Questions for the Candidates


Reclaim has been asking all of New York City’s prospective mayoral candidates a few questions about transit. Here’s the latest batch of unedited responses.

Comptroller John Liu:

What role does a well-funded public transit system play in New York City’s economic growth?
Public transit is paramount to New York City’s economy. More than half of NYC’s commuters rely on our network of subways, trains, buses and ferries to get to work (subways are the mode of choice for more than a third of commuters to NYC). New York City’s transit, especially its subways are a defining characteristic of our city and transit is an efficient use of resources – economically and environmentally. Transit makes our dense business districts and neighborhoods possible and adds to the diversity and vibrancy of the city.
    New York City’s population is growing and along with it ridership levels on our transit systems. In fact, MTA’s average weekday ridership in 2011 was the highest since 1951. Growing ridership on our transit system requires that we ensure adequate resources to keep up with that demand. Time lost in congestion is counter-productive for our economy, but is also frustrating to commuters and residents. It is essential that we ensure that transit is funded, and managed in a way that keeps the city and its economy moving.

What would you do as mayor to address transit deserts, which are locations where riders are faced with hour-plus commutes, multiple transfers or multi-fare rides?
The next Mayor, whoever that may be, will need to address this issue. Last year, the Center for an Urban Future released a report that demonstrated that a large part of the city’s job growth and population gains have occurred outside of Manhattan. This de-centralized growth pattern has translated into longer commutes for low-income workers. Around the world, and recently in NYC, transit authorities have been using buses as a cost-effective way to close gaps in transit service. Expanding Select Bus Service where appropriate and bringing additional bus service to growing job and population centers can be an effective way to address transit deserts.

If transit fares go up on 1/1/13, it will be the fifth fare hike since 2008. Do you think transit riders are paying their fair share, and is it time for elected officials to seriously consider new sources of revenue for public transit?
Transit riders are paying more than their fair share. As you mention, there have been four fare hikes since 2008, there will be one in 2013 and another in 2015. Of course, these fare-hikes hurt our low-income commuters the most.
    While it is good for transit riders that Governor Cuomo’s budget funded the next three years of the MTA capital budget, it is largely funded through debt. This exacerbates debt service payments, the fastest growing piece of the MTA budget. Ensuring adequate funding for our transit system will be a key issue going forward. With that said, it is also essential to ensure that the MTA is managed in a cost-effective manner.

With the nation’s largest bike share program scheduled to open in the city this summer, can you give us your thoughts on bicycling as part of NYC’s larger transportation network?

I myself have biked from Queens to City Hall, and my main concern remains safety. It will be necessary to ensure that tourists and locals alike understand the rules of the road and bicycle responsibly.
  Speaker Christine Quinn:

What role does a well-funded public transit system play in New York City’s economic growth?
Investing in our transportation system must be a central part of any plan to grow our city’s economy. We want residents and businesses to be able to make long-term decisions based on the belief that our transit system is dependable and will continue to improve. Often a lack of transportation is one of the biggest obstacles for businesses looking to expand in a particular community and create jobs for working families. That’s why the Council’s efforts to expand the city’s booming tech industry from DUMBO and the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Downtown Brooklyn have focused in large part on increasing transit links between all three areas. It’s also one of the reasons I worked with the Mayor to launch the East River Ferry last year, which currently serves 10,000 commuters a week. The East River Ferry has helped bring additional development to the Queens and Brooklyn waterfront, and business owners are already reporting an increase in economic activity. And just as importantly, we need to ensure that New Yorkers—no matter where they live—can commute to work or school in a timely fashion. This provides residents the opportunity to devote more time to their families and communities.

What would you do as mayor to address transit deserts, which are locations where riders are faced with hour-plus commutes, multiple transfers or multi-fare rides?
When I meet with New Yorkers in communities around the city, one of the most common issues they raise is long commute times and lack of access to transportation. I believe New York City and the MTA need to continue to invest in infrastructure projects in underserved communities, to make our transit system more equitable. But we also need to aggressively pursue more immediate solutions. That’s why I support the expansion of Express Bus and Select Bus Service in all five boroughs—two ways we can quickly speed commute times for many New Yorkers. Ferries are another way we can shorten transit times without major construction, and the City Council has been leading the charge to expand ferry service to waterfront neighborhoods in all five boroughs.

If transit fares go up on 1/1/13, it will be the fifth fare hike since 2008. Do you think transit riders are paying their fair share, and is it time for elected officials to seriously consider new sources of revenue for public transit?
I have spoken out numerous times in opposition to recent fare hikes, which have put an increased burden on New Yorkers at a time when many are already struggling to make ends meet. The MTA needs to develop a consistent funding stream for the future, instead of balancing their books on the backs of working New Yorkers. I also believe we need to be exploring alternative sources for transit funding at all levels of government.

With the nation’s largest bike share program scheduled to open in the city this summer, can you give us your thoughts on bicycling as part of NYC’s larger transportation network?
Bicycling is an extremely important part of the city’s transit system. Community engagement is important to ensure that our new programs are meeting the needs of all New Yorkers. That’s why the Council recently passed legislation requiring DOT to engage community boards before installing new bike lanes, to make sure we’re expanding bike lanes in a way that is thoughtful and sustainable. We also passed legislation requiring parking garages to add bicycle parking spaces, and requiring commercial buildings to allow employees to enter with bicycles. In addition, we must continue to make every effort to protect the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians alike as these programs expand.