(Above picture from the Ken Kinlock collection. Taken in 1950’s with a “Brownie Hawkeye” camera)
In recent years, the expansion of public transit has taken other American cities by storm: Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Denver and San Francisco, to name but a few. Yet, the City that Never Sleeps seems to have drifted off to a Rip Van Winkle state of mind.
The last time a new subway station opened in the Bronx was 1933. Brooklyn’s last opening was 1956. The Second Avenue Subway, first proposed in 1919, has been under construction — on and off — since 1972, with completion now slated for 2029. And while the 34th Street-Hudson Yards extension did open last year, it was the first new station in New York City in over a quarter century. Meanwhile, large swaths of the city — Northeast Queens, Southeast Brooklyn, the entirety of Staten Island and East Bronx — are still waiting to be connected to a subway network that is bulging at the seams.
Assemblyman Robert J. Rodriguez, D-Manhattan, represents the 68th District in East Harlem, and chairs the Assembly Subcommittee on Infrastructure.
We need to wake up and get New York moving again.
Last fall, ridership broke an all-time record: Over 6.2 million people used the subway on their way to and from work, school and recreation. As New York City is expected to gain almost 800,000 more residents by 2040, the overcrowding and unreliability of the transit system might eventually bring the city’s $1.3 trillion economy — the state’s economic engine — to a grinding halt.
Luckily, a solution is within reach.
Last week, a diverse coalition of New York City Assembly members introduced landmark legislation that will address chronic transportation funding deficits, fill transit deserts and get New York — city and state — moving again. The Move New York Fair Plan (A09633) will improve the lives of millions of New Yorkers — from downstate commuters to upstate manufacturers and their employees.
The Move NY bill will help fill the MTA’s 2015-19 capital funding gap and beyond by focusing additional investment in communities that have little or poor transit access. It will generate, through bonding, over $12 billion in transit investment in the MTA region, which means tens of thousands of jobs at subway and bus manufacturing plants in upstate counties like Clinton, Albany and Oneida, and cities like Yonkers.
Move NY also protects upstaters from what seems to be the Legislature’s default plan: increasing taxes on the state’s income earners to subsidize a downstate system they don’t use.
With a new, rationalized tolling system — where folks with fewer transit options pay up to 48 percent less to travel across the MTA’s outermost city bridges, and those with good transit pay their fair share to drive into the most congested area of New York City — we establish a sustainable revenue source to expand transit across the MTA’s 12-county service region while maintaining the city’s roads and bridges.
Unlike other funding mechanisms, under our bill, those who use the system contribute to it. And for the first time, they will see a real return on their investment.
Designed to fund transit projects in parts of the city with limited public transit access, the legislation’s $4.5 billion Transit Gap Investment Fund will pay for expansion projects such as the Triboro RX subway line, connecting Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx; an LIRR subway conversion between Brooklyn and Queens; and a Bus Rapid Transit line along Staten Island’s north shore.
For the first time in history, elected representatives will work with their constituents, the MTA and NYCDOT, to help set priorities, ensuring those most in need of better service get it.
These types of projects will create over 30,000 local jobs and tens of thousands of upstate jobs above and beyond what might be created by the MTA’s five-year capital plan alone.
The longer we procrastinate, the more certain that our transit system continues to fail us and the hard-working manufacturers in upstate New York who rely on a working downstate transit system for their livelihoods.
It’s time to shake off the slumber of the last half century of disinvestment and make the investments needed to move our city and state boldly into the 21st century.