up this take:

Need I say more?

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Christopher August 18, 2014 - 12:41 am

Everytime I see one of those “Because Staten Island deserves a new station” ads, I reply: they do?

sonicboy678 August 18, 2014 - 2:58 am

To be fair, it doesn’t make much sense to have Atlantic and Nassau stations at this point. Those will be replaced with an intermediate station. Still, it’s hard to sympathize with our cranky Richmond because the politicians (primarily) there are ridiculous, probably even more so than Mangano’s administration.

Herb Lehman August 18, 2014 - 2:28 pm

Ha…I’m a Staten Islander and even I laugh at those ads.

Andrew Lanza is a joke. Personally, I’m embarrassed that he represents us. Unfortunately, I’m in the minority.

Chet August 18, 2014 - 8:25 am

The cut back in the S54 bus makes sense from a purely numerical sense- it wasn’t used much on weekends. However, it did have a real effect on things.

One of the major stops along its route is Susan E. Wagner High School- a school of over 3200 students and one of the better schools in the city system. (I am a bit biased here being not just an alumnus of the school, but about to start my 29th year as a teacher there.) We used to have a tremendous Saturday School program- students were able to make up failed classes, and/or take other courses. There was also SAT prep, etc. When the S54 weekend service was eliminated, those programs went with it too. Students had to find their way to the S57 bus which stops near (about a ten minute walk) from the school.

Now, can this be fixed? Yes. In a rare moment of constructive comments on the silive.com website (our local paper, the Staten Island Advance) there were a couple of people who suggested that a change in the route would help ridership, and I agree.

If you look at the current route, after Rockland Avenue, the bus goes down Richmond Road to Arthur Kill Road to Giffords Lane to Nelson Avenue to Hylan Blvd and ends at Richmond Avenue.

For most of that stretch, the bus is going through various residential neighborhoods. Unless you’re going to someone’s home, there is little use for this bus. My wife has used this bus to go to the south shore (she doesn’t drive) and she had told me, the bus rarely stops in those areas. So, let’s change that part of the route as suggested by a couple of comments on silive.com

From Rockland Avenue, have the bus go down New Dorp Lane, then make a right on Hylan Blvd, continuing down to Richmond Avenue. Now, instead of passing through residential neighborhoods, the bus would be going through some of the busiest commercial areas on the island. New Dorp Lane is 3/4mile of small businesses. The stretch of Hylan Blvd from New Dorp Lane has two large shopping centers, one smaller one, and a seemingly endless array of smaller stores, restaurants, etc.

If that bus brought mid-island and North Shore residents to those areas, I am certain we’d see more than 400 people using the bus on weekends.

I’ll add another change. Have the other end of the route continue just a few more blocks to terminate at Richmond University Medical Center. Another simple change to add ridership.

Benjamin Kabak August 18, 2014 - 10:09 am

Now imagine if Lanza had come armed with this recommendation instead of whiny platitudes about the MTA.

Chet August 18, 2014 - 12:14 pm

Imagine…lol. Well, maybe someone from the MTA will see this. One can only hope.

Herb Lehman August 18, 2014 - 2:34 pm

That makes a hell of a lot of sense. I’d love to see that, as well as quite a number of other route changes that would make the buses more efficient and useful. So many of the current routes are circuitous ones that might have made sense in the Staten Island that existed in 1964, but certainly don’t work well in 2014.

Edward August 18, 2014 - 8:54 pm

Probably even smarter to extend the S54 from its northern terminus at Broadway/Richmond Terrace along Richmond Terrace to the St. George Ferry Terminal. Bus service along Richmond Terrace is atrocious, even during rush hour. Having the S54 pick up some of the slack from the woeful S40 to take residents/visitors to the ferry terminal would be amazing.

ajedrez August 18, 2014 - 11:02 pm

Either that, or send it down Castleton Avenue, up Brighton/Lafayette Avenue, then take Prospect-Franklin-Richmond Terrace, and show S42 riders some love by restoring their weekend service as well. The S40 can be improved simply by having some of those deadheading buses going from the Castleton Depot to the ferry get pressed into service as short-turns starting from Clove.

ajedrez August 21, 2014 - 9:18 pm

The part of Hylan Blvd west of roughly Guyon Avenue has relatively few stores until you get down to the Great Kills area. You’re having too much dead milage trying to run it between New Dorp and Eltingville. You’d be better off ending it at the S57 terminal, by Tysen Lane.

