Gridlock Sam's Master Plan: Mass Transit

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A city bus with chains fitted to the rear wheels travels its route in Brooklyn Wednesday morning. (Amy Pearl/WNYC)

Each Thursday in April, Sam Schwartz, aka Gridlock Sam at The Daily News, and former NYC traffic commissioner, explains another facet of his plan for equitably pricing NYC transit and tolls. This week: mass transit.


Sam Schwartz

Comments [18]

martha from GPT

Antonio from Bayside: no one wants to talk about the great streetcars/ trolleys I grew up with, which were removed in the 1960s. Less polluting, reliable, they were terrific, but it seems they were removed by auto & gasoline enthusiasts. Many European cities rely on them, alongside buses and trains.

I find Gridlock Sam to be strangely unpersuasive on so many counts! I winced to hear him tout the congestion pricing schemes of Singapore & London (both of which I've experienced). Congestion pricing is the bellwether of neoliberal thinking, pushing the costs of the commons onto individuals.
London's scheme covers the City, which is very small comparatively, and there is plenty of access to the area otherwise; the pricing scheme allows rich people easy access, so it works & the rich are satisfied. Singapore is an authoritarian state with an electorate that is treated as a crew of unruly children that is highly micromanaged. It is also very new. It is more like China than like the US. Anyone who proposes this scheme, or tolling the outer-borough bridges further, is giving up on the idea of shared resources and forcing outer-borough residents deprived of decent mass transit access to pay the cost of entering Manhattan. Offer a tax deduction for doing so and maybe we can talk! (And why not make bikes pay this as well?)
The Verazzano toll was put onto the bridge going in the wrong direction as a Staten Island/Republican favor by the redoubtable Rudy, and overnight persuaded a huge number of those commuting by that route ( me, for instance) into NJ to go through Lower Manhattan instead, because the SI highway tolls also run in that direction, while both are free reentering the city.
It's easy to imagine passing the costs onto the poorest when there is never enough money to actually support proper mass transit. Instead of wasting time and money on bringing Connecticut commuters over to Penn Station, figure out how to move Brooklyn & Queens residents more easily around and between the boroughs. For instance, the G train, my local, is the bastard child of subways, and, as another instance, it takes an hour and a half by bus , walking and train for me to get to the Brooklyn Museum from where i live, but under 20 minutes by car. Teh more direct bus was canceled in the last round of cuts.

Apr. 26 2012 10:11 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Get rid of the taxis and gypsy cabs and have more buses - running natural gas or electric.

Apr. 26 2012 12:16 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

bob from pelham: all three of chicago's elevated/center median transportation are trains--not buses! these tracks were built when each of these three-and four-lane-per-side highways were widened from their original two-lane selves long ago. unfortunately, only the one on the eisenhower has an express train; otherwise, each are painfully slow ways to get from far reaches of the city.

Apr. 26 2012 11:28 AM
Leo from queens

To Bernie from Brooklyn: Right On!!. Surprised that anyone has noticed -
I remember back in 1989 when I first got out of college driving to Texas for 3 months and coming back and finding the BQE- Gowanus still in construction - and it's 22 years already and they have NEVER finished that highway - I believe there is a 1/2 mile elevated section where they have been rebuilding the surface 1 square inch at a time - some leech has become a multi millionaire out of that and is probably using that money to call working people lazy because they are not 'job creators' like him.

Apr. 26 2012 11:21 AM
Bob from Pelham, NY

Dedicated mass transit lines down highway center medians are a good idea -- there are several in Chicago, which also have a big psychological effect as the driver stuck in traffic watches trains speed by day after day. Elevated lines don't have the same effect, and will be a very tough sell along I-95 in Westchester because of perceived "visual pollution" and fear of added noise impact. The Van Wyck-JFK project had the advantage of an already partially-sunken roadbed.

Apr. 26 2012 11:02 AM
Ruth from Brooklyn

I was very disappointed when congestion pricing did not pass. I thought it was a brilliant idea and I think we would definitely be better off with it. I am not a huge fan of graduated pricing, but it seems to be a system that works for so many cities. Boy, does the MTA have budgetary blues.

Apr. 26 2012 11:00 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

What we need some geniuses to invent a Transporte, like was in STar Trek and in every SCi Fi movie and video game sincee, so that we can "beam" from place to place :) I don't see how the personal vehicle can survive in the megacities of today and the future. Even with flying cars there would eventually come some point where the congestion is beyond management, and getting from a to point b becomes almost impossible by vehicle.

