Fall 2003, p.17

Metropolitan: News from the Metro NYC Region

The Bronx
State DOT Agrees to Assess Tearing Down Sheridan Expressway
State DOT Agrees to Assess Tearing Down Sheridan ExpresswayThanks to years of tenacious advocacy by the tri-state Transportation Campaign, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and community allies, including Sustainable South Bronx and Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, the State Department of Transportation is formally considering tearing down the Sheridan Expressway and replacing it with green space. The agency's "Community Plan" also calls for elevating the Bruckner Expressway over the Bronx River and creating new access between Bruckner and Leggett Avenues to move freight in and out of the Hunts Point Market area more efficiently.

But the teardown is no sure thing. The State DOT is considering 13 possible alternatives and will soon begin traffic modeling. The "Community Plan" and various State DOT plans for ramps that will extend into Hunts Point from a rebuilt highway interchange seem likely to be the main project options. Construction is planned for 2009. The State Department of Transportation will present 13 alternatives at a meeting tentatively scheduled for November. (See "Mobilizing the Region" #432 at www.tstc.org)

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Nassau County
Bus Crisis Part I:
Long Island Bus in Crisis (Again)

Long Island Bus in Crisis (Again)Long Island Bus is one of the nation's most successful and efficient suburban mass transit operations. Its 417 buses carry 106,000 passengers a day, a 22% increase from 1996. And the company will probably be the first all-natural-gas fueled bus fleet on the East Coast. The fleet's increased ridership and performance upgrades are doubly impressive given the abusive budget cuts it has had to endure. The company's operations are paid for by fares, state transit aid and support from Nassau County. In 1999, the county contributed $26 million. In 2003, the county cut its funding to $8 million. In its plans for next year, the county has proposed cutting the company's support again by more than half, to $3.5 million. In the last few years, the state legislature has bailed out bus riders with emergency grants, but this is not likely to continue. According to Jon Orcutt of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the state needs to create a "downstate bus operating assistance fund" that is paid for by a small dedicated tax, similar to the other dedicated taxes supporting the MTA. Long Island Bus is not the only New York City area bus operation in serious financial trouble. Westchester's Bee Line also faces declining support from the county and Mayor Bloomberg no longer wants to pay $100 million a year for operating support to private bus lines in Queens. Says Orcutt, "It is the bus systems, their riders, the environment and motorists stuck in worsening traffic who are going to pay the price if something more than a series of stop-gap solutions is not put in place."

Queens County
Bus Crisis Part II:
NYC Funded Bus Fleets Sue DOT
Mayor Bloomberg says that the city can no longer pay $100 million a year to subsidize seven bus companies that serve 400,000 people a day, mainly in Queens. He is looking to the MTA to take over the City franchise bus fleet, which includes Green Line, Command Bus, Triboro Coach and Jamaica Buses. But the MTA says that it does not have the money. Caught in the middle are bus riders, who are already suffering from service reductions on routes in Queens and Brooklyn. The four companies filed a $10 million federal lawsuit in September against the city Department of Transportation, arguing that antiquated funding formulas have "increasingly failed to meet the actual costs of providing the transportation services required by the City."

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New Jersey
NJ Transit Victim of Own Success?

NJ Transit Victim of Own Success?New Jersey Transit (NJT) has introduced popular new services, made smart system connections and built new light rail lines. In September, the agency opened the long awaited Secaucus Transfer, which connects ten of the system's 11 rail lines. The new connection has attracted more riders and led to demands for greater service. Because fares do not pay the full cost of transit service, this means that NJ Transit's operating costs are going up. Unfortunately, subsidies for the transit agency are not. The result is that NJT has had to take $360 million from its capital budget for operating costs. The capital budget pays for new construction and reconstruction of existing rail lines and new trains and buses; taking from it will lead to higher costs in the future when NJT will need major overhauls to catch up with neglected infrastructure and vehicle maintenance. Depleting the capital budget could also lead to worsening system performance as outages and breakdowns increase.

Read "Mobilizing the Region," published weekly by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign: www.tstc.org

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