For me, the way to really boost ridership is to extend it to the ferry, via a combination with the S42 route (restoring weekend service in that area as well). The direct connection to the ferry would boost ridership tremendously, and it would help out the S4X-series routes, which are some of the busiest on the island. On the southern end, it should be cut back to Seaview Hospital to maintain better reliability on the northern end (the S57 could use the ridership boost that would come from bringing people to the New Dorp area, which is a very big stop on the route)

Kevin August 26, 2014 - 12:47 pm

How about this suggestion: s54 Bus to South Shore. Regular route to Rockland Road and Richmond Avenue, Richmond Road \ Arthur Kill Road to Eltingville Transit Center, Richmond Avenue to Hylan Boulevard, Hylan Boulevard to Hylan Plaza (Last Stop)

Paulb from jersey August 18, 2014 - 10:02 am

It never ceases to amaze me that the people who use public transit have a better grasp of how it should work, than some of the people who run it and most (if not all) of the people who should be advocating/supporting it.

AG August 18, 2014 - 3:35 pm

Well really – a politician doesn’t need to know much about anything. All they really need in many cases is to be a good motivational speaker. Or a good complainer. It depends on the voting bloc.

Bolwerk August 18, 2014 - 4:09 pm

It shouldn’t be surprising. They’re (we’re) the only ones who have a stake in it working well. Politicians want it for patronage.

And advocates have all kinds of reasons. Some are great, some mean well but do harm (e.g., Straphangers), some just want to get other drivers out of their way, and some are just hung up on theoretical masturbation.

LLQBTT August 18, 2014 - 10:17 am

It’s generally known that SIers, the post bridge migrants anyway, relocated to SI to ‘get away’ from the shall I say, ‘riff raff’ that ‘infected’ the neighborhoods that they moved away from, and it just so happens that those neighborhoods had subway service. Thus, the belief that the subways enabled ‘riff raff’ access, and that not having a subway on SI was a good thing.

At this point, this is perhaps a bit of yesterthink, but I believe that that view lives on in many SIers, and despite all this nonsense from these pols, they are quite happy to maintain the status quo.

Chet August 18, 2014 - 12:14 pm

I’ve lived on Staten Island for 47 years. The problem is not quite that.

Too many people refuse to learn how things work. Most islanders would love a six minute subway ride from St. George to Whitehall. What they don’t realize is that the cost- $10 billion?- is just not a good use of money. Even if 75,000 people used that train every day, it is only a fraction of what would use the a full length Second Avenue subway. So if someone dropped $10 bil into the MTA lap, it would go to the SAS and not a cross harbor tunnel. A lot of my fellow Staten Islanders just refuse to grasp that.

As far as moving here to escape the “riff raff”… that is true. The problem is (especially on the Eastern/South Shore) they moved here from Brooklyn, bought a house..and now vote for people who refuse to actually fund public transit…and then complain about it not getting funded.

Larry Littlefield August 18, 2014 - 12:31 pm

The problem is easily solved. If you want a subway, and the density needed to make it work, just move back across the bridge to Brooklyn.

If you don’t, and prefer a lower-density place, stay on The Rock. It doesn’t cost anything for people to move to what they want.

Another thing Staten Islanders don’t get is though they may be part of NYC, the South Shore is far, far away from Manhattan. Much farther away than many of the “suburbs.” I would sort of make sense for New York to trade Staten Island to New Jersey for Hudson County.

Chris August 18, 2014 - 2:19 pm

Two things are needed:
1. The building of a cross-harbor tunnel from SI to Brooklyn for both freight and passenger traffic (different levels of tunnel), with SIRT taken out of the “Railroad” business (Federal regulation here) and moved to “Mass Transit” business, connected to NYCT Subways, with an express ride from SI to Manhattan. (The freight side can be linked up to LIRR’s (now NY&A) Bay Ridge branch.)
2. The reactivation of SIRT’s North Shore line (with appropriate land purchases), connected to PATH, and with an expansion that would bring people into Manhattan.

This way, SI has 2 “land” routes to Manhattan via 2 separate transit networks….

BTW: This would be a better sink hole for government spending, than a direct route to Manhattan – and an interesting thought experiment….

