Quinn's Transit Vision: Long on Buses, Ferries, Short on Bike Share

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New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn gave voters their first detailed glimpse into what her transportation agenda would be if she's elected Mayor. It's like Bloomberg's -- but without the big, bold visions.

Based on her speech, she'd extend many of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's transit initiatives, such as ferries and Select Bus Service. At the same time, she avoided discussion of city-changing projects such as bike share or congestion pricing, and presented no striking new proposals.

Quinn said she'd aim to add ten Select Bus Service routes in four years. Given that it's taken five years for NYC DOT to roll out the four lines, that would be a significant acceleration of the program.

And Quinn said that, by her calculations, they're a cost-effective way to expand the transportation network: it costs a million dollars per mile to build a Select Bus line, as opposed to roughly a billion dollars per mile for a new subway.

Quinn also favors extending the East River Ferry route from the Bronx to Red Hook by adding stops at Atlantic Avenue, Red Hook, Astoria, Roosevelt Island, 91st Street and Ferry Point Park in the Bronx. That would put at least one ferry stop in each of the city's five boroughs. "I envision a city that once again connects and moves New Yorkers through our great blue highways," she said.

Quinn did not include bike share, which is set to launch next month, in her vision for improving the commutes of New Yorkers. Asked where bikes fit in to that plan, Quinn said, "Obviously bike lanes are a part of the city's transportation network. Today we really wanted to talk about how to reduce commute times through adding mass transit options."

Quinn also said she supported adding four Metro-North commuter rail stops to the East Bronx, a proposal that the NY MTA has studied and is thinking about including in its next five-year capital plan.

In the past, Quinn supported congestion charging to pay for transit. But today's speech had no mention of that controversial Bloomberg initiative, which some urban planners are trying to revive.

Somewhat Quixotically, Quinn also called for mayoral control of the NY MTA, which is a state authority that runs trains, subways and buses in New York City and seven suburban counties bordering it. "The vast majority of the dollars that fund the system come from the five boroughs--through fares, tolls and taxes," Quinn said. "But right now New Yorkers have little say in how the system is run."

Quinn complained that the governor appoints the NY MTA chair and that the counties each get to appoint a board member, leaving the mayor only four out of seventeen slots to fill. She proposed that the mayor appoint a majority of board members, along with the head of New York City Transit, which runs the subways and buses. She also said the board's rider representative, who is now advisory, should be upgraded to a voting member.

Large political obstacles would need to be hurdled for Quinn's plan to come to fruition, not the least of which would be wresting a portion of the governor's control over New York City transit. When Quinn was asked whether she'd talked to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo about her plan for the NY MTA, she said, "No."