Apr. 26 2012 10:59 AM
SG from brooklyn

I think changing the subway/bus system to a graduated pricing would be a terrible idea... It's what they do in the bay area, dc, boston... and it creates a differentiation between the different parts of the city. The thing I've always loved about NY is that the city is unified by a subway system where you can get to any part of the city. It's already easy to get sucked into your neighborhood ... or to resent a long commute ... if you change the pricing people would be less inclined to travel to outerboroughs AND you would be punishing people who can't afford to live in midtown or the like for working there.

Apr. 26 2012 10:58 AM
Leo from queens

Mr. Schwartz has very good ideas that I hope get implemented with some minor tweaking to make them more fair.

The problem is that we have straphangers subsidizing high rise development and Real Estate Developers (WTC anyone?, $100's of millions for an MTA HQ in Manhattan? ) plus providing very generous benefits, pensions, perks to MTA and PA political appointees; PLUS a diversion of a large number of the capital budget to politically connected contractors for bogus projects!

ALSO: we need to look at transportation from a REGIONAL perspective not in the provincial way that politicians look at it.

Apr. 26 2012 10:54 AM
bernie from bklyn

are the $1 vans regulated? doesn't look like it to me....flatbush ave. $1vans are really dangerous. it's like a 3rd world country.

Apr. 26 2012 10:53 AM
Robert from NYC

I took an afternoon bus in from NJ the other day. It made great time from route 80 to the coil in Weehawken, which was completely backed up in a crawl. The driver exited before the coil to bypass the jam, but it still took us 15 minutes to get through the tunnel. Then when we got to Manhattan, we spent an hour waiting on the streets outside Port Authority Bus Terminal.

There's got to be a better way to get buses directly into the terminal via bus-only roadways.

Apr. 26 2012 10:53 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

it's clear that some of these further-out areas need better access to the center of the city, but why invest in more gas-dependent transportation that will, eventually, need to exit these "elevated bus lanes," and roll on the streets, and create more "large craft" gridlock, alongside all the tour buses, buses from NJ, and yes--MTA buses, which can barely move in manhattan? why not create train lines down these center lanes that connect with the existing system, using that infrastructure for loading and unloading?

Apr. 26 2012 10:52 AM
Scott from Ramsey


Do you propose any measures for reducing transit operation costs?

Apr. 26 2012 10:51 AM
bernie from bklyn

and 2 more things-
1-the battery tunnel trafiic pattern during rush hours is a joke.....3 lanes outbound and 1 in....the 1 going in is jam packed and the 3 outbound are empty, everyday! hasn't anyone at the TA noticed this?

2- why is there not direct express bus service to JFK? don't tell me about the airtrain, bus from rockaway, etc...those are all nightmares. express buses going directly to the airports from major subway hubs throughout the city.

Apr. 26 2012 10:49 AM
Sara from Bushwick

How about offering a bicycle safety course that when successfully completed allows cyclists to proceed through red lights after a full stop when no cars are coming within one block?

Apr. 26 2012 10:48 AM
lucy from Brooklyn

What would happen if all trains and buses were free? Raise taxes on the rich to pay for it. They have gotten rich from being in New York City,so let them give back. It would be great for tourism. It would clear a lot of cars off the street. Free transportation would be thinking big.

Apr. 26 2012 10:47 AM
bernie from bklyn

can gridlock sam shed some light on the behemoth known as the gowanus expressway construction project? these leeches of public tax $ aka the contractors on this project need to be investigated and regulated. this project is RIDICULOUS and i know, first hand, that this project is as corrupt and wasteful as any ohter in the city. like the segment on bovis lend/lease yesterday, the BL show needs to investigate these issues and do some journalism, whaddya think brian?

Apr. 26 2012 10:45 AM
Antonio from bayside

Can Sam explain why the MTA favors capital projects that are expensive, not completed on time and are not innovative? While cities like Portland, Seattle, Houston are really pushing the envelope!

Here are some no-brainers...

1. With so much interest in building the far west side add some stations along the tracks that amtrak uses, and run commuter trains on them. I can't believe the MTA built the 7 train wasted billions...

2. Bring back streetcars; There clean, fun and will reduce congestion.

3. Triboro rx proposal, an option that's not manhattan centric.

Apr. 26 2012 10:36 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.