AG August 18, 2014 - 3:45 pm

Just today there is a story about a business group advocating for a west shore light rail – with connection to the north shore and Jersey. They want the state to put up the 5 million for the legally required study. Hopefully that will happen. That side of the island could use some more density as well.

Bolwerk August 18, 2014 - 4:05 pm

Kind of an insane price for a study. $5M ought to be enough for a mile or so of track if there is an ROW in place.

AG August 18, 2014 - 6:29 pm

apparently it has to be done before the environmental assessment.

here is the story:


lop August 19, 2014 - 1:06 am

A billion dollars for seventeen thousand daily riders?

AG August 19, 2014 - 10:48 am

In actuality – if they upzone around the stops – that number would go up.
It doesn’t make sense comparing it to the Second Ave. subway since nowhere in the country has the potential for so many riders. Compared with the costs of everything else in this area? That’s about par for the course (total cost vs. projected riders). Hudson Bergen Light Rail cost about 2.5 billion and gets about 40k (Hudson County is more dense than Staten Island).

Bolwerk August 19, 2014 - 6:36 pm

AG may be right. If it can create that much economic activity, maybe it’d be worth it.

Although, a billion does seem like a lot for a few miles of more or less at-grade rail.

Bolwerk August 18, 2014 - 4:27 pm

But it’s not that simple. SI is prime land for sane urban growth. A subway can drive that.

I figure the density needed to support lowish-frequency heavy rail transit (e.g., a few TPH) is probably in the low thousands per sq. km, which SI manages. It’s certainly not the insane Manhattan density people imagine heavy rail requires.

It wouldn’t hurt if SIers could tolerate a bit infill to allow some development to help amortize the costs, and it probably could get them a tunnel to Manhattan.

Emilio August 18, 2014 - 5:17 pm

There are 869 census tracts in NYC with a population of 250 people or higher, and a population density per square mile of 50,000 inhabitants or more.

In other words, high-density locations which would benefit immensely with mass transit.

Out of those 869 census tracts across the city, there is just ONE on Staten Island: The West Brighton Houses.

So when people demand a subway on SI just by virtue of being a borough, there are other, more important factors in play.

Bolwerk August 18, 2014 - 5:34 pm

Population density is only of secondary importance. They key factor is whether you can attract riders. In the case of a line to SI you probably easily could.

In the case of Bronx- or Brooklyn-level rapid transit proliferation? No, of course not.

Emilio August 18, 2014 - 6:27 pm

Well, I’d add that the key factor is to attract enough riders. And because SI’s population is so incredibly atomized (by NYC standards), you’re right, the ridership levels of Queens and Brooklyn would not be there.

And if the MTA can barely pay the bills now, with current ridership levels, how will it be expected to pay the bills for new stations and line with much lower ridership?

There’s no cheap way to do this, and I don’t see a true justification on ridership terms.

Now, as you say, the zoning laws are massively changed to include high density construction along a purported subway line, maybe that would work. But with the NIMBYsim going on, I don’t see it in the cards. This is, after all, New York City. Look at the Second Avenue Line, it was a no-brainer for how many decades? And yet it’s still many years away, in a truncated form.

ajedrez August 18, 2014 - 11:05 pm

I remember reading something that said that each individual subway tunnel from Brooklyn to Manhattan carries around 30,000-50,000 riders per day. The ferry carries around 65,000 per day. Granted, it’s much longer than the Brooklyn-Manhattan tunnels or Bronx-Manhattan tunnels, but at the same time, the ridership is much higher. Remember that you’re only building one link, not 4 or 5.

Bolwerk August 18, 2014 - 11:22 pm

The busier subway links probably carry about that many each day. You can see for yourself in the HubBound report.

lop August 19, 2014 - 1:42 am

The brooklyn-manhattan connections carry about that many people inbound only 7-10 am, not bidirectional 24 hours. The ferry costs a fortune, more than a hundred million a year. SI has a lot of express bus routes that are expensive too. You can’t cut them all, but maybe you’d get an extra fifty million a year in savings. That could cover a decent share of the bonds issued to pay for the long tunnel to SI. Allowing additional development around existing SI railway stations to pay for their renovations, including installing faregates could help too. Adding a double charge for the subway between SI and Manhattan, but not within SI, might get an extra fifty million a year. The project could be affordable with the right political backing.

AG August 19, 2014 - 10:35 am

What you say is true – but the most expensive thing to do is tunnel all the way to Manhattan. In reality – that’s not going to take many cars off the road. Most of the car traffic from Staten Island is to people driving to New Jersey and Brooklyn. Most Staten Islanders work on SI – which is why it’s also important they get a light rail line.


There is not a major difference in the portion of commuters who go to Jersey and Brooklyn as go to Manhattan (21% versus 29%). New Jersey (Hudson County in particular) has many of the back office jobs Brooklyn is increasingly becoming a tech hub in it’s own right. Building to both are cheaper than building to Manhattan. Is that extra 8 percent worth the extra money it would cost to tunnel all the way to Manhattan?

I do agree that if/when that was to happen – there should be a fare for the ferry and SIR.

lop August 19, 2014 - 2:24 pm

I said nothing about car drivers. Because so many aren’t going to Manhattan I didn’t suggest eliminating the resident toll discount to pay for the tunnel, if only because the politics wouldn’t work out.

You wouldn’t charge for the ferry after a tunnel to Manhattan is built you would eliminate it. Or at the very least eliminate the subsidy. And the per rider subsidy needed would skyrocket once most current riders are on the train instead. So the ferry wouldn’t support itself and so it would be gone. The existing terminal could be turned into a park or something. The reason a direct connection to Manhattan could work is because of the money you would save getting rid of the express buses and ferry subsidy, and the concentration of jobs in Manhattan. When you count those savings it would probably end up much cheaper than the more than 50k per rider for the light rail to NJ you’re pushing. How many of the jobs in NJ and brooklyn would be easily accessible by existing transit if only you added a connection to SI? Probably a smaller share than Manhattan.

Double subway fare, eliminating the ferry, eliminating many express buses might save 150 million a year over the cost of rail operations, and that’s rising fast. If it rises as fast as interest rates on bonds then the savings are equivalent to 4.5 billion dollars worth of tunnel over thirty years. You’d get a 100k riders a day on a tunnel from Manhattan to SI, with room for a fair bit of growth from higher density around stations. For this to be more expensive than the light rail you want it would have to cost more than ten billion dollars, a high estimate for the project even by NYC standards.

AG August 19, 2014 - 4:29 pm

right you didn’t mention – but I’m saying that should be an important part of any rail connection – relieving car congestion.

Where do you expect to get 100k riders per day using the subway to Manhattan?

Actually – I don’t WANT light rail. It just makes sense. The fact remains that Staten Island will never be an LIC or Downtown Brooklyn or even a Jersey City because of it’s distance. There are almost as many persons who travel to Jersey and Brooklyn to get to work. You can connect to both for the same price that it takes to tunnel to Manhattan. You have the added bonus that those persons would still be able to use the R to get to Manhattan or PATH to get to lower or midtown while passing through job centers of Jersey City – and all te tech and other related jobs growin from Dtwn BK and Dumbo (up to the Navy Yard).
NYC is already too “Manhattan Centric” in it’s subway system. Fact is job growth is also faster in the outer boroughs.
Another reason the light rail line is important is as noted – twice as many ppl commute within Staten Island… and the VAST majority drive… They need options too.
There is a reason when the subway was to be connected to Staten Island back in the 20’s the connection was to Brooklyn… For the same reason there is a bridge to Brooklyn. It’s just closer. Connecting Staten island to the R – while also giving a whole half of the borough light rail – which would connect to the PATH in NJ gives much better bang for the buck than a tunnel to Manhattan.

lop August 19, 2014 - 5:29 pm

Ferry is 75k riders per day, SI express buses are 35k per day. You lose some tourists on the ferry and some express bus riders won’t switch because they won’t have an easy time getting to SIR, or whatever other branch you build, but you gain some new SI residents and transit users, especially around train stations in the north, and all the tourists to the wheel and mall near the ferry terminal, once you trade the 25 minute ferry for a 10 minute more frequent subway trip.

Going through new jersey or Brooklyn won’t be faster for a lot of existing manhattan bound riders, so you wouldn’t be able to get rid of the ferry or express buses to pay for it. You’d get some people who drive to switch to transit, but fewer than you think, since jobs in NJ and Brooklyn aren’t as concentrated around transit as they are in Manhattan, and driving to those places is cheaper and quicker than Manhattan. How many SIers work along the HBLR? And how many work in Newark or elsewhere that still wouldn’t be easily accessible by transit? If you need to switch to the PATH from HBLR you can get it downtown manhattan, and could even be faster since running on surface streets, even in a train, is slow. And in Brooklyn how many work along 4th avenue? Downtown Brooklyn won’t take much longer if you transfer from downtown manhattan, the R doesn’t go near the naval yard, and it’s a long walk from Dumbo.

Light rail makes sense even with a per rider cost that’s probably much higher than a subway to Manhattan? There are other projects in the other boroughs that would be cheaper per rider too, so how does it make sense?

Going to Manhattan might cost as much as NJ and Brooklyn combined but you have more people heading to Manhattan, and more willing to use transit for the trip since their destination is near it and driving is so expensive/time consuming, and you save money killing the ferry and express buses to pay for it.

AG August 19, 2014 - 10:46 pm

For one thing you wouldn’t get everyone to convert to the subway line.
As far as commuting – there are NOT that many more people going to Manhattan than neighboring counties from Staten Island. It’s 29 versus 21 percent. The Manhattan share keeps DECREASING (even if overall numbers go up). If you take into account leisure trips – more people go to it’s neighbors than Manhattan.
In any event – no one is even contemplating to build a tunnel to Manhattan – it’s never been in the cards. The same reasons it was to go to Brooklyn in the 1920’s is the same reason as now. The same reason there is no automobile tunnel to Manhattan.

lop August 19, 2014 - 11:39 pm

Ferry tourists would switch to another boat, but you’d get every single ferry commuter. Because you’d have a train station in the same spot with more frequent service and a sixty percent reduction in travel time. So how many tourists are there? You don’t get all the express bus riders, but you get a lot of them, especially if you reorient some bus lines towards SIR or north shore or wherever you run manhattan bound trains instead of the ferry and express bus stops. Add in new residents and transit users and yea it’s over a 100k per day. It doesn’t matter how many people go to Brooklyn or NJ if they aren’t heading somewhere with existing transit sending the HBLR or R to SI doesn’t help them. Even 4th avenue express tracks would be slower than the ferry to downtown, the R even worse. So a tunnel to brooklyn is only justified with brooklyn riders, not manhattan bound riders, and there are not enough of them. The only reason Manhattan makes sense is because you pay for half or more of the tunnel with savings from eliminating the ferry and many of the express buses.

Eric August 23, 2014 - 7:07 pm

“SI has a lot of express bus routes that are expensive too. You can’t cut them all, but maybe you’d get an extra fifty million a year in savings.”

The SI express buses really should be “cut” in a sense – they should all end at the 59th St N/R subway stop in Brooklyn. From there, there are express subway trains that reach Manhattan more quickly than a bus on the freeway in rush hour. This would save lots of money operating the buses, and would also get all those buses off the crowded Manhattan streets. Right now, the subways from Brooklyn to Manhattan are under capacity, so the extra riders from SI could be added without any major impact.

lop August 23, 2014 - 10:41 pm

The N from 59th to 57th and 7th has a scheduled run time of ~37 minutes. The X2 is scheduled to go from Grasmere near the bridge in SI to 57th and 3rd in 32 minutes. The X7 is scheduled from cannon and hylan in New dorp to 6th and central park south in 44 minutes. New Dorp is about 9 miles from the N at 59th.

Unless the schedules are inaccurate, then the existing service is faster, especially with the extra time needed for a transfer.

Eric August 24, 2014 - 5:33 am

“The X2 is scheduled to go from Grasmere near the bridge in SI to 57th and 3rd in 32 minutes. The X7 is scheduled from cannon and hylan in New dorp to 6th and central park south in 44 minutes.”

That’s only true in non-peak hours. According to the schedule, the X7 take 44 minutes like you say at 5am, but 71 minutes at 9am. Those extra 27 minutes of waiting in traffic are mostly north of 59th St in Brooklyn. So it makes sense to keep the express routes at 5am. But if the same routes ended at 59th St in rush hour, and perhaps had a non-express fare, I think it would be better for both MTA and passengers. It’s certainly much cheaper than building a new subway to SI.

lop August 24, 2014 - 11:52 am

Didn’t notice the different run times, thanks for that. Google maps says 20 minutes driving without traffic to get to the N from New Dorp, figure 30 minutes with rush hour traffic and making stops? Add a 3 minute transfer penalty, 37 minute run time to midtown on the N and it’s a bit of a wash time wise, except you’re adding the inconvenience of a transfer and possibly cutting the price. Still might be one less transfer than using the ferry though, which could also take about the same time. Should the S79 be extended to meet the N instead of the R?

Eric August 24, 2014 - 12:28 pm

“Should the S79 be extended to meet the N instead of the R?”

I think so. Just another two miles on the freeway (a low-traffic part of the freeway), and you save time or a transfer for people wanting to go to Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn. I assume more S79 riders want to go to those places than to Bay Ridge, and whoever wants Bay Ridge can go outbound on the R from 59th St.

AG August 18, 2014 - 6:31 pm

without question – the areas around the SIR should be upzoned… but without it connecting to the rest of the system – it’s doubtful that can happen. Still though – I don’t think a tunnel to Manhattan is the best use of money. The ferry still has capacity. Closer tunnels to Brooklyn and/or Bayonne (to connect up to Jersey City jobs and the PATH) probably would be better.

Bolwerk August 18, 2014 - 7:01 pm

This is basically the same answer I’d give Emilio: it depends whether you have some proactive goals. With careful planning and some upzoning, it could improve the tax base and maybe pay for itself with an arrangement like TIF. Bonus if it makes accessible some cheaper housing. All this is very reasonable, though whether it is the best use of transit funds can certainly be debated.

If it’s just about connecting to SI to have a connection to SI, and doesn’t involve any wider policy goals, it probably doesn’t make much sense. This is what SI NIMBYs expect.

Fool August 18, 2014 - 2:49 pm

Well, you know, an SI direct line could be the best investment MTA could make. If MTA was competent enough to run itself in a manner similar to HK.

Bolwerk August 18, 2014 - 4:28 pm

The MTA doesn’t have any say of land use regulations, which are at least transit-friendly in HK.

Fool August 18, 2014 - 9:45 pm

As a political entity controlled equally by both entities having say in the land use process. That is kind of semantics. It is a political entity run by a population that currently lacks the political will for growth and would rather stagnate.

Eric August 24, 2014 - 5:37 am

It’s not the MTA’s fault. Current SI residents would never allow it.

Michael August 18, 2014 - 2:59 pm

I am going to take issue with a couple of points:

“More Staten Islanders feel the MTA “failed…Staten Island” because there’s no subway, but there’s no subway because politicians like Senator Lanza have never believed in funding the MTA or working to support incremental and important improvements.”

There are times folks seem to get a bit “ahistorical” when it comes to understanding certain issues, and this is one of them!

Why does Staten Island not have a subway connection to the other boroughs?

Simple – it is because at a certain time in the history of building of the subway lines the companies behind the projects went bankrupt! That IS the case with the BRT that was supposed to join with the B&O Railroad to connect Staten Island to Brooklyn via subway in the early 1920’s. Besides some political & financial stuff going on at the time, the Malbone Street accident and the legal chaos afterward surely did not help the situation. The resulting BMT had no money for such an endeavor. Another attempt was the non-building of the IND Second System on the eve of the Great Depression, an event that also brought troubles in the building and the completion of segments of the first IND system.

In fact, the reason why there are public authorities running our transit systems today is due to the bankruptcy of their former private operators! The Staten Island Ferry in 1905 was the first municipal transit system to be operated after the bankruptcy of its private company in the US! The bankruptcy and take-over of the subways would occur about 40 years later. Commodore Vanderbilt was one of those behind the building of the early IRT subways, the LIRR, a ferry to Staten Island, among several railroad projects.

On transit forums, and in message after message, I have had to repeatedly state that when it comes to the building of subway transit lines in NYC, if a particular transit line was not built and in operation by the 1940’s (the latest), there would be almost no chance of building any new lines. In fact the period of the 1940’s and 1950’s and later were the periods were transit lines (often the elevated lines) were being dismantled! With the number of track miles declining! Most of the extensions of the subways since the 1940’s were the acquisition of segments of former commuter lines, or the conversions of elevated transit lines (Dyre Avenue, the Rockaways, Fulton Street/Ozone Park, Queens, etc.

All of This! All of This occurred WELL BEFORE the MTA was created in 1968! After the creation of the MTA came the planning and initial construction of the Second Avenue subway and its various parts. Does the words, “Tunnel To NoWhere!” ring a bell? There are many who question whether major parts of the Second Avenue subway will be completed in their lifetimes! Even the city’s Master Plan of 1968 talked about how very difficult it would be connect Staten Island by subway to the rest of the city, putting off any kind of tunnel connection way into the future, say the 2000’s. I guess they figured that all of the various sections of the Second Avenue Subway, its Queen’s routes, LIRR connections, and the extensions of the Utica Avenue line, and other ideas would have been realized by then. Ha! Ha!

Why the MTA gets blamed for a lack of subways is only a mystery to folks who have never ever learned their transit history! It is a kind of willful blindness!

None of this is to suggest that the MTA could or could not do some things differently, etc. To accuse it or blame it of stuff that happened a very long time BEFORE its creation is just a bit much!


My second point – Senator Andrew Lanza is a tool. Enough said!


AG August 18, 2014 - 3:54 pm

Good points. To add – most cities lost street cars and trolleys but I don’t know of any other city that lost subways (Els) like NYC did

Bolwerk August 18, 2014 - 4:43 pm

New York probably lost more than most cities have, but Chicago may have gotten rid of a bigger proportion of its rapid transit system. If I understand right, at least seven in the 1950s.

Ironically, New York’s streetcar routes at least often live on as bus routes.

Eric August 24, 2014 - 12:36 pm

New York got rid of routes that were absolutely necessary, particularly the Second Avenue El. Chicago got rid of routes in depopulating slums on the south and west sides, and the routes that remain there (like the southern Green Line) are not doing especially well. So Chicago’s decisions look better in retrospect.

Bolwerk August 24, 2014 - 2:18 pm

I don’t know about that. They didn’t look so necessary then. The east side els went through some “depopulating slums” too. New York happened to have parallel subway services near a lot of its demolitions, imperfect as they were (and are).

Still, even things like the Myrtle El would be nice in 2014. There is no rapid transit connection between northern Brooklyn and southern Brooklyn.

Bolwerk August 18, 2014 - 4:36 pm

I’d say most of my disagreements with that would be nitpicks, but: no, the MTA really can’t do things differently. The MTA is a creature of New York State with a specific mission and charter – and specific obligations that it has itself taken on.

Phantom August 19, 2014 - 12:38 pm

By the way – since we’re speaking of Staten Island – why is there no mass transit at all across the Goethals Bridge or Outerbridge Crossing to New Jersey?

I think that a significant number of people make this trip, from SI to NJ and vice versa.

There had been a ” mass transit ” link there from 1709 to 1963 in the form of the Perth Amboy – Tottenville ferry.

I might think that a bus service that maybe connected the Staten Island Mall / Staten Island Railway / Perth Amboy ( NJT Jersey Coast line ) and Metropark ( NJT NE Corridor Line ) would be of benefit to a decent number of Staten Island and New Jersey residents whose only other mass transit option is go go by way of Manhattan, which is insane.

This to me is the most glaring gap in NY Metro area mass transit service. There are mass transit options connecting everyplace else, except these two heavily populated areas, right next to each other.

AG August 19, 2014 - 4:07 pm

True… as pointed out elsewhere – the amount of rail lines that the NYC area lost is almost like the “twighlight zone”. Staten Island alone – had 3 times the rail ridership back when it had half the population it does now (over the 3 lines that existed).

Alon Levy August 20, 2014 - 2:25 pm

Because neither bridge connects to a job center that can be plausibly served by transit. Bayonne Bridge does, and does carry buses, with occasional plans for an HBLR extension. The problem is that the greatest service need on Staten Island is better service to Manhattan and Brooklyn, first because of the large commuter volume and second because those job centers are easy to serve by transit. The straight lines you’d like to draw all go under a lot of water.

ajedrez August 21, 2014 - 9:31 pm

Newark Airport is just over the Goethals Bridge, and remember that you’re also opening up easier access to whole swaths of New Jersey (from Metropark, it’s a quick shot to New Brunswick and Princeton, for instance). And then there’s also a bunch of stuff in Newark itself. (Sure, you could travel via Bayonne, but unless you live near Richmond Avenue, it might be easier to travel via Elizabeth).

We’re not talking about building a rail tunnel or anything. Just a bus service every 30 minutes or so, for basic connectivity.

AG August 21, 2014 - 10:39 pm

The Hudson Bergen Light Rail is successful. It’s strange that “suburban” Hudson County is more densely populated than a borough of NYC (Staten Island). Not every connection should go to Manhattan. New Jersey and Staten Island are very much connected – as you noted. Strangely – there used to be rail connections – but when SI had three rail lines. Now there is only one..

lop August 21, 2014 - 10:47 pm


USDOT certification for operators, PA paying for buses, looks like a joint MTA-NJTransit operating contract, is NJT chipping in? What’s come of the NYCT and NJT looking at a joint s89/hblr ticket?

Maybe it’s just been too much of an institutional pain to get more interstate buses set up if they are only serving marginal markets anyway.

Phantom August 20, 2014 - 6:24 pm

Metropark is a big job center. There are New Yorkers who work there, and there are New Yorkers who travel to Philadelpha or Princeton on business or for school, some every day.

And there are a ton of NYers who travel to and feom NJ for family or pleasure reasons.

Some of those people are in Staten Island and some are so close to SI in Bay Ridge that a good service might lead them to consider transiting via SI.

But right now lots of those SI and even Bay Ridge people commute or travel to family / the shore because the mega detour via Manhattan is so completely stupid.

Phantom August 20, 2014 - 9:38 pm

But now lots of those SI and even Bay Ridge people commute or travel to family / the shore –by car only –because the mega detour to Manhattan –makes mass transit unrealistic–

AG August 20, 2014 - 9:42 pm

For some reason people still have trouble understanding that the subway system is too Manhattan-centric and that people go places other than Manhattan for work and leisure/pleasure.

Bolwerk August 23, 2014 - 11:15 am

That’s true, but the flip side is the subway has rather absurd scale for many non-Manhattan trips. It’s why NYC should consider intermediate light rail or smaller scale rapid transit for these types of services.

Eric August 24, 2014 - 12:46 pm

Light rail is good for many cities, but New York is something of an exception. For higher-ridership routes, an extension of the subway system is much more helpful to riders than having to transfer from light rail to subway. For lower-ridership routes, SBS is much cheaper than light rail. Other cities, with smaller or no subway system, have much more room in the middle where light rail is the best technology. Light rail would be a good replacement for the M15 in Manhattan, but that’s only because SAS construction is going so slowly that we would like to have anything better than SBS in our lifetimes.

Bolwerk August 24, 2014 - 2:29 pm

Never say buses are cheaper unless you’re expecting very low service. BRT is cheaper to build, yes. It does not end up being cheaper to amortize and operate without incredibly low usage. New York’s refusal to use light rail is literally resulting in spending more to get less. Sure, surface-running light rail might be a good replacement for the BRT segment of the M15, but no matter how the M15 is arranged it will be more a complement than a replacement for the SAS.

Anyway, I didn’t necessarily mean focusing on street-running LRT (though that definitely makes a lot of sense too under some circumstances). I meant more mixing surface and subsurface services. Maybe something like the subway-surface trams in Philly, but more modern. That’s a type of service pattern that just doesn’t make sense for buses, but could move people to CBDs cheaply and quickly.

Bolwerk August 23, 2014 - 11:10 am

How do you get transit from SI to MetroPark though? There doesn’t seem to be a good way to do it.

I always found it strange how, if you look at a map of the borders, the closest points in NYC and Philly to each other are actually only about 50 miles apart. Of course, that’s the southern extreme of Staten Island in our case, so it does little good from a transportation perspective. But I guess Philly’s northeastern reaches are fairly transit-rich.

ajedrez August 23, 2014 - 9:14 pm

From SI to Metropark? Simple, extend the S55 bus over the Outerbridge Crossing (you’d have to eliminate the Bloomingdale Road portion, though). Then run up Amboy Avenue to Main Street (a few minute walk from the Woodbridge NJT station). From there, go past the Woodbridge Center Mall, and make your way to Metropark.

The S55 is one of the weakest lines on Staten Island (there’s a reason it stops running at 7PM, and has no weekend service), and this would greatly boost ridership. And by being a regular route (which makes many connections, especially at the mall and ETC), it extends the catchment area